thrive

Welcome to Thrive! A weekly advice column for creatives and the generally confused.

Dear Thrive,
I really would like to get a dog but I’m not sure how to work it into all my commitments. Any advice?
-Need a Fur Baby

Dear Fur Baby,

I absolutely love my dog, Ajax, and having him has added so many layers to my life. I’m excited to hear you’re considering welcoming a furry friend into your home, but I’m even more excited you reached out to chat about it. I adopted Ajax five years ago and he really did change my life for better–and yeah, for worse sometimes. (Just last night I woke up to him getting sick all over the carpet at 3:30am.) I wasn’t totally prepared for him when I brought him home, but over the years he and I have created an amazing life together. Here’s what to consider:

Budget, Budget, Budget
I hate to bring it here right off the bat, but a major part of owning a dog is spending money. I could not be the dog mom I am (which is, average at best) if I didn’t have the funds to pay for what he needs. He has a dogwalker every weekday when I’m at the office, he’s had 11 teeth pulled, he gets bored and needs specialized puzzles… Truly think about every aspect of dog ownership and what it will take. Don’t let it scare you away, but you’ll definitely have to redistribute your cash.

Personality Matters
Get a breed that matches your energy level. Do you love to run? Consider a sporting dog. Do you prefer Netflix binges? Adopt an older dog from the shelter. Every dog has a different personality, like humans, but researching breeds can point you in the right direction to begin. Also, don’t rush the process. I saw six dogs before I got Ajax. Make sure it’s right! (It’s like dating but way more fun…)

Be Prepared to Be At Home
Having a dog requires you to schedule your life a differently. You need to consider their bathroom schedule, their energy levels, and how much time they’ve been alone. Dogs do get lonely. I actually consider this a huge benefit. Because I have Ajax at home I am less likely to “have one more drink” or go out instead of writing. He keeps me pretty level-headed and its great. Also, look for opportunities to incorporate the little dude or gal into social time. Bring him on group cabin trips, to the park, or just to your friend’s apartment for girl’s night. Make them part of your life.

It’s Not Always Fun
I know it’s hysterical when your friend posts a picture of their dog going through the trash. But just think about that happening multiple times a month. And breaking that bad habit among others. Training takes time. Learning to be alpha to SUCH a cute face, sucks. Going for walks in early Fall is so fun. Going for walks in February is anything but. Most days are wonderful, but be prepared to go through some hard times together.

Always There
They’re literally always around. Bring a guy or gal home? They’re there barking or running around with squeaky toys. Crying in your bed? They’ll snuggle (or hide from) you. Cooking? They’ll try to trip you. Be prepared to always have someone with you.

Get Support
Not only was I the first person in my NYC friend group to get a dog, but I am still the only one. After five years! This can be really trying and difficult. I had to get used to saying “I can’t because of the dog.” It was hard in the beginning. They didn’t really get it and my heart felt very torn. Make them get it. And ask for help when appropriate. I learned that very late in the game. Ask them before you even need a favor to gauge who is comfortable with helping.

It Takes Time
You’re both going to have to adjust to one another. Give it time. Your rhythm will come. Be gentle and loving.

Whether you decide to go for it now or in another year or two. Having a dog is life changing. Enjoy it! (Even the tough parts.)

THRIVE is answered by Amanda Kusek, a poet, blogger, and dog mom living in NYC.