Gazette Vet: For the Love of a Pet

Gazette Vet by John Andersen, DVM

When I first adopted my oldest dog Kaya, you could tell she hadn’t spent much time indoors. She was about 9 months old and a nervous wreck. She had no idea what couches were and would never consider getting up on a bed. It was as if she was on her best behavior, hoping not to be sent back to the shelter.

Fast forward 12 years and the daily routine before leaving the house is now stacking up all the cushions on the couch so we won’t come home to find the old girl sleeping soundly on the couch and leaving one of her classic drool marks.

It all started one fateful day when I literally picked up this young dog against her will and laid her on the couch next to me as I watched some TV. Granted, I was a student and bachelor at the time, and the only sentimental thing about that couch was that I picked it out at the Goodwill all by myself. I just really wanted a couch buddy at the time.

But soon, despite the initial anxiety of being where clearly only humans are supposed to sit, Kaya began to get the hang of it. Again, fast forward 12 years. “Honey, did you put the plastic down on the couch before you left? Did you put the gates up?”

OK, don’t get any bad visuals of my house. It is, of course, spotless with two dogs, a cat and a 4-year-old boy. Not a single dog hair out of place, couches in pristine condition, stair banisters all smooth and unchewed on, carpets free from stains.

The people without pets are now saying to each other, “See, we’re never getting a dog!” But the pet owners are saying, “Don’t forget about chewed up table legs, vomit in the back seat of the car, and destroyed door jambs!”

It’s amazing what we will put up with to be with these hairy, drooly, dirty, chewing, scratching, vomiting creatures we call pets. We love them to death, yet are constantly having to redefine our standards of “clean,” “new,” and “hypoallergenic.” Dogs and cats are sure to leave a permanent mark on your heart, but may leave an even larger one on your home. But they’re worth it. We don’t know why, it doesn’t make logical sense when we try to explain to our non-pet friends, and there are times when we question it ourselves. But they’re worth it.

For many of us with mature pets who are well set in their ways, we’re probably stuck just trying to remember to put the cushions up on the couch and close the bedroom door. We know we can never let our guard down and have perhaps lowered our standards a little.

But for those of us with puppies, it really is important to try and prevent bad habits early. Even if you are reading this from your bachelor pad on a 30-year-old vinyl couch, don’t let that puppy up there! Consider a time eight years from now where your wife will put the blame squarely on you for your dog leaving drool spots the size of dinner plates on your new couch. Thinking of letting that cute puppy sleep in the bed? Consider the future when your wife is pregnant and not sleeping well and there isn’t enough room in the bed for the three of you. I’ll bet the one who gets kicked out has two legs.

It is rewarding to spoil our pets for some reason. I suppose it’s as simple as their loving us makes us feel better about ourselves. But try to remember to think about some of the decisions you make with these young pets and how they could make your life more complicated when they grow.

Our poor, deprived puppy is being raised under the influence of the mistakes we made with our older dog. No couch. No bed. In the crate. Unfortunately, he was somehow born with the knowledge that couches and beds are for dogs to sleep on.

Here we go again!