Don’t judge me, but yes, I bought a puppy from a pet shop. I had begged my husband for us to adopt a dog for a long time and he finally caved in after we dog-sat a friend’s cava-doodle for three weeks. She was just perfect, and I mean perfect. She was content to sit at my feet or cuddle in my lap for hours, never barked, and she even let me know when she needed to go outside. In the short time we cared for her we really bonded and she followed me everywhere.
The search begins
After such a successful dog-sitting experience, my husband agreed to adopt a dog, albeit with the criteria that it had to be a small dog given the size of our apartment, and a ‘hypoallergenic’ breed that didn’t cause him allergies. That ruled out the Great Dane that I had yearned for since I was a kid! I narrowed the search down to a poodle or poodle-cross breed, and began the time-consuming task of trawling the home adoption sites, rescue sites and animal shelters. It was a frustrating experience for me – every-time I found a suitable dog up for adoption I would fall in love, get in touch with the current owner, in most cases with absolutely no response, or if I was lucky to hear back from them, it was to let me know that the dog had already found a new home.
I also saw a few heart-breaking rescue cases from puppy mills – in my naivety at that time and, shame on me, I couldn’t get past their lack of aesthetics and poor condition. I have since seen these dogs ‘after’ photos, where they had been adopted by a loving family. With good treatment, in just a few short months, they looked gorgeous and happy – exactly the type of dog I was looking to adopt.
Finding “the one”
After several months of frustration in trying to adopt a dog, with no luck, I went to a pet store and fell in love with a two month old Maltipoo (a cross breed between a Maltese and poodle). I was all set to buy him but then I saw another Maltipoo at the back of the pet store. He was the oldest puppy there at four months old and had bad tear stain (the dark staining around the eyes). He broke my heart because he looked like the puppy no-one wanted. After we made eye contact and played around a bit, I decided that the younger and cuter puppy would find another home with no problems. I didn’t want this other older puppy to stay in the back of the pet store anymore and worse, with no-one to love him. I did do research on the pet store and found it was one of the more reputable ones in Singapore. When you buy a dog there, you have 48-hours to obtain a clean bill of health from a reputable vet of your choice, otherwise you get your money back. So you have some comfort that they are confident of the health of the puppy – but hey, let’s face it, who is going to send their puppy back to the pet store, not knowing their fate?!
So I brought him home. And there begins the next chapter in our life with our puppy which we named Alfie.
Alfie and me – what did I get myself into?
I am embarrassed to say in hindsight I had no idea what was involved with a puppy. The first couple of months with Alfie were not quite how I envisioned. Who could have guessed that such a small, cute bundle of fur could create such havoc in our household! Where was the perfect puppy who would quietly sit on my lap and placidly follow me around?! Who knew they had to be taught to walk on a leash? I thought all dogs could do that naturally… I found out my puppy did not!
Our expensive carpets and antique furniture were a favourite of his to chew on when he was teething (teething in a puppy was yet another new concept to me). He couldn’t walk past a human leg without trying to hump it (oh, the embarrassment!). He nipped at us constantly and one time brought blood to my finger and tears to my eyes. I was left wondering what on earth I had taken on.
We were lucky that a very good friend with extensive dog training experience (and a perfectly trained dog to prove it) spent a lot of time, effort and patience with us in force-free training techniques to help Alfie and us get to know each other’s needs. Even so, training a dog, especially a puppy, is harder work than I ever expected. It is time consuming, frequently frustrating, but it is so rewarding when you see them improve every day. The bond between us keeps growing.
A happy ending
Fast forward to seven months since Alfie joined our family. We have all come a long way with our training, though I do get ‘dog-envy’ when I see other dogs placidly walking besides their owners off-leash, or putting their toys away in the dog basket at the end of the day (yes, really!).
The training needs constant re-enforcement but now we have a lot more fun with it. Alfie can shake paws on command and does an enthusiastic high-five when asked. He enjoys playing fetch and if we are lucky, he may sometimes bring the ball back to us(!). He loves kids and other dogs since we have always socialized him with doggie play dates, trips to the beach and dog parks (read about some great location and play date ideas here). We are still working on the excited jumping when people come to the door. It is hard to discipline that though, since it is so cute to be greeted with his little dancing routine. We also need to conquer separation anxiety. But that is mine and Alfie is fine ….
On to number two
We are already looking for another four-legged brother or sister to join our family and to be company for Alfie. This time it will not be from a pet store. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no regrets and cannot imagine our lives without Alfie as part of our family. However, this time I will not support the puppy mills when there are so many un-wanted dogs out there who will flourish in the right environment. For help on where to adopt a dog, read the article “Rescue Me” here. I will be more patient and wait for the right dog to come along through the adoption and rescue channels. Oh, and it won’t be a puppy – I think neither me nor my furniture are quite ready for that again just yet ……
All images have been provided by Ann Day unless otherwise credited.