So You Wanna Be a Good Dog Parent?

 

IMG_20180308_175527_669.jpgI adopted Nova from the Animal Humane Society, and the beginning of our story together is very cute, but this post isn’t about that. It’s about now, 8 months later, when my neighborhood mailman stopped me to say that he often saw us walking and thanked me for always having my dog under control. It’s about my friends messaging me to ask me when I knew it was the right time to adopt Nova, and “how is she so well-behaved?” Owning a dog isn’t easy, and at 24-years-old (now 25), I knew I’d have to be on top of things if I wanted it to work out. Thankfully, adopting Nova has been one of the most rewarding decisions of my life, but it wasn’t without its challenges.

If you’re thinking about adopting a dog, here’s some realistic and honest thoughts based on my experience as a single dog-mom to help you figure out whether or not a pup is right for where you are in life.

1. This train(ing) don’t stop.

First off, if you don’t have the time to train a dog, then you should not adopt one. Many people expect me to first mention the cost of owning a dog as a hurdle, and while I’ll certainly get to that, even more important is that you be committed to making sure your future pup is well-behaved. This isn’t just for the sake of your new shoes and carpet: having a dog that’s well-trained is crucial for the safety of your pup, yourself, other pups, and other people.

It’s irresponsible, yet common, for folks to consider training as an after-thought or something they’ll get to “eventually.” In reality, training is something you’ll begin doing the minute you bring your dog home, and will need to continue doing for much longer. And unless you’re a professional trainer, you’ll likely need the help and support that comes from enrolling in a training class. Because here’s the secret: you need to be trained just as much as your dog does. Being in class with Nova has taught me how to lead her outside of class, and how to be an owner who knows and understands my dog intimately, and other dogs generally. My devotion to training is what keeps her safe and happy and, ultimately, makes her a joy to be around.

I’m no Cesar Milan, okay?  There are some parts of Nova’s personality that I had nothing to do with, but go under the “good” dog category:

  • she never barks
  • she’s not aggressive
  • she plays well with other dogs
  • she likes to cuddle
  • I can leave a full plate of chicken nuggets in the living room and she won’t eat them even if I leave to go to the bathroom

That last one was a recent discovery, but the point is that she’s naturally a great dog in these respects and I’m well aware how lucky I am.

And then there are the Good things that took 8 months of hard training and diligence on my part to help her do, because she either didn’t know how or would do the opposite:

  • walking up and down stairs
  • sitting
  • laying down
  • laying quietly while mama has a beer on a patio
  • not jumping on strangers
  • not rushing up to people on walks
  • ignoring rabbits and squirrels
  • happily going on car rides
  • going into her kennel on command
  • staying
  • not pulling on her leash
  • walking by my side
  • coming every time I call her
  • not guarding her food
  • etc. etc.

My beautiful, loving, sweet angel baby of a dog is a lot of hard fucking work. Unless you’re #blessed with a dog who magically knows how to walk on a leash, every single walk will be a training session until they get the hang of it. Every time a friend comes to visit will be a training session. Meals. Car rides. Patio hangouts. You will be training your dog almost every moment you spend together, and if you can’t commit to that…don’t adopt one. For everyone’s sake.

(For local readers, I highly recommend training at The Canine Coach, as they’re affordable and their trainers are knowledgeable every step of the way)

2. Keeping up with the bills.

You have the time and resources to train a dog? Great! Now you need to make sure one fits into your budget. I don’t believe owning a pet should be a classist thing, and there are certainly low-income individuals who are able to make it work…but there are certain things that you can’t/shouldn’t skimp on for the sake of your pet. This includes:

  • nail trim (monthly)
  • grooming (varies, as needed)
  • flea/tick medicine (monthly)
  • heartworm medicine (monthly)
  • food (bi-weekly to monthly)
  • training
  • leash, food/water bowls
  • toys
  • vet visits

IMG_20180816_093456_837.jpgThese are things that your dog absolutely must have, and does not factor in the costs for things like adoption fees, poop bags, pet deposits (if you live in an apartment), treats, blankets/towels, a kennel, or services like Wag or Rover for those times when you work late or are out of town. Sometimes the costs are unexpected: Nova chews through a toy in a day or two, to the point where I had to start getting creative with making toys from scratch because it became so expensive to replace them. Altogether, I spent close to $800 in the first month that I adopted her, and it’s been about $60-$100 a month since then.

