I wake up at precisely 3:52 a.m. to a loud gagging noise and the wretched smell of barf. I groan as I throw my feet onto the ground. My dog is throwing up again. I’ve only been asleep for an hour and a half because he was puking up couch stuffing all night while I was trying to finish a research paper. I stumble around in the dark, hunting for my roll of paper towels. I pick out the chunks and as much of the liquid as I can and toss it into the trash before lifting my devilish pup into my bed. I fall asleep thinking about how my carpet is more puke than carpet at this point, and wonder who’s gonna help me tear it up in the morning.
It’s January now, below freezing. There’s been an advisory not to stay outside with exposed skin for more than five minutes. I wrap myself in scarves and jackets until I’m less mobile than Randy in “A Christmas Story.” My dog and I are ready to embark on what we like to call “The Poop Walk.” I can barely open my eyes because of the snowy wind crashing into the half an inch of my face I left uncovered so I could see. We walk for a full 30 minutes before I think, “okay he just must not have to poop today.” I am in pain but my dog is busy making snow angels and getting distracted by every street light, garbage can and crack in the sidewalk. I drag him home and he wags his stupid tail the whole way. We’re finally back in the kitchen; I’m so frozen that I can barely tell if the heat is on or not. I only have the chance to take off one of my gloves before I see my dog start to squat in the corner of the room.
My friends are in town, just for the day. I want to grab my purse and meet them for lunch right away. But right now, I’m the only one home with the dog, and since he still doesn’t know that he’s only allowed to pee outside nor how to give the signal that he has to go outside, I have to stay and bring him out every half hour. So I end up meeting my friends for a quick meal at an airport McDonald’s before they catch their flight.
The holiday season is rapidly approaching and I know it’s tempting to gift your significant other an adorable four-legged friend. However, pets — dogs and puppies especially — are far from perfect presents. They are so much more work than you think. And I know you’ve really thought about it, I know you’ve heard this all before, but it really is harder to care for a dog than you are imagining. If you’re picturing your perfectly chill 10-year-old family dog right now, ask your parents what he was like at six months. I am positive they’ll tell you that dealing with a new puppy was far from a walk in the park. Once you get past the initial cuddles, braggy Insta posts and the overall adorableness of your new pet, you’re in for a frustrating rollercoaster ride.
I am by no means discouraging anyone from rescuing — or even buying — pets. I love my pestering pup more than anything, honestly. I put up with all of his puking, chewing, outrageous vet bills, random energetic outbursts, ridiculously weird health needs, and stressful training because I love him. He ultimately brings me more joy than stress and he is my favorite companion; not a burden in the slightest. But I love my dog so much because he was not a surprise. I chose to take on all of these challenges and sacrifices and so I do, every day. However, at this time every year, my chest aches for all of the furbabies who are wrongfully adopted and given as unwanted or unprepared for gifts. Dogs, cats, bunnies, hamsters, fish, etcetera. All pets should be given homes with owners who are aware of what they are signing up for and willing to love their stubborn, rambunctious selves.
If you are really passionate about giving someone an animal as a gift, consider discussing the adoption and the care plan with them first. Although it won’t be a surprise, it will ensure that your partner is not left struggling to care for a pet and that the animal is given its fair shot at life.
With that being said, adopt all the furbabies if you’re willing and able to care for them even on their worst days!