Work experience student Amanda shares her adventures and learnings after she and her husband received a new Siberian Husky as a wedding gift.
2015 was a very big year for me. I got married and I got a dog.
The funny thing is, and this is something most people don’t understand, is that getting our dog was larger, more daunting and more challenging than planning, saving for and pulling off our wedding.
Our wedding and our dog go hand in hand because she was given to us as a gift for our wedding. Normally I hate pets as gifts, so if you ever think about buying anyone a puppy, just don’t. This situation was slightly different as Kelly the lovely gifter, breeds Siberian Huskies. She suggