Puppies Aren’t For Everyone

Cindy SmithDog Safety

Who doesn’t love a puppy? They are cute, adorable and full of fun. You can’t help but smile when a puppy is around, complete with adoring eyes that follow you everywhere you go. Their faces are so sweet!

However, puppies are not for everyone. This true story tells the tale of how a puppy can be a disaster if placed in the wrong hands.

My mother-in-law is 84 years old and lives on her own in a senior community in California. She is in relatively good health but has a bad back and mobility issues. Six months ago she lost her beloved labradoodle Hannah and was devastated. As she has had dogs ever since she was a child, she decided she was ready for another dog.

I encouraged her to get a senior dog, one that was already trained. However, she was insistent the dog be a labradoodle. I called animal shelters and rescue groups throughout California and was told these dogs are rarely abandoned because they are “designer dogs”. Instead, she decided to get a puppy who was lovingly delivered to her at 12-weeks-old.

My mother-in-law has brand new white carpeting and a white couch. She was having trouble housebreaking the dog because ”stern” is just not in her personality at this age. Even though she could give us the “stink eye” over the years, the dog did not respond to this type of discipline. It’s now been 4 months and “Lucy” is still pooping all over the house. “What are you going to do?” I ask her. “No worries”, she says. “I’ll just buy new carpeting.”  “I leave the patio door open every night with the light on in hopes she’ll go outside on my patio.”

Does she think there are no burglars? She leaves the lights on – might as well invite the thieves in for a cup of coffee!

Problem #1: Housebreaking.

She and Lucy decide to go for a walk. Unfortunately, she chose a retractable leash despite my discouragement of the dangers. They were on their way to the Verizon store (because her “Contacts” mysteriously disappeared from her cell phone) and were crossing a busy street. What happens? Little Lucy saw another dog across the street, pulled the leash from her hand and sent my mother-in-law tumbling. Fortunately, neither she nor the dog was badly hurt, but the dog raced out into heavy, oncoming traffic.

Problem #2: Walking on a leash.

At this point, I suggest to my mother-in-law that it would be a great birthday gift for her if I got her a dog trainer. Unfortunately, she saw this as a reflection of her abilities.

“I have trained all my dogs,” she said.

“But when was the last time you had a puppy?” I said.

“I just ordered myself some puppy training videos so I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

Problem #3: Basic obedience.

To complicate matters further, the breeder told my mother-in-law that the dog would be a “mini” doodle and would not weigh more than 20 pounds. This was important because Mom wants to visit all her kids spread across the country and wants the dog to fit comfortably under her seat versus riding in the cargo hold. On Lucy’s first trip to the vet, the Dr. said she will weigh between 36 – 40 pounds. With my mother-in-law’s bad back, there is no way she can lift that much weight yet alone put her under the seat.

Problem #4: Size

If it was just about love, Lucy and my mother-in-law would be the perfect match. They adore each other. Unfortunately, Mom picked a dog that was too big for her, too active and required too much training.

I tell this tale so that people will understand that selecting the right dog based on your age, exercise level, lifestyle and living accommodations is key. Puppies require a lot of training and a lot of work. As they shred everything in sight, dig, chew and bark, they need a strong pack leader. If you are older, consider the disadvantages of a puppy. Realize how much energy is involved in keeping up with them and constantly monitoring them.

I’m happy to report that my sister-in-law, who only lives 5 miles away, now has Lucy and we found a senior Maltese for Mom named Scarlett. In fact, Lucy and Scarlett are now best friends.

This story has a happy ending, but choosing the wrong dog and living with the mistake could be a disaster!