Lessons learned from my first year as a single dog mom

 

#newdogmom

A post shared by Lauren Steinheimer (@irunintotrees79) on

The Boss and I are celebrating our first dogaversary today! And by “celebrate” I mean he’s tied to the couch to stop him from breaking out of the house while I sit here blogging about it.

:)

The above photo was taken after I brought Bruce home from the dog sitter while I visited my Grandpa in Colorado last year. It was the first day he was officially MY dog. [side note- I wish I still had that shirt…]

The many names of Bruce

I adopted Bruce from friends who already had two other dogs and were moving into a smaller house with no backyard. I had been dog sitting for them before they decided to move, so was already familiar with Bruce, even though he was called Arrow at that time. The name Arrow comes from the album The Point! which tells the story of some pointy-headed dudes with a dog named Arrow.

It’s sampled in this Blackalicious song. Listen!

 

I knew Arrow had a lot of energy and I knew he was a handful, but I also knew he was sweet as pie and well cared for.

When I was dogsitting all three, Arrow was the only one who would follow me into the bathroom. He was the only one that would bust into my bedroom (even though I always closed the door to keep the dogs out) and steal my neck pillow (probably thought it was a dog toy). Arrow was the only one with a special dog dish that made him eat more slowly so he didn’t puke up his kibble.

Arrow was a pain in the butt.

Arrow was also the cutest. I fell in love with him the minute we met.

My friends found Arrow on Craigslist Free, when he was called Pax, and adopted him out of pity. Pax was a Valentines Day gift for a stupid couple that didn’t deserve him. They split up and then realized they were both too stupid to take care of a dog.

When Pax was adopted from the shelter at 3 months old, he was called Carlisle…

Fuckin Carlisle

Thank God he was rescued from those nuts. [I totally made Carlisle Bruce’s unofficial middle name, btw.]

Even before Bruce was mine, I decided that he was not an Arrow. He deserved a name way more badass (and easier to shout) than Arrow, although, I have to be honest, he does kind of remind me of the silly little mutt from The Point!

arrow
Arrow from The Point!

But I’m telling you, if my dog were a person, he would look just like this:

the boss Springsteen

 

My dog is The Boss. He’s Tougher Than the Rest. He loves Dancing in the Dark, and baby, we were Boooooorn to Ruuuunnnnnnn.

Bruce is his name because that’s who he is. He likes it, too. I’m pretty sure he never knew his name was ever Arrow.

Anyway, it’s been a wild year together. There were times when I didn’t think we’d make it, but I’m really glad I stuck it out.

Now that I’ve officially outlasted all of Bruce’s previous owners, I think it’s safe to say it’ll be Lauren + Bruce 4Eva

bored and extremely dangerous
This is my favorite picture of us.

So here are my top takeaways from my first year as a single dog mom:

Don’t wait until you’re “ready”

If I had waited until I was at the “ideal” point in my life to adopt a dog, I absolutely, positively would still be dogless. For years before I got Bruce, I wanted a dog. I talked about it all the time, but would always talk myself out of it because:

  1. I was broke
  2. I was renting an apartment that didn’t allow dogs
  3. I travel a LOT

When my friend texted me asking if I knew of anyone who could take Arrow, I didn’t hesitate for a microsecond before responding, “I WANT HIM!”

And that’s how it happened. I didn’t think about how I was going to make it work, I just said yes. No regrets.

If you really want a dog then go GET ONE. There’s probably at least a hundred out there who are looking for a home just like yours.

Dogs are like personal trainers

At least mine is, anyway. Bruce has boundless energy.

It doesn’t matter if I’m recovering from a 26-mile run or working on a deadline, he takes ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSES for skipping walks (unless they are substituted with a trip to the dog park). If I even think about trying to be lazy for a day, Bruce will pull out every obnoxious trick he knows (and there are many) in order to destroy any hopes of do-nothingness.

Since adopting him, I haven’t been able to sleep past 7:30 a.m. Not because I can’t… because I’m not allowed.

I just don’t even bother fighting it anymore.

Speaking of fighting, this dog has done wonders for my upper body strength! He was already full grown, and very, very strong, when I adopted him at just over a year old. Walking him is honestly more of a core and shoulder workout than anything else, especially when he sniffs a deer (or a majestic herd of antelope, like the one that interrupted our happy running flow yesterday!)

Dogs make you happy, it’s unavoidable

 

Every morning, Bruce emerges from his crate exuding gratitude for life and enthusiasm to start the day. It’s like every single day is Christmas Morning to him…

He’s like, “WOOHOOOOO it’s TODAYYY! I’m so HAPPY it’s here! We’re alive! What should we do first… oh, I know! How about a WALK!!!?!? Walks are the BEST! C’mon, let’s go! No time to waste…”

Whenever I come home, Bruce greets me by dancing in circles and bringing me toys. It doesn’t matter if I’ve only been gone for an hour. He’s always stoked to see me and he’s always down to play.

My [human] best friend said Bruce’s motto is, This is the best day since yesterday!

That pretty much sums up his attitude.

Even when he’s getting a little obnoxious, Bruce’s good nature always cheers me up.

He constantly makes me laugh by doing really funny things, like chilling in the bathtub, resting his head on whatever’s in front of him, or just holding a crazy face for a minute….

There’s no such thing as a bad day for Bruce, and whenever I insist on brooding, he makes sure to snap me out of it right quick.

Honestly, that alone has made it all worth it. Bruce is a tough cookie, but I know I’ve finally begun to break through his punkass exterior. After a year of hard work, I can tell he really trusts and respects me now, which brings me to my last point…

Don’t let anyone boss you around

This includes your dog and other dog owners. EVERYONE has an opinion on how I should be training my dog, what kind of collar I should use, and which methods work the best.

A lot of these ideas contradict one another so my best advice to any new dog owner would be to try everything at least once and then figure out what works best for you and your dog. Just like human relationships, they’re all different.

For me and Bruce, taking walks on the leash every day has been a HUGE part of training. He’s a smart, motivated dog, so I think walking him the opportunity to flaunt the leash skills we’ve been working on. It relaxes him, gives us both exercise, and makes him feel like a champ because I constantly praise good behavior. Oftentimes, I can actually see him lift his head a bit higher and start prancing by my side like a show dog when I compliment him.

[This works with people, too!]

Since he’s strong enough to pull my arm off, I walk Bruce with a Gentle Leader which works well, but he’s already broken two within the one year warranty period. I also have an e-collar on him, which I use sparingly and typically keep on vibrate. I’ve tried the choke chain and really don’t like it as much. I have a harness that tightens around his chest to deter pulling when we run together because I don’t think the Gentle Leader lets him pant enough.

My dog learns quickly and is incredibly food motivated, so positive reinforcement usually does the trick. And by positive reinforcement, I don’t just mean saying, “good boy.” That’s not enough. I literally sing his praises, dance around him the way he does for me, give him high-fives, tell him how proud I am of him, and supplement all of this with tiny bits of bacon. He likes that and can remember the type of behavior that elicits that response. Usually, it’s something as basic as running over to me when I say, “come.”

I guess he’s also taught me the importance of celebrating tiny victories…

 

 

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