Last week my puppy, Shiloh, turned one year old. That meant two things: one, he’s reached his full form and two, the hardest puppy months are finally over. I got Shiloh from an old high school friend who has his mom, Suzie. We knew his dad was smaller than Suzie, but how big Shiloh was going to get was still a mystery.
Fast forward 12 months: we now know he’s huge! He’s also potty-trained to go outside, he picks up commands pretty fast, and he’s stopped chewing on things. These things make it so much easier to care for him, although his puppy energy is still on a thousand from the moment he wakes up to right before I decide we’re going to bed.
Shiloh is an emotional support dog. I spend a lot of time working from home and he helps with making me feel less alone. When my anxiety is bad he helps me be more present. When I don’t feel like getting out of bed, he forces me to get up by either barking at me or nibbling at my hands suggesting that he needs us to go “outside.” The coolest part about having Shiloh has been getting to know his personality. He gets very excited about anything, loves every food but lettuce, fetch and tag are his favorite games, babies confuse him, he has trust issues with new people, and is very protective of his/our space.
Before I got a dog, Mariah – my little brother’s girlfriend, who’s more like my younger sister – tried explaining just how much of responsibility a dog is, but it wasn’t until I found myself needing to put his needs before mine that I realized what she meant. It’s been fun though and I’ve learned a lot about what being a mom mean.
Being a mom to Shiloh has taught me:
1. Time management is crucial in the mornings
I love having a thorough morning before leaving my house. I like to shower, make coffee, have breakfast, prep my food, and leave looking my best. With Shiloh, I’ve had to add time to cuddle with him, walk him, feed him, and make sure he feels comfortable staying home alone before I leave. After a while “needing” to walk your dog becomes a chore. Especially for me because Shiloh loves to take his sweet time going. If I mess up with the time, sleep in, and don’t get a chance to walk him (which has happened about full of time) a guilty feeling follows me the rest of my morning. I imagine him being in pain from needing to hold it and it makes me feel horrible. With this being said, I wake up earlier than I would if I wasn’t a mom.
2. Patience in the presence of anger goes a long way
I can not stress how important patience is when raising a puppy. When Shiloh wasn’t potty trained and chewed on just about everything, I was sure I was going to lose my goddamn mind. I found myself repeating things to him over and over again only to have him look at me with a cute gaze and without control still pee on our hardwood floor. Last week Wiz Khalifa posted a video of him talking to his son, Sebastian, on Instagram that shows exactly what I’m talking about. I have to stay conscious enough to not give into anger. Yelling can easily become a habit because to me it feels natural. My family and I talk to each other by screaming. However, dogs — very much like little kids– learn better through calm assertiveness and repetitiveness. Hence, patience.
3. Disciplining with intentional compassion is better than disciplining by instinct
Compassion is the sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings and/or misfortunes of others. To me disciplining Shiloh with a hint of compassion means that I have learned to remember that he’s in his puppy phase. Unlike older dogs, puppies have a lot of energy and are extremely curious. Moreover, it is in every dog’s natural instinct to be scavengers so naturally, he’s going to eat what he finds. Some dog species are also more protective than others. Even at four months, new people in our house made him extremely anxious and he feels a strong need to protect. He is still this way. Instead of yelling at him, I remove him from the situation until he calms down. I slowly introduce the person to him with treats. Is it annoying and embarrassing when he won’t stop barking at new people who come over, yes? Do I still feel more concern for how he’s feeling than those of others, most definitely?
4. Being responsible for another being’s upbringing is hard work
Y’all, this is the biggest one. Being a dog mom has taught me that being responsible for another being’s upbringing is hard work. It is exactly what it sounds like. I use to be really hard on my parents until I realized just how hard it is to actively try not to mess up your kid. I think a lot about what’s in his food, how I discipline him, the things I let him get away with, and how safe I make him feel, amongst a bunch of other things. I question the things I’m doing right or wrong. I might be dramatic to take the time to think about these things, but if so it just means I’m going to be an extremely thoughtful mom to my human children.
5. I am most definitely not ready to have human kids
I love my dog, and he has taught me that I am going to make a great and loving mother. With that being said, I am still not ready for real kids. He has shown me how my mornings need to change for real kids, how annoying it feels to have to go to work and leave him alone, the struggle that is disciplining another being, and how hard it is to care for someone who depends on you for their survival. In short, I’m good love.