For those of you considering getting a dog, I put a list together of the best and worst parts of owning one. Let’s start with the bad parts first.
If you are the type of person who is entirely grossed out by the concept of poop, unless you can afford to hire someone to clean it up for you, don’t get a dog.
Dogs poop. It’s what they do. Everybody poops. It’s your job to clean it up. It gets to the point where, based on the position of their tail, you can tell when your dog is going to poop. You are now a poop master. Congratulations.
Dogs require a lot of it. As I’ve said before: Having a puppy is “like having a toddler who never really grows up that you can stow in a cage when you leave the house.” Forget about spontaneously going out of town for the weekend. Forget about running errands after work. These things can’t really happen with a dog. You have to plan ahead.
Depending on the dog, maintenance may vary. Smooth-coat dogs don’t require brushing, whereas plush-coat dogs very much do. Still, they all need their nails clipped from time to time, and the occasional bath and dental cleaning.
They also need medical attention. In two and a half years, my dog has been to the doctor three times more than I have, which is to say, she’s been to the veterinarian three times and I need to take her in soon for her booster shots. In almost every community, there are groups that give free vaccinations. You just have to look for them.
4. Dogs have a lot of stuff.
When you first get a dog, you’re not just getting a dog. You also have to get toys, food, treats, bowls, poop receptacles, leashes, collars, car seat covers (if your dog gets as dirty as mine), flea drops, shampoo, etc. Dogs have a lot of stuff and you have to buy it all.
All of that stuff, including the dog, has to fit somewhere in your house. I made the mistake of allowing my dog to sleep on my bed when she was little. Then she got big and became a gangly bed hog. If you get a dog, buy them their own bed. Trust me.
Most of the items dogs need (e.g. poop bags) don’t vary depending on the size of the dog, but some things do. I would imagine that feeding an eight pound dog would be considerably cheaper than feeding my 70 lb. monster.
Granted, you could feed your dog inexpensive grocery store dog food, but in my experience, cheap dog food will just cost you more in veterinary bills. Plus, cheap dog food makes them fart. It’s really best to avoid dog farts when possible.
5. Walking them.
If you don’t have a yard, you have to walk them. Even if you have a yard, they still need exercise and socialization. There’s a hurricane, typhoon, blizzard? Too bad. Your dog still needs to poop. You have a cold, dysentery, a broken foot? Oh well, get out there. Your dog needs exercise.
I had a migraine a few weeks ago and I had to walk my dog in the blinding sunlight, which is the exact opposite of what you need when you have a migraine. I threw up outside instead of in the comfort of my bathroom. Good times.
6. Sleep schedules.
Dogs have no concept of time or days of the week. Well, that’s not exactly true. They do understand time. They know when it’s time to be fed, go for a walk or to the dog park, but it doesn’t mean as much to them as it does to us.
The weekend means nothing to them. Daylight saving time means nothing to them. They don’t understand sleeping in. Dogs will wake you up whenever you normally get up, regardless of when you went to bed or what the time is.
My dog woke me up at 7:30 this morning like she always does, even though I couldn’t actually fall asleep until nearly 4 am.
1. Dogs are empathetic.
They know when you’ve had a bad day or you’re not feeling well. They can read your face better than another human can. They are completely in tune with you and they want to make you happy. They are dependent on us for everything, even their moods. If you are unhappy, so are they. Dogs make it their job to cheer us up and comfort us, even if all they can do is sympathize.
2. They are incredibly loyal.
Your dog will never judge you. Your dog doesn’t care whether you’ve gained a few pounds, cheated on your taxes or are just generally a public nuisance. If you are their person, they will love you no matter what. They will protect you. They will try to comfort you. They will do everything in their power to make you happy, which actually makes you a better person.
Unfortunately, their loyalty is also what makes it so easy for terrible humans to take advantage, abuse, neglect or train them to kill. They are loyal even to their own detriment.
3. They are always happy to see you.
My favorite part of any day is walking into my house and being greeted by my dog. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve been gone five minutes or five hours, she is always happy to see me no matter what. That tail wagging at the end of the day is absolutely priceless and irreplaceable.
4. You are never alone.
There have been times in my life where I have felt completely alone. If you have a dog, that’s nearly impossible. They won’t let you. They will sense that you are down and come to you with their ears back and tail gently wagging, and make you feel not so isolated. They will save your life.
5. You fall completely in love with them.
And they with you. You are now living with your best friend. It doesn’t matter if your dog is a jerk. It doesn’t matter if you are. You can’t help but love them. My dog is my biggest fan. I can do no wrong in her eyes.
6. You get to have a dog.
If you decide to get a dog, congratulations. You have just gotten a companion, best friend, cheerleader, therapist and constant source of entertainment. Dogs might be frustrating (especially as puppies), expensive and time-consuming, but they will completely change your life for the better.
Dogs are free from human restraints like jealousy and pride. They are blind to physical traits like color, beauty and weight. They never lie. They give unselfishly. They receive gratefully. They forgive immediately. They trust completely. They live joyfully. They love absolutely unconditionally.
What they take from us doesn’t even come close to the intangibles that they give us. They give their entire lives to us. I would give all the money I have, I will endure all the poop, inconvenience and frustration in the world for that. My dog has quite literally saved my life.
Please, don’t abuse that trust they give us so readily. Don’t beat, abuse, neglect or otherwise mistreat a dog. Getting a dog is a big responsibility, so don’t get one if you’re not ready to take that on, but if you are up to the challenge, your dog will make you feel like the king of the universe.