I was minding my own business the other day and up popped an idea: GET A PUPPY. It occurred with the same kind of punch-in-the-gut suddenness my wine cravings used to materialize, so I should be wary. I know we are not supposed to start a serious relationship, get married, divorced or move right out of the sober gate, but can we get a puppy? After all, pets add structure and routine to life – and they’re so cute and dependent and universally positive!
Hold Up Dr. Doolittle
Hold up, Dr. Doolittle. Let’s not forget that puppies are a lot of work. The idea of having something that loves you unconditionally is appealing, until Sparky gets on the dining room table, eats the birthday cake (plastic Sponge Bob decorations and all) and vomits Technicolor effuse all over the white rug. And yes, that is an actual, heretofore repressed, memory of a dog experience I had back in my drinking days… I am almost three years sober, but I am a late bloomer and it seems my life is just becoming orderly. So why in the world would I introduce an adorable, but messy little dog into the mix?
I did the math, so you can just read this quickly and head for the animal shelter (because you know you want a soft, little buddy with puppy breath and big paws and that look of love…)
Sober Puppy Pros
- Dogs are empathetic
- And loyal
- With a puppy you are never alone
- And it is hard to isolate when you are house-breaking a pup (Who did that? WHO did that? Outside Spot, OUTSIDE…)
- Dogs are active
- And protective
- And they are social creatures who break the ice with strangers
- Dogs release stress
- A puppy is a boon companion
- And a healthy distraction from all that thinking about drinking and using
- Puppies are good listeners
- And they keep secrets
- Dogs motivate you to get off the couch and exercise
- A new cur will encourage you to be more responsible
- A dog will hold you accountable
- Puppies are fun and playful and uncomplicated
- Dogs are an excellent starting point for developing successful relationships
- A dog makes you feel like a hero
- A dog makes you feel good about yourself.
Sober Pooch Cons
- Puppies and dogs need a lot of attention
- A dog is a long term commitment (life expectancy is 10 – 13 years)
- And maintenance is required (no matter how lousy you are feeling)
- Puppies are like babies – they need to be trained
- Puppies are expensive even if you get them at the Humane Society
- Dogs are vulnerable
- Puppies can be messy and destructive
- And puppies grow up to be dogs…
- Dogs require organization and planning – especially if you work or travel
- Puppies need responsible masters who have considered all the pros and cons of dog ownership
- Dogs need dog people…
My original dog, the one I bought online at midnight (there should be a law against procuring live animals on the internet after drunk-thirty), experienced the worst in me. Poor Fiona. I fed and watered her, but I was at the tail end of my tenure as a drinker when I bought her. I had trouble taking care of myself, let alone a baby bulldog with a skin condition and restless bowels… She had to witness me falling off my platform flip-flops and onto my knees a time or two, as I dragged her on truncated walks around my condo.
Fiona actually seemed embarrassed for me when I stumbled, even though she was steadfast. The picture of chagrin, she’d look at me judgmentally, sit resignedly and wait for me to struggle up from the pavement, patting myself to check for contusions or sprains. I’d look at her and say, “It could happen to anyone Fiona. My shoes are loose…”
All’s Well That Ends Sober
Fiona lives with my daughter now. She is very happy. In fact when I come to visit, you can see a wave of panic flash over her homely face. As if she’s not sure whether to greet me appropriately or hide beneath an afghan until I am gone and the coast is clear. She enjoys the settled, normalcy of my daughter’s lifestyle: the puppy play-dates, the crumpled pillows (mine have those perfect yuppie creases – no curs on the couch!) the lack of madcap spontaneity.
Dog trainer Jenn Gavin of A Pleasant Dog, Grand Rapids says, “I hate to be a downer, but the demands of a young pup might be overwhelming for someone in the early stages of recovery.”
Which brings me to the crux of the matter. You may be, but I am still not ready for a puppy. Having just found a glorious, separate peace in my sobriety, I think I will stay on the honeymoon for a while, get to know myself better, before I shake things up. I am out of the business of snap decisions and midnight madness. And when I am ready for a pet, I will remember that a puppy is a big commitment. I will consider the pros and cons.
I will remind myself that, even though puppies are irresistible, I am not really a dog person…