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Adventures in Self-Care: Raising a Puppy

 Happy Monday, friends! 

You may have noticed I’ve been a little MIA the past couple weeks. That’s because we started our Fall 2020 semester at the university where I work. 

Because of my dual roles of full-time Student Affairs professional and adjunct faculty in the English department, August is a busy time for me. I took a few weeks off the pressure of regular blog posting while welcoming our incoming Class of 2024 to the strange new world of being on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In addition to these hectic work life, Andy and I finally followed through on something we’ve been talking about pretty much since we decided I’d move into his house in 2020: getting a dog. 

My family had dogs growing up (a pup named Mandy when I was born and a sweet little Jack Russell Terrier named Ginger throughout most of my young life), but I have yet to own a dog as an adult. 

My sweet cat, Artemis, was my sole responsibility for a number of years, and I loved so many aspects of pet parenthood. However, dogs are a big step up in terms of active, attentive pet care, and I knew I wasn’t going to have a four-legged running buddy until I lived with someone who could share those duties. 

Cue moving in with Andy earlier than planned in March so we could quarantine together. 

Since then, we’ve been actively discussing the things we wanted in a dog: an active breed to fit our lifestyle, a mid-sized dog as a compromise between my love of tiny pups and his fondness for big dogs, and one we could adopt as a young pup so we (read: Andy) could train the dog. 

After doing some reading (and close viewing of many Yoga with Adriene Instagram stories about Benji), we (read: I) decided to look for a Blue Heeler mix pup.

For a few months, I scoured Petfinder and found that every pup who fit our specifications got adopted before our application could be reviewed. Finally, I decided to spread the word far and wide that we were looking.

Within two days, a friend spotted our girl in a local Foster/Rescue group: a 12-week old Blue Heeler / Australian Shepherd mix named Azula. After a chat with her foster family, I had a strong feeling that this puppy was perfect for us and set up a time to meet her right away. 

On Wednesday, we drove to the park and met her. She was so much tinier than I expected, and incredibly shy. Nervously, she let me hold her and even gave me a few tentative kisses. 

“We’ll take her,” Andy said, and off we went, crate, toys, and vet records in hand. 

For the last few days, we’ve been adjusting to Azula while she adjusts to us. She’s still a little timid and unsure if she gets to stay here forever (we’re her third home in 12 weeks), but she has warmed up to us quickly and gets oh so excited when I come home from work. 

A puppy is a unique level of responsibility and attentiveness, and as first-time primary dog parents, we are learning as much as she is. 

Heelers tend to be smart, and Azula came to us already loving her crate and with a pretty solid grasp on potty training. We’ve had a few accidents, of course, but as of today at least she’s figured out to go stand at the back door when she has to go. 

She’s sleeping in the floor beneath my feet as I type this, since I decided to post up in Andy’s usual workweek spot while he’s golfing for the day. 

A lot of the time, having a puppy does not feel like self care. It feels like waking up at 5:20am on a Saturday to take her out, like going outside and having a great battle of wills about whether we are staying out there indefinitely or coming back inside. 

But there’s something to be said for caring for something outside yourself.

Aside from the last year after my cat died, I’ve been a pet parent my entire adult life. Coming home to Artemis used to make a bad day a little bit better (he was, in spite of appearances in the company of others, very affectionate). 

The pet-sized hole in my life is now being stretched a bit bigger as I learn just how much more demanding a puppy is than my grumpy old cat, but I’m very happy to make room.

Azula is still learning to take walks, but one day our goal is to go on some easy runs together. Yesterday, when she calmed down and stopped worrying about how far from home she was (which was not far at all), we did a little puppy-paced jog for a few sidewalk squares trying to beat the rain home. For the first time since she came to us, Azula tried to keep going past the house because she was having so much fun.

We’ve got many months of chasing an energetic little chaos monster ahead of us, and I am so excited to watch Azula continue to get comfortable and happy at home.