Barbara's Blog

Puppy Love


When I shared the exciting news that we would be acquiring a puppy, the comment I got most often was “It’s like having a baby! “I didn’t believe that it could be that hard. Yet the first three weeks were all about Nellie, our little Westie pup. She was a mere three pounds when we brought her home. Who would have thought that such a tiny being, who made the cats look huge, could take over our lives to such an extent.

We found her through an acquaintance who was once a breeder himself. He vouched for this breeder and went with us to see the puppies and help us pick one out. I trusted him to know what he was doing, so I didn’t think to ask to see the parents or the conditions the pups were being raised in. Little Amish girls brought the puppies out to the yard, and the dogs were active and friendly. The little runt bit Andrew’s toe, and we took that as a sign that she was the one. All seemed well.

Two weeks later we drove back up to get Nellie, who was 10 weeks old at the time. She adjusted quickly to being with us, never vomited during the car ride home, or any car trip since, and after the first night adjusted well to sleeping in her crate.

During our first visit to the vet, we learned that her eyes were infected, which meant 10 days of ointment twice a day directly into both eyes, which cleared up quickly. Halfway through week two she started waking us up every few hours at night, and her stool was loose and bloody. Back to the vet I went, to discover that she had paramecium. Fortunately she lapped up the medicine, but the stool took weeks to normalize.

Then, the morning after her third booster shot, she lay in her crate with no interest in eating or drinking. I started worrying. Was something more wrong? We had invested so much time and money in this little dog and were bonded to her. Taking her back wasn’t an option. My anxiety rapidly became looping thoughts of self-blame. Why hadn’t I checked things out more carefully? I should have known better.

I recognized the “should have known better” as a legacy from my childhood—the message that if something isn’t going well, I must not have prepared well enough or chosen wisely enough. In short, it was my fault we had a puppy that we both now adored, who had something wrong with her, and it was all a big mistake. I had thought I was making a good choice, but I was wrong. And so it went….

It took a long brisk walk while Andrew puppy-sat, and Nellie coming out of her post-booster stupor, for the anxiety in my chest to wane .A vet tech suggested bland diet, and I got busy preparing boiled hamburger and white rice.

As Andrew and a good friend pointed out, my only “sin” was being a bit naïve and perhaps overly trusting that our former breeder friend was on top of the situation. The area where we bought her is reputed puppy mill territory, which I wasn’t as aware of at the time.

Fast forward to now–Nellie is nearly a year old, and we can’t imagine life without her. It isn’t always easy, but she’s been a spunky, healthy, reliably housebroken and very friendly puppy. Only our geriatric cats would be happier if she weren’t here! As I write this, Nellie is jumping up to nip at my elbow. It’s a rainy day, and she’s wants to play.

A good friend who also got her puppy the “wrong” way, i.e., from a pet store, has a wonderful, healthy dog she, too, adores. So even though neither of us acquired our dogs in the wisest way, all is well. The next time any kind of buyer’s remorse hits, I hope to remember that not planning “perfectly” doesn’t mean things won’t work out, and that “perfect” planning also doesn’t come with a guarantee.

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