One of the only things I have always been absolutely certain about in my life was that I wanted to have a dog. I begged my parents for one as a kid, always promising to take care of it, but my parents were never on board. This summer, my dreams came true.
At the end of June, a friend of mine sent me an email. Someone had posted on our work bulletin board on behalf of a friend, looking to re-home their dog. Of course, I immediately imagined myself with the cute, fluffy white dog in the picture.
There was just one problem: Ethan and I had discussed whether or not we were ready for a dog, and had decided to get used to living together for a while before bringing a dog into the mix. We’d settled on six months after we moved in together—February 2018. I wasn’t really expecting anything when I reached out to the owner. I think I mostly wanted to reassure myself that someone else would find a home for this adorable little pooch.
When I talked to the owner, I found out that nobody had really shown much interest, and she was having a hard time finding a family. There were still a lot of factors for me to consider: whether or not Ethan felt up to changing the timeline, whether the property managers at our new apartment would even allow a dog, and most importantly, whether or not the dog was a good fit for us, so I decided to set up a meet and greet at a local dog park.
Since Ethan was working in Colorado at the time, my good friend gave me a ride. We pulled up to the dog park early. I was completely wound up—nervous and excited and brimming with hope, but trying to keep that under control. “She might not be the dog for you,” I kept repeating to myself. The owner arrived, adorable little fluff-ball in tow. We walked into the dog park, and I fell in love. She looked ridiculous: rotund, scraggly, with a mile-long tongue flapping out of a big smile, paired with a little bit of crazy eyes.
She wasn’t too keen on me, or really anybody besides her owner, but she did make the rounds and sniff all of us, as well as all the people in the dog park. She seemed okay with other dogs, no signs of aggression, and not overly interested in them at all. All in all, a cute, happy-go-lucky little pup. She was the perfect size, the perfect age, and everything seemed wonderful. We made plans to meet again when Ethan was in town, and parted ways.
The next visit went even better than the first. Her owner left the dog park for a bit to let us get to know her. I walked all the way around the perimeter and she followed me eagerly and happily. I was amazed! She seemed to love Ethan, too, and we decided that if we got approved to get a dog, we’d take her.
The next month went by in a haze of worry and stress. We waited for the property managers to get in touch with the condo association, and we finally heard back towards the end of July. There was even a little bonus—no pet deposit and no pet rent required! I took it as another sign that it was meant to be. I contacted the owner and we settled on a date.
Once all the details got hammered out, the crazy nesting instincts kicked in. I had done a lot of research on dog products, and I thought I knew what I wanted. Even though I really wanted to pull the trigger and buy some of the things I needed for her, I had a hard time actually committing on anything. I wanted to get to know her before buying things for her. When the big day finally came, I had two beds, a variety of treats, a bag of food, a harness/leash combo that worked for dogs of any size (I didn’t have her measurements before, so buying a harness was tricky), and a few toys. I cleaned the house and arranged and rearranged everything, and we piled into the car a little late.
We had arranged the pickup in a mall parking lot near where her owner lived. It was short and sweet—she said goodbye to her dog, and my heart broke for her. I couldn’t imagine parting with my dog, and I hope that I never am in a situation where I’d have to give her away. I picked her up, and we got back in the car to head home. I’m not going to lie, I was crying happy tears as soon as we were on our way. She did so well in the car, I was amazed. She was definitely better when she was having treats, but the fact that she was taking treats at all was incredible. We decided to change her name to Coconut—because she looked like a little pile of shredded coconut. (Once we got her, we actually started calling her Nugget, because it just seemed to suit her better.)
The first night was really hard. Nugget was used to sleeping on the bed with her previous owners, and we weren’t too keen on that setup. We put her bed in our room, and tried to get her to lay down. She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t be up there with us, and she kept pacing around the bed and popping up on her back legs to look at us. It was difficult to not give in to those cute little eyes. She peed in retaliation, too. I don’t think we got any sleep that night. She’d lay in her bed for a little bit, slightly mollified by my hand petting her, but she never fully settled down. The next day, we took an emergency trip to Petsmart for more supplies: namely, a crate and a baby gate. I was astounded when she took to the crate immediately. The second night was an absolute miracle for us: she slept through the night in her crate, without whining or scratching at the door at all. It was a huge victory for all of us.
We took her to the vet and found out she needed to lose a few pounds. She weighed in at 16.4 lbs, and the vet said she should be between 12-13 lbs. Other than that, she was totally healthy and up on her shots. We also took her to the groomer for a bath, haircut, and nail trim. She came back smelling heavenly, but she definitely seemed a little traumatized, so I decided I’d learn how to groom her.
Potty training was of the utmost importance. I laid pee pads all around the house, trying to find the place where she was comfortable peeing. We kept her sequestered in the bathroom while we were gone, with her bed and her toys, a bowl of water. I found an app that let me use my MacBook as a webcam, and we watched her during the day. Those first days were hard. She howled all day. It was heartbreaking to watch: she’d throw her little head back so hard that her front feet lifted off the floor. It was a pitiful “Roooo roooooo” coming through my speakers all day.
We decided we’d try putting her in the kitchen. She seemed to tolerate that better, and she settled down more. Day after day, she’d settle for longer and longer, until a few weeks in she was lounging and sleeping throughout the day, only getting restless near the end of my workday. I think the calming treats we’d give her in the morning helped with that, too. She was still having accidents while we were gone. I got really, really tired of cleaning up pee. She’d pee on her beds when we left them with her, on towels, and even on the t-shirt I’d left with her so she’d have my scent.
I didn’t know what to do. We abandoned the pee pads early on since she never actually peed on one, and were encouraging her to go outside. We took her out often, but she was scared of the noise on the street and it took long walks around the block to get her to go at all. I took away all the soft things when I left her during the day, and she didn’t pee at all! It seemed like we had a breakthrough. We left her without anything soft for about a week, and then put her bed back. I checked the camera anxiously all day that day, and was thrilled to come home to no accidents! Being a dog mom is all about those little victories.
Since then, she’s been learning a lot. Not only is she doing her business outside, but she’s perfectly content when we leave her at home. She naps in her bed and there’s no more roo-rooing. She’s learning new tricks—she’s already well on her way to mastering sit, sit pretty, shake, other paw, lay down, stay, and touch with her nose. Next on the docket is look at me and turn around, and getting better at all her tricks in different environments. She loves coming to work with me. As soon as she realizes we’re not just walking around the block, she starts walking with gusto, and she bounds up the stairs to my desk to greet all her friends. She’s getting more confident with other dogs, and now even lets them sniff her and sniffs back instead of hiding behind me or running away.
It’s been three months since Nugget came into our lives, and they’ve been the most exciting and amazing three months in recent history. Having a dog is everything I imagined it would be, and so much more. Watching her grow and open up with us is so rewarding, and looking at her napping on our couch makes our day. We’re so excited that she’s ours!