I thought it would be interesting to write a blog post about dog ownership since, honestly, it shocked the hell out of me. Mukow was, in a sense, an “accident”. At the time — July 2013 — we had plenty of dogs in the family and had no plans to get one of our own. We actually liked the freedom that was unique to us — my in-laws had a dog, my sister-in-law and her husband had 2, and my brother and his girlfriend had one. We figured we had plenty of dogs to enjoy vicariously whenever we all got together, and then we got to be the ones to go home to a house full of cats who, relatively, didn’t need much of anything from us except their food and water bowls filled, their litter box cleaned, and a good scratch or cuddle. Easy!
Earlier in July, my mom saw a friend of hers — who worked with a lab rescue — post on Facebook that they were looking for foster families. Mom, somewhat randomly, said she’d like to try it out… but they ended up getting enough fosters and didn’t need her. I figured that was the end of it. But later in the month she volunteered again.She didn’t really intend on adopting a dog herself — she went into the whole situation figuring that she’d just like to foster the dog for a few weeks before it found its forever home. Either way, we were kind of excited to have a dog around for a few weeks (my mom lives right across the street from us). When she asked if I wanted to come pick up the dog with her, I enthusiastically responded YES! I had mentioned to Nate how nice it might be to have a dog, but we were pretty firmly in the camp of “we don’t need that kind of commitment or work in our lives right now… or for a long time”. So Nate stayed at home and off we went!
The picking up process was odd, but after speaking with others who have adopted rescue dogs it seems to be pretty normal. We met up in a secluded corner of the Maine Mall parking lot with a few other families to get our mystery dog. We had NO idea what to expect, and I knew that the type of dog we were matched with would determine how well I could convince Nate to keep it — it was all left to fate. The first dog to come out was an itty bitty tan dog with a high-pitched “yip!”… I knew there was no way as I watched it be handed off to a family of 3. The second dog to come out was a maybe 3 or 4-year-old black lab… my heart fell again, since I knew Nate would only entertain the idea of a puppy, but that one was handed off to a couple in their 30’s. I was getting anxious at this point just hoping it would be a good match when they pulled out this 12-week-old pup with huge paws and floppy ears… and put her right in my arms. I melted on the spot. My mom filled out the paperwork while I sat in my front seat with her on my lap as she licked the entire steering wheel. We grabbed up the crate and dog food and headed home.
I knew that, while she fit our hypothetical criteria, the chances were still slim that Nate would budge. He can be pretty stubborn at times and I knew he REALLY didn’t like the idea of adopting a dog at that point in our lives. Though when we pulled into the driveway, he excitedly burst out the door to greet us and I could tell he was excited to see what kind of cargo we came home with. He opened up the back door to see her and his first word was “… fuck” — the reluctant resignation of a man who realized he’s about to adopt a puppy despite his best intentions. But how could he resist this face!?!?
I knew he was already halfway there, but he needed some more convincing. I suggested that mom and I run to the pet store to get her some essentials — a harness, some toys, treats, etc — and he could stay with her and, oh hey, try to think up a name for her while you’re at it! The rescue had named her “Harbour” — that clearly couldn’t stand. So off we went and Nate was left home to bond with her. When we came back he told me he wanted to name her “Moo-Cow” because “she’s black and white, like a moo cow!”. I was actually very hesitant at first, but caved with the agreement that we could spell it a bit more fancy, so we settled on Mukow (which I now LOVE — everyone always laughs when we tell them her name!).
We brought her to mom’s for her first bath — she shook like crazy the whole time, which she still does in the tub to this day, and then promptly pooped on mom’s bedroom carpet. Yay! The next day mom had to work so she asked if we could spend some time with her so she wasn’t alone in an empty house, and we were happy to oblige. We brought her to our house and played with her in the livingroom, and Nate’s parents came over to meet and snuggle her. She was definitely nervous and unsure of pretty much everything — I remember she would try to lay in weird corners of the room, between the couch and the coffee table, anywhere that didn’t make sense for a puppy to cuddle up for a nap. At some point — maybe an hour into us playing with her — Nate left and went to mom’s to get the crate. When I asked him “does this mean we’re keeping her!?” he stumbled over his words, saying “no, err, this will just be, uh, easier for her… yeah!”. Okay then.
His parents wanted to know, too — what’s the deal? Are you guys keeping her? What’s going on? Nate finally said he just wanted to know what the process would be like to adopt her… ya know, just out of curiosity. I gave the woman at the rescue a call and found out all the important details. She also let me know that we should decide quickly — she hadn’t posted photos of “Harbour” on Facebook yet and when she did, she’d get snatched up quickly. It only took Nate maybe 5 minutes to say “fine, call her back, tell her we want her!”. It had been less than 18 hours since she came home before we decided that hell yes, she is ours FOREVER.
It was, in all honesty, a tough adjustment period. While Nate had grown up with dogs, neither of us had ever had our OWN dog that we were solely responsible for. I had only ever had cats growing up, and we had 3 cats together at that point… but, again, cats are so much easier to care for than a dog that it’s completely laughable. I think I knew, logically, that they wouldn’t be the same… but I just WANTED them to be. I wanted her to be a big cat that would just do her own thing and be fairly independent. Holy CRAP was I wrong.
Those of you who have dogs, or who have had dogs before, are probably thinking “umm, yeah, duh” but I HAD NO IDEA. We spent probably a week taking her outside every 30 minutes or so to pee so we could get her used to the whole process. She peed in the house a few times (not nearly as much as I expected) and pooped in Nate’s room a couple times. She had worms during her first week or two (which is apparently fairly common for puppies) so not only did she have diarrhea (fun!) but we had to get her some medication. We spent a TON of money — it’s like start-up costs for your dog. She hadn’t settled into any kind of routine yet, naturally, so she was high energy and restless ALL THE TIME. We were both working from home then which made it a bit easier, in a way, but oh man… I truly thought I would NEVER have time to myself again. We were EXHAUSTED.
About two weeks in we had a sobering moment of wondering if we’d done the right thing. It’s hard when you’re in the midst of a tough time to really see anything outside of it. All we knew was that we’d gone from being relaxed and having lots of freedom to suddenly being locked in this seemingly neverending cycle of training and playing and being on the complete wrong page. Our routine still hadn’t solidified and Mukow seemed to be at her most active points at all the wrong times of the day, specifically right after dinnertime (when we normally finally get a chance to sit and rest and watch TV or movies), which is when she would want to run around and play and wouldn’t settle down unless you were actively paying attention to her. We wondered how awful it would be if we brought her back — maybe we just weren’t cut out to be dog parents?
It was as if the moment we decided “no, there’s no way in hell we’re bringing this sweet puppy back to the rescue, we’re making this work”… everything clicked. We got her routine in place, we started focusing more on training her, and ultimately just having FUN with her. Things settled down and we all got to know each other better. Things started to work, slowly but surely. Having a dog really is establishing a relationship — you don’t know all of their quirks and fears and personality traits yet, but you figure it out. You get to know them. You trust them, and they trust you. They listen to you, they respect you. We realized that, while the adjustment period was hard, we REALLY lucked out with her. She’s very laid-back, she’s quiet (she only barks when she’s outside, unless the mailman decides to walk across our front lawn…), she’s not too clingy, she listens to us (most of the time), and she really behaves, especially when she’s home alone — we’ve NEVER had an issue with her destroying anything, knocking over the trash can, chewing up the couch or our shoes, nothing! She was very easy to potty train and even easier to sleep train — we got rid of her crate just a few months after we took her home and she only whined when she was alone in her crate ONCE (when she had diarrhea and NEEDED to go outside). She’s the best pup in the world.
And now? It’s been just over a year and a half and we can’t imagine life without her. She brings us more joy than I ever thought possible. She makes me smile countless times during the day — even when I’m away from home and just thinking about her — and gives me at least a few belly laughs every day, too. She’s lively and fun and so smart. She makes me — forces me, sometimes — to get out into nature, even if it’s just my own backyard. She’s made me appreciate the snow and the winter much more, and gotten me adjusted to the cold (even if I don’t love it). She keeps me active, since I am usually throwing her toys for her, chasing her around, or taking her on walks. She keeps us company during the day and she cuddles with us at night. She’s a loyal companion and a trusted friend. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us! So if you’re ever considering getting a dog, or if you’re in the early stages and it’s hard… it will get better. It will get so much better that it will blow your mind.