I never thought that I would have a dog. Ever. But something changed this year. For the first time I own my own home and I have a real backyard. I have, as they say, settled down. And I kind of like it. So this spring my husband and I looked at each other and said "How about a dog?" And that is how Jericho came into our lives.
Jericho is a foster dog and will live with me until he is adopted by his new family. I'm really, really glad to be able to share my home with this sweet guy. I found out about Jericho through Last Day Dog Rescue, a wonderful organization that rescues dogs from high-kill shelters in Michigan and Ohio (you may remember them as the recipient of 10% of Clawguard's profits in May). Last Day places dogs in foster homes until they are adopted. This allows the dog to adjust to life in a healthy home situation, and it lets us learn more about the dog and his personality.
The first few days were a bit iffy. I picked up Jericho on a Tuesday afternoon. He pulled on the leash so hard that I wasn't sure I could get him safely between the shelter and my car. His first few moments running around the house were eye opening for me as well. "Oh boy!" I thought to myself, as I saw my house from the point of view of a dog for the first time. Would he wreck all of our furniture? How about our shoes-- Are they safe? Is he really house-trained, and what do we do if he isn't? Are there things he's afraid of? Jericho is an American Staffordshire Terrier. At 55 lbs he's a lot of dog. He loves people and plays well with smaller, more submissive dogs. We're working some of his bad habits, such as not pulling the leash, or chasing cats. But aside from that he's really, really wonderful. In a few short weeks I've learned so much about having a dog. So I wanted to share these with you.
What I've learned from my first (foster) dog:
1. Dogs will show you unconditional love (and you'll love it.)
They never get tired of being rubbed, petted, thrown a ball. They know that you're the person caring for them, and they like to be around you. Jericho in particular is one of those dogs who is a "shadow". He'd stay right beside me every moment of the day if he could.
2. The right toys are indispensable.When the chewing or rough-housing begins, I want to have the perfect dog-approved toy nearby. Anything that I can give Jericho to re-direct his energy is worth it's weight in gold. Jericho loves to chew a big bone, and it's a wonderful way to calm him down when I'm busy cooking, entertaining guests, or working from home. It sounds silly to say this, but every toy that I've given Jericho has been a hit. If I keep up the gift-buying I may become broke, but boy will this dog be happy and most importantly, stay out of trouble!
3. Dogs can destroy things.I am constantly reminded that this sweet dog also has the ability to do some real damage to my belongings. An unattended, bored dog is capable of a lot of mischief. It is impressive what damage Jericho can do to a stick, a bone, a patch of grass... Thankfully, I know that if he starts to claw up the door at least I'm covered with a Clawguard door shield!
4. My schedule has got to change.The days of waking up 10 minutes before I have to leave for work are long gone. Last minute plans to go away for the weekend on a whim - gone too! My days begin at 6:30AM now, when Jericho begins whimpering. My husband or I will often jump up and spend half an hour outside while the sun rises. It's calm, it's a great way to start the day and it is quality time that we are lucky to be able to spend together. (Ok, I'm not going to lie, sometimes it's quality time with my iPhone too.) And at 10 or 11pm when I'm winding down, I have to remember that there's still a very important potty-break on the schedule. I don't want to put Jericho in his crate without letting him outside first, because a wake-up call any earlier than 6:30 is not OK with me.
5. BalanceI work at a computer for countless hours every day and I can tell you that the most wonderful gift I can get is outdoor time. Time to regroup and step away, or just enjoy a change of scenery while I'm still working. Taking a break to watch Jericho bound around the yard means that I get to breathe fresh air and see the sun too. ... Of course, I should probably wait until it is bitter cold and snowy outside, and tell you if I still feel this way.
6. Dog food is expensive.Like, oh-my-gosh expensive. $50, $60 a bag is not unusual. My wallet hurts... But at least it's for a good cause!
7. It's hard.Caring for a dog is not easy. A walk in the park sounds easy, in theory. But walking Jericho in a park filled with other dogs might be the biggest challenge of my life. Why? Because you can't communicate to him why certain things aren't allowed, or why he shouldn't growl at some of the neighbor dogs. We're working on all of these things every day, and it is work.
All I want to do is give this dog happy experiences. But I've discovered that I have to instill more discipline in his routine in order to achieve that. I'm the strict parent most of the time and I'll fully own that label. I want Jericho to be the best dog for his future family. I'm glad that my husband and I thought long and hard before deciding to foster a dog. We knew it would be an adjustment, but that it would teach us what we needed to learn. So far we're really happy with our decision, with the good, the bad and the... really cute. (o:
What have you learned from having a dog? Would you ever foster one? We'd love to hear. Share your experiences on our Facebook page!