Just before Christmas, a little white Jackapoo named Snow came to live with us part time. I didn’t want a dog, and have actually spent the last 6 years saying no to getting a puppy.
It’s not that I don’t love dogs, because I really really do. I just know that they are a lot of work, and for someone who feels as overwhelmed by everything as I do every day, I couldn’t face the extra responsibility. I didn’t want to be lumbered with looking after a puppy, when some days I can barely look after myself.
But, I have a headstrong almost 18 year old daughter who decided that getting a puppy 2 weeks before Christmas when I was already stressed out of my mind was a good idea.
There are quite a few downsides to getting a puppy. Mostly the pissing all over the place, and the crying every time you leave the room. I thought I was past all that. My youngest is coming up for 9 years old now. So going back to seriously disturbed sleep and running towards piles of poo was not on my agenda. It has literally been like having a new baby that I didn’t know I was expecting.
Parenting puppies and parenting babies is actually very similar, as you can read here.
There have been some unexpected benefits to getting a puppy that have really surprised me. So I thought I would share these with you in case you’re on the fence about getting a puppy for your family.
How the puppy has changed us
I know I moan about not getting enough sleep, so you wouldn’t expect me to see this as a benefit, but it is. I hate my alarm. It doesn’t matter what alarm tone I pick, it gives me heart failure for the first 2 days and then I’m immune to the noise and sleep through it. It’s not because I’m lazy, but because I have to take some medication every night that pretty much zonks me out.
My girls are at that age now where they only want to sleep past 7am on the days we have to be awake before 7am. The other 2 don’t have to leave the house before 9 am, so I haven’t had the backup of multiple alarms and people fighting to be first in the bathroom for a while now.
Enter the puppy
Snow is not a fan of startling noises. Which means alarms suddenly disturbing her snooze set off a lot of barking. And just like any parent of a new baby, my brain has been rewired to act in response to the barking. Which is great. I haven’t slept through an alarm for 2 weeks now.
Dragging kids out of bed
I feel like I’m finally on Get Your Own Back. After years of being woken up when I don’t want to be, I am quite enjoying being the waker rather than the wakeee. Especially now I have my trusty sidekick.
When the kids don’t want to be woken up, I don’t have to be an unwilling participant in the ‘I know you know I’m awake, but I’m going to keep pretending I can’t hear you’ game. I just pick the puppy up and put her on their beds. She will lick their faces, get under the duvet, pull it off them, and jump all over them until they can’t pretend anymore.
Then she does a little self satisfied woof and runs off with her little tail wagging. And they love her so much, they can’t even be grumpy about it. Result.
She always wants cuddles
Unlike 3/4 of my children who have decided they are far too big to accept or give me cuddles, the puppy is always up for them. The only time this is annoying is when I’m trying to use the toilet or cook. Oh actually, also when I’m trying to sweep, mop, Hoover, put shoes away, have a shower or drive somewhere. So about 90% of my day then.
It’s lucky for her that she’s so cute.
And even though the kids don’t want cuddles with me anymore, they are all more than happy to shower the puppy with cuddles. So I guess that’s good for their emotional wellbeing. I always worry that they’re not getting enough affection even though they are the ones who don’t want it. So it’s nice the puppy has taken over on that front.
And it’s nice for me, because I seem to be Snow’s favourite person to cuddle. Being picked by a puppy for cuddles over and above anybody else is a really nice feeling.
She’s always happy to see me
These days, my children don’t even look up if I walk into a room. I’m rarely acknowledged unless I’m bringing food. But the puppy is always happy to see me. Even if I pop out the room for 15 seconds, her little tail goes crazy when I come back in.
It’s much nicer being greeted by a slightly excitable puppy than a grumpy teenager. And much better for my self esteem. It’s quite lovely having a little fluffy personal greeter/cheerleader.
She’s a mood stabiliser
It’s literally impossible to stay grumpy for very long with this little nutter charging about the place. Just when I think the day is being an absolute bitch, she’ll run past with her head stuck in one of Joe’s size 13 trainers. And I can’t help but laugh.
Rage quitters are soothed within minutes of cuddling her. Angry, upset, frustrated, over-tired and hangry children are calmed by spending a few minutes stroking or cuddling her. She’s a good listener too. Whether it’s a few pages from a book for homework, or pouring out your soul, she’ll sit there listening. Then give your face a massive lick. Even though her breath is disgusting, it makes me smile.
Little miss motivator
If I suggest going for a walk just for the sake of walking, I’d get firm NOs from everybody. But if I suggest taking the dog for a walk, they’re ready to go in seconds. Usually fighting over who gets to hold her lead. Sometimes, the younger 2 even beg to take her for a walk by themselves.
I can’t tell you how much this excites me. They have a set route they are allowed to walk her on, which I’ve timed to perfection. They are usually out for between 17 and 23 minutes, depending how often the dog needs to sniff something. This is the perfect amount of time for me to sweep the whole of downstairs and give it a quick mop without being attacked by the dog. Tidy house = tidy mind and all that.
Now she’s getting bigger, and much better at walking on her lead, we can go out for longer walks. The last few days I’ve been timing the bigger walks to coincide with the amazing sunsets we’ve been having. The girls are happy running about with the dog on the beach, and I get to take photos of the pretty sky. Like this one:
We’re all getting much more exercise and fresh air as a result of the lovely long walks. And I have a great excuse to head down the beach every day. The beach is literally my happy place, and having such a good excuse to go down there every day is really helping my mental health at the moment.
Dog walkers R us
I’m crap at social situations. I hate speaking to people, especially strangers. But when you have a dog, everybody wants to talk to you. And their dogs want to talk to your dog.
Because conversation is usually limited to the time it takes the dogs to sniff each other’s bits, there’s no pressure. It’s just enough time for the owners to give each other a brief rundown of breed, age, sex, name and temperament and a mutual agreement that each other’s dogs are super cute. And that’s it. You smile at each other, and carry on walking. No expectations, no awkwardness. But it is helping me to manage my social phobia a little bit better.
Before getting a puppy, my most used sentence was “Can you please just give me 2 minutes?” And then I’d feel really guilty for sending the kids away whilst I did something exciting like unclog the drain.
Now, all I have to say is “Can you just go and see what Snow’s up to please?” And they don’t come back for about half an hour. They go and see her, they end up playing with her, and I can get on with whatever boring task I need to. Zero guilt!
Wet weather encouragement
I often really lack the motivation to want to go outside on wet and windy days. I could quite easily stay in my pjs all day long and feel sorry for myself. This is not an option with a dog. Well, I’m sure there are people out there who have dogs but don’t take them for walks every day. But I’d feel really mean. Because she loves going out for walkies, rain or shine, wind or calm. So she’s my little encouragement to put my coat on, welly up and get out there and face the crappy weather.
And you know what? I actually feel better for it. This is a favourite for the girls too, because they love a good puddle splosh.
Everyone is happier
Snow isn’t just having a positive effect on me. She’s having one on everybody. All the kids are more inclined to keep their rooms tidy so she doesn’t run off with whatever she can fit in her mouth. They all put their shoes away, so she can’t drag them into her bed. They all love teaching her new things. Every child has a different favourite game to play with her, and they don’t have to be asked to do it. The house seems calmer, which is weird, because Snow is far from calm. But even the cats love her. The older one pretends she doesn’t, but I’ve seen them working together to pull food out of the bin. The kitten adores her, and they’re often asleep together or running around playing with a ball together.
The best thing about getting a puppy
The best thing is, Snow has filled a hole that we didn’t know we had in our family. With the children all being different ages, having different tastes in everything and some of them having their own lives now, our family felt a little bit fractured. Now we have this common interest, in playing, loving and teaching this little puppy, we all seem to be closer.
Bedroom doors are open again so that Snow can visit who she wants when she wants. Which doesn’t feel so isolating any more. Nobody really uses earphones now just so they can hear her coming. Which is great for me because I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself any more. Jess as the ‘Mummy’ and has bestowed the titles of ‘Auntie’ on her sisters, which has made them feel closer to her. And even though Joe pretends he isn’t fussed by her, I’ve seen him come in the front door grumpy as fuck, then a huge smile light up his face as Snow tries to jump into his arms.
So all in all, getting a puppy probably was the best thing for our family after all. (Don’t tell Jess). She’s helped us be happier, more motivated, more together, more calm and had a positive effect on my mental health too.
I just hope the gorgeous sunsets carry on a little while longer! You can see more photos over on Instagram.