“She’s like 95 percent potty trained,” my boyfriend said to me as we talked ourselves into giving our new maltipoo puppy full reign of the apartment during the work day.
Sure, I thought to myself. I hate the way this stupid gate takes over our small living room anyway, and Molly has plenty of puzzle toys to keep her occupied. What’s the worst that can happen?
About 6 weeks before finding ourselves at this turning point, we desperately wanted a four-legged companion. The primal, nagging desire we felt to get a dog mirrored how I imagine couples who are trying to have a baby feel. We couldn’t help but jealously ooh and awe with every dog we passed on the street. We just had to have one, and nothing was going to stop us (though my mom, his mom, friends, family and colleagues all valiantly tried).
While I had been warned that my 25-year-old self wasn’t ready to be responsible for taking care of another being, no one really explained why. What could be so hard about having a dog, I kept wondering?
Well, I am alive to report exactly what that is.
Molly was a difficult puppy. Not only were we dealing with typical stressful puppy problems – potty training, destroyed socks, obedience training – but we were also dealing with a rescue with an unknown history. She acted more like a scared cat than a dog. She shivered at every noise and timidly cowered when we would approach her. She was so submissive, it felt nearly impossible to make progress on her training. We were in over our heads.
Neither my boyfriend nor I had any experience in dog training. I took to Google for guidance, and he drew from childhood lessons his dad used to train the family’s golden retrievers. Together we harnessed our strengths and made decisions on everything from training to finances. And most importantly, we communicated with each other openly and honestly. Molly slowly began to adjust to our life, and we started to make cracks in her shell.
In the middle of this, I began feeling how I would imagine a parent feels. I felt guilty for being at work even a minute longer than was absolutely necessary. I felt a responsibility to give her the best life a dog could possibly have. I found myself starting to rearrange my schedule around being with Molly and making sure she was happy, because then I could be happy. Wait. I was a parent and my life now revolves around my child.
And then we found ourselves here coming home to an absolute disaster of an apartment. Molly’s bed was in shreds scattered across the living room, pee was on our rug, and her “indestructible” toys were in pieces. And then we saw it. Molly had chewed the electrical cord that plugs into our wall air conditioning unit, rendering it useless. Just about the worst thing she could have destroyed in an apartment we didn’t own in the hot summer in Los Angeles.
All I could think was how could she do this? After all of the sacrifices we had made — the happy hours and dinners we rearranged to be with her, the investment we’d made in toys, food, grooming, veterinarian visits, and puppy kindergarten. With my head in my hands and on the verge of tears, I thought back to the first day we adopted her and wished I could turn back the clock and talk some sense into us. Everyone was right. What were we thinking? We had no clue what we were getting into. Adopting Molly cost a significant chunk of change and added an unnecessary layer of stress to our relationship. And now we were shelling out even more money to fix this and possibly jeopardizing our relationship with our landlord. He wasn’t exactly thrilled we adopted a dog, and now we were proving him right, too.
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I looked over at my boyfriend and could tell from his face that the same questions were running through his head. This was one of those moments where we could have thrown in the towel and gone back to our lives without a dog. But after calming down a bit and talking it out, we remembered we made a commitment to her and we weren’t giving up. We could have broken down, but it turns out that was never in our relationship’s DNA. We were so much stronger than that.
There were a lot of rough days, and there are still times that I want to pull my hair out in frustration. And while sometimes I think Molly was the worst decision I ever made, in my heart, I know she was the best decision. As I got to know our new puppy, I got to know myself and my relationship. I know who I am under personal stress and I’m empowered with that understanding. I know my patience can be tried and tested, and I’m not going to lash out at someone in annoyance. I know that my relationship with my boyfriend stands strong even in frustrating moments. And I know that I can share a home, a life and the responsibility of another being with someone I love.
And guess what? NOW she’s 95% potty trained.
Cassie Jasso is a marketing specialist living in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @cassiejasso.