In honor of Dog Appreciation Day and Willow’s 2nd adoptiversary I thought I would share some thoughts about how my expectations differed from the reality of life with a dog.
Expectation: You’ll be able to adopt the first dog you choose
In reality, the actual process of adopting a dog can be very lengthy depending on what route you choose. If you opt for rescue groups with dogs in foster homes, prepare yourself for waiting and potential rejection. It’s also an emotional rollercoaster if you’re anything like me! I tend to get attached quickly, so having our application for certain dogs be rejected was hard. I know the rescue groups had the dogs’ best interests in mind, so I’m sure they went to great homes, but it was still difficult to be passed over.
You may have a different experience if you adopt through your local shelter. Shelter dogs can usually be adopted and brought home in one day. But keep in mind how visiting a shelter may impact you emotionally. It helps to know exactly what traits you’re looking for in a dog, both physically and personality-wise. You want to make sure you and the dog will be a good match so you don’t just leave with the first cute doggo you see.
In the end, after months of applications with different rescue groups, we went to the local shelter a couple of times and left with Willow the same day we met her on August 31, 2017.
Expectation: What you see is exactly what you get
Shelter life is unbelievably stressful for dogs, so don’t be surprised if a dog you meet in a shelter environment turns out to have a totally different personality in another setting. Willow was the least interactive dog in the kennels, staying back from the door where most other dogs were jumping around, trying to greet the people who came to see them. Once we got into a one-on-one meeting with her, though, she came right up to us and leaned against our legs, offering her paw to shake. After we got her home, she slept for HOURS curled up next to me on the couch (even though it was 100 degrees outside and she’s a thick-coated husky) and didn’t move for ages. I can’t imagine the relief she must have felt being out of that overwhelming environment.
Over the next several weeks, we got to know her true personality. She has strong opinions about when her dinner should be, she doesn’t like small dogs approaching her, and she LOVES hedgehog toys. She’s still quite lazy, though! I joke she’s a cat in a dog’s body because of how much she sleeps.
Expectation: Breed characteristics will predict your dog’s temperament perfectly
Speaking of my lazy husky, I think it’s important to note that breed characteristics don’t matter as much as a specific dog’s personality. I have to admit that adopting a husky was not something I would have even considered before I met Willow, since huskies are typically portrayed as stubborn, rowdy, and capable of getting into trouble due to their great intelligence. But we’ve been lucky with Willow and her mellow personality. Sure, she’s a bit obnoxious when she doesn’t get what she wants and she still likes to test boundaries sometimes, but overall she’s quite well-behaved and wonderfully sweet.
Expectation: Book-learning will teach you everything you need to know about life with your new dog
Yeah, I wish. For about a year before we adopted Willow I read everything I could about dog training and what I could expect after bringing home a new dog. While I definitely believe doing your research is super important (seriously, do your research!), there’s something to be said for hands-on experience. Before Willow, I had only ever lived with cats, so life with a dog home was entirely new for me. How would I know when she needed to go outside? What if she wasn’t already house-trained? Should I let her meet other dogs out on walks? Everything was new and exciting, but also a bit terrifying. I didn’t want to mess up or cause her any harm. But I had to let go of some of that worry and trust that she would teach me what I needed to learn… and she did! Do I still make mistakes? Of course. Does she still do things that I feel I should have prevented? Absolutely. We’re both works in progress and that’s okay!
Expectation: You’ll be BFFs immediately and forever
Okay, so this one depends on you and your dog. When we were looking into adopting a dog, I sort of hoped/assumed I would be his or her #1 person. Actually, I originally thought I wanted a velcro-dog who would stick to me like glue and be my best friend, anticipating my every move. But that’s not what ended up happening, which is honestly for the best.
First of all, I don’t want to cultivate a co-dependent relationship with my dog to the point where either of us is stressed when we are apart. I have to work outside our home and Willow needs to be comfortable being on her own. That being said, I’m a little sad sometimes that I’m not her favorite person. She would pick me over a stranger, I’m sure, but when my husband is home, he’s the one she wants to be with. I can’t really fault her for feeling that way, though, because he’s my favorite person too! And the three of us make a pretty great little family unit.
Reality: Prepare to fall in love with your new furry friend
I guess this one is sort of obvious. But I thought it was worth mentioning because I didn’t know just how obsessed I would be with Willow. And if I’m not talking about my dog, I’m asking other people to tell me about their dogs. So it’s really no surprise I made some products for my Etsy shop related to Willow (and huskies in general). My favorite is probably this set of bookmarks (it combines my love of reading with my love of Willow!):
Expect the unexpected
It’s important to be aware of your expectations and understand that things may not turn out exactly as you plan. Knowing what traits you want in your future dog is key, but being open to surprises will save you some frustration down the road. As I said, I didn’t think I’d ever adopt a husky, but Willow is absolutely a part of our family now and I wouldn’t change that.
I hope this gave you some insight into what it’s like being a new dog guardian!