It’s been almost three weeks since I brought home Ivy, my new Standard Poodle puppy. Like many other families that have adopted pets in recent weeks, my family thought the pandemic presented an unusual opportunity to welcome a new member at a time when everyone was home and could help take care of her.
I have since learned that animal rights advocates are concerned about the trend. They worry that many people who adopt are just looking for a distraction and don’t fully understand the commitment they’ve made.
It makes sense. It’s hard to resist the incredible cuteness of animals — especially puppies and kittens — and easy to forget how much work comes along with them.
As a dog owner twice before, I know what goes into caring for a puppy. That’s why at the beginning of my search, I looked for an older dog who was already trained.
But finding an older dog who was hypoallergenic (one of my requirements), especially during a time when animal shelters are experiencing unprecedented interest from adopters, wasn’t leading anywhere. Once I allowed myself to visit the websites of dog breeders and saw the photos of poodles and poodle mixes, I was a goner.
Crate training? No problem. Sleepless nights with a crying pup? I can handle it. Ruined furniture, urine-stained carpets? They’re just things.
Before I knew it, I was adopting Ivy, an adorable, cocoa-colored bundle of joy.
In the week prior to Ivy’s adoption, I busied myself with preparing for her arrival. I found a local vet, purchased some supplies, read up on puppy training, chose a sofa cover and tried not to feel overwhelmed by training tips that I worried I’d never have the discipline to enforce.
I obsessed about how the puppy pick-up would go, considering social distancing guidelines, and I managed my father’s anxiety that having a new puppy would encourage strangers on the street to ignore those guidelines and cough on me. That hasn’t happened, Dad.
When the day finally arrived and I held little Ivy in my arms, I was overcome with happiness.
But soon after we arrived home, the doubts started creeping in.
Ivy had to be taken outside every half-hour. She was eating all kinds of potentially hazardous plants in the house and garden. And when it was time to go to bed in her crate, she cried for about 40 minutes before finally settling down. I thought my heart would break in two. The breeder said she could sleep through the night (if you consider five hours a “night”), but other sources said she needed to go out every two hours. I took the breeder’s recommendation but wondered if I was wrong to do so.
Here I was, at long last in empty-nester-hood (though the pandemic brought my youngest back home) and now I was faced with a huge responsibility. Would I ever get to sleep again? Would I be able to love Ivy as much as I loved Libby, my Goldendoodle who passed away two years ago? My concerns were compounded by the guilt and shame I felt about my conflicting emotions. I didn’t dare share them with anyone, particularly my partner, who had been wary about the decision to bring a new creature into our pandemic full household.
I could remember feeling this way twice before. It was in the days following the births of each of my two children, now 21 and 23. About three days after each of their births, I experienced the mild “baby blues” caused by hormonal shifts and common to new mothers. But clearly, hormones weren’t at play here.
Still, the feelings were so similar. For example, every evening around dinnertime, I felt a sense of dread, wondering if Ivy would sleep through the night. It was exactly the same feeling I used to have when my children were infants. I felt like a neglectful mom whenever I tried to work, eat, shower or do housework — whenever I wasn’t completely focused on Ivy.
Was it possible to have postnatal depression after adopting a puppy? It seemed ridiculous.
So I did what I always do when I have a ridiculous question. I Googled.
And guess what? It turned out that the “puppy blues” or “post-puppy depression” is an actual condition! In fact, it was all over the internet! What a relief!
Once I knew the puppy blues were a common condition and that they would soon pass, I was able to calm down and do what came naturally — fall head over heels in love with Ivy.
Now that my puppy is 10 1/2 weeks old, she’s a handful and into everything! And I couldn’t imagine a life without her. She gets cuter with every second, and I relish our walks, playtimes and especially our cuddle sessions. Ivy is healthy, growing and exceptionally smart. The young adult kids living in my household are all chipping in with Ivy’s care. In fact, much to my amazement, my 21-year-old musician son, who typically sleeps all day and stays awake all night, has been waking up at 6 a.m. to let Ivy out of her crate! That’s something I never thought I’d see.
As for Ivy’s training, I’m doing the best I can. She’s stopped crying at night, but still pees on the floor when we don’t watch her carefully enough. I’m told by my “tele-trainer” that Ivy must meet at least 100 people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and genders by the time she’s four months old.
That’s challenging during a pandemic when social distancing guidelines are in place. But so far, Ivy seems to love people and other dogs (from afar). When this pandemic ever ends, I hope she’ll be friendly and well-adjusted around everyone.
In the meantime, I’m just glad she’s part of the family!
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