Anyone who knows me knows how much I love animals – dogs, especially. From offering to puppy-sit obsessively to asking every dog owner I meet how they like having a dog, I don’t try to hide it. Originally a french bulldog enthusiast (and still a diehard admirer), I knew a frenchie wouldn’t suit J and I’s lifestyle with their potential aversion to flying. As Canadian transplants in Chicago, we visit home often and would like to bring our fur baby with us.
Our criteria was simple when we began researching breeds in the Toronto City Airport on our way home from my sister’s wedding in Jamaica. Due to strict breed guidelines for our current apartment, we couldn’t adopt a rescue pup. What we did know is we needed him to:
- be under 20 lbs (so he can fly in the cabin)
- be easy to train as he is our first pet as a couple
- be adaptable to apartment/city living
- be a healthy balance between active and relaxed
- have a beard and eyebrows (not mandatory, but an added bonus – J’s requirement)
A fan of poodle mixes (my last two family dogs have been half poodle), we discovered the schnoodle breed. A mix of poodle and schnauzer, schnoodles are intelligent, affectionate and clever. After a lot of research, J found a breeder in Illinois who was about to have a litter available and we couldn’t resist.
After renting a car (a big deal for someone who loathes driving in Chicago) and discussing what would happen if the puppies hated us during our more than 75 mile drive, we arrived at our destination in rural Illinois: a small family home with more green space than we could dream of in our urban community.
Then we met Chester.
It was literally love at first sight. The only pup to spend the majority of his time at our feet instead of exploring, he charmed us from the very beginning. When I sat to join the puppies on the floor, Chester came front and centre and rolled to his back for tummy rubs. I don’t think we even picked a puppy that day, I think he picked us.
The car ride home was a blur of excitement and admiration. We had prepared ourselves for long nights of little-to-no sleep as we agreed to crate train the new puppy. Little did we know, he’d love his crate and basically anything we placed him in. Transitioning him from our breeder’s food to our chosen brand was a breeze. Five days into our new adventure, Chester had only four accidents in the apartment (and honestly, we were to blame), and a healthy, happy vet visit.
Our first week with Chester was filled with cuddles and frequent outdoor pee breaks. But then Memorial Day came and went, and something changed. Still sleeping through the night, our puppy was no longer napping in the day, reacting aggressively to playtime and claiming the apartment floor as his 650 square foot bathroom (yup, our apartment is that small).
I would be lying if I said this whole process has been a dream. We’re lucky to have a healthy, intelligent puppy but there have been days where I’ve wondered if we made a mistake. Not because I don’t adore him, but because anyone who knows me, knows that while I do love dogs, I also love freedom, having the ability to come and go as I please.
A couple of nights ago, J was planning our next trip to Europe and I felt my heart instantly sink as I realized we’ll have to leave Chester behind (obviously with a friend or someone who is comfortable apartment/puppy sitting). Gone are the days when we can book a one-way flight to Frankfurt (and then email our bosses immediately after asking for the extended amount of time off) and figure out the rest later. Gone are the days that we spend our afternoons drinking cocktails on patios (although J was kind enough to spend last Saturday on puppy duty while I enjoyed an extended brunch with some girlfriends).
Here are the days spent turning down social activities because the puppy isn’t crate trained, the days spent feeling like your head is going to explode when the puppy disappears under the bathroom counter and you can’t get him out, the days where you feel like a hostage negotiator while trying to get puppy to swap from chewing on wires to playing with his plush toy.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading (in the off chance he decides to nap – like right now) about training your puppy, understanding the signals when he has to go outdoors and most importantly, puppy blues. After finding a great subreddit dedicated to parents of puppies, I discovered I wasn’t alone in mourning the temporary loss of my freedom. I think it’s perfectly normal to question your decision after a particularly big life change – see: moving to another country with your husband where you’ll be unemployed. But for now, I’m focusing on being the best dog mom I can be, and I won’t lie, I’ve noticed slight changes in Chester’s size and features as he grows (he literally grew a pound in one week), and I already feel sad that his puppy days are going so quickly. It’s these moments I remember when we’re going on hour four of 110%, full attention playtime and I have yet to eat or change out of my pyjamas.
While it’s a huge change introducing a puppy to a somewhat spontaneous lifestyle, I know I wouldn’t change it for the world. Just don’t judge me when I’m counting down the hours until J is home and I can spend my time not shadowing Chester’s every move or worrying I’m not keeping him mentally stimulated. For now, I’m lucky to have my righthand man who literally remains within earshot of everything I do… he may not know it yet, but he’ll likely be one of the best friends I’ve ever had.