3. What’s your plan?

Lastly, you need to have a plan, and it’s best to come up with it before you sign any adoption papers. If you’re single or live alone, how will you make sure your dog is taken care of when you aren’t home? If you live with your family or roommates: is everyone on board with a pet and are they willing to also be a part of training your dog (or risk confusing your dog with inconsistent training). If you’re adopting with a partner: discuss whether either of you would realistically be able to take care of a dog alone, in the unfortunate case of a breakup. Does your housing allow dogs, and do you have the resources to find dog-friendly housing in the future? What breed/size of dog will work best with your activity-levels, home, and interests? Do you have any vacations planned in the next six months, and if so, what will you do for dog care? Why do you want a dog and are you committed to caring for one for the next 10 years?

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These are all questions I made sure to answer before even logging onto the animal shelter’s website to see which ones were available. And when I did meet Nova and decided that she was the one for me, I took two days to make sure I had everything she’d need before I brought her home. To some folks who didn’t know, it might have seemed like I suddenly adopted a dog out of nowhere, but there were months of planning and saving involved. I’d encourage you to take at least a month after saying “okay I’m gonna do this,” before you actually do this. It’s a huge responsibility to own a dog, and setting yourself up for success beforehand is the best way to make sure that you’re ready.

And when you’re ready, cheers! Loving and being loved by a pup is one of the greatest experiences you can have. Tell the world, get lots of cuddles, and be prepared to start every conversation with, “Have you seen my dog yet?”

7 Things to Know If You’re Visiting Minneapolis for the Super Bowl

The Wall
The state line between Minnesota and Iowa.

So you love football, or love somebody who loves football, or love seeming like somebody who loves football, so you got yourself a plane ticket and you’re finding your way through the metaphorical Wall (I just watched Game of Thrones for the first time, I will not apologize) of ice and snow to the city of Minneapolis, the unofficial capital of Minnesota, for the first time.

Great.

No, really, that’s great! We love visitors, especially ones from outside the Midwest. It gives us a chance to really turn on the Minnesota Nice™. You’re the only ones who will hear our tales of survival with a look of fascination and not roll your eyes. You probably have no idea what -33 degrees Fahrenheit feels like (nothing, it feels like nothing, like your skin and your entire self have ceased to exist and all that’s left is a bitter chill you’ll never quite get rid of) which gives us a chance to brag about our suffering. It’s great. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Can you drive? Cool. Don’t. The roads are mostly one-ways that definitely don’t provide access to the street you’re trying to reach, and I can guarantee if you haven’t driven in snow before, you won’t like it. Have you played Mario Kart? Remember Rainbow Road? Yeah, driving in Minneapolis in the winter is a lot like that, except if you drive off a sharp turn on I-94, there’s no adorable gremlin on a cloud to place you back on the asphalt. Your car belongs to the snowbank now. You can have it back in the spring. Just call an uber or take the train since Super Bowl ticketholders are the only ones allowed on it anyway…

2. Mock our accents and prepare to see the most passive aggressive way to say “fuck you” that you’ll ever experience without crossing into Canada.

3. Say anything about the stadium except good things. No decent person who lives in Minneapolis has anything good to say about our football stadium. It looks like a giant ship. It’s aggressively ugly. We miss the skyline without it and don’t want to hear anything good you have to say about it okay???

4. Minnesota Nice™ is a real thing only if you can tell the difference between being nice and being kind. Niceness involves smiling for appearances sake, feigning politeness, and saying sorry just so no one judges you for not actually being sorry.
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Kindness involves genuine acts and feelings. People in Minnesota are not kind. We are distant, passive, and not very easy to mingle with due to our penchant for staying indoors 6 months out of the year. I had a mom push me in a Target once because I was blocking the Babybel cheeses. Approach Minnesotans with caution, as we bristle at aggressive personalities and straightforward attitudes. Beat around the bush a bit. Phrase all statements as a question. You’ll do fine?

5. Know that not all of us feel positively about Super Bowl. Minneapolis folks are a lot of things, but you can’t say we aren’t passionate. We fucking love this city. We know its strengths, and we fight against its weaknesses. And honestly, us hosting the Super Bowl is only bringing out a lot of our weaknesses. Our transit system doesn’t put its locals and employees first. The road closures are affecting medical and blue collar service workers without supplying them with fair alternatives for parking and travel. The homeless are being removed from shelters and motels to make room for you. And a bunch of other issues. It’s not necessarily your fault for wanting to enjoy yourself while you’re here, but know that your sports party is negatively affecting more people than it’s helping. You can love football and speak out about the ways it’s contributing negatively to different places/cultures/people. Don’t be surprised to see or hear about protests. We aren’t taking these issues lying down.

6. Ultimately, we live here. You’re a visitor. One that we’re truly happy to see, but wary of, under the circumstances. So make sure you do something that leaves our city looking and feeling better than when you got here. And for the love of god, buy a proper winter jacket before you come. There’ll be no rising from the dead as a blue-eyed zombie if you freeze to death here. You don’t have an excuse when there’s a Target every five blocks.

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Me on my way to Target for the 4th time this week.

7. Be cool. Enjoy yourselves. No one does winter like The North.

preface: about taking trips

If you asked me, I’d tell you that I’m not good at making plans. This is a lie. I would also tell you I don’t enjoy making plans. This is sometimes a lie, sometimes the truth.

I didn’t talk much about my first trip to Europe this year, when I visited London and Amsterdam, mostly because I was mentally really fucking over it. I’d planned the entire thing. I went with two other people, but I was the only one who put in effort to figure out the plane tickets, and the airbnb (which I’d never used before and now use almost exclusively during my travels); I was unofficially in charge of figuring out how to get to airports and train stations, I found/booked the hostel we stayed in in Amsterdam…you get the idea. All of this on top of planning fun things I wanted to do and see.

And I did have fun! I got the chance to explore the cities both by myself and with the one of my companions who was/is still a good friend of mine (the other companion was someone I have a weird history with and frankly it was a mistake bringing them along). It was my first time leaving the country! Amsterdam was the first city I’d been in where the main language wasn’t English (which was exciting to me), and I loved that place more than I’ve loved the many cities I’ve been to. But my god…

It was fucking exhausting. I resented that trip by the end of it. I hated that I’d planned the entire thing. I hated that I’d brought someone I didn’t want to hang out with (and once we returned, never hung out with again in true “you’ll either hate them or be closer after a trip together” fashion). In the weeks following, I would think about that trip and get frustrated because I felt like I’d spent the entire time being bossy and annoyed, neither of which are core aspects of my personality but show out when I’m anxious. But I didn’t want to seem ungrateful for what was a huge privilege to get to do. So I just didn’t talk about it.

All of this to explain that despite what I might say, I’m actually great at planning, but depending on the circumstances, I don’t always get a kick out of it. ((However, if you ever wanna pay me to put together an affordable and lovely trip (or an expensive and bougie one) to someplace for you though, just let me know. Will perform labor in exchange for currency.))

So when I decided I was going to go a second time, I knew it had to be either alone (like my trip to San Diego this spring that was truly an amazing time) or with someone who’s personality complimented my own.

Planning this trip to London was so much better than the last time. My companion, Allie, bought her own ticket and didn’t need me to walk her through it. In fact, we only met up once to decide on where we’d stay. We each have day trips we’re going on solo in the middle of the week to focus on our separate interests. Like, it’s been the least stressful experience. It’s even been fun figuring things out because I’ve barely felt, and still haven’t really felt, anxious. She, like me, doesn’t always feel the need to talk because there’s so much to see and make mental notes of to write about in the future.

The personality of your companion makes a world of difference when it comes to how much you’ll enjoy yourself on a trip!! Don’t go someplace with someone you argue with a lot, or who’s anxiety adds to your own. If you wanna be extra safe, take a short trip somewhere with someone first before you travel to another country. Magnify the way they act on that trip by ten and then decide if you can do 1-2 weeks with them elsewhere. Learn after my mistakes, kiddos, it’s what I’m here for.

So that’s how this trip has come to be.  More on “why london” and what I’ve been up to while I’m here, later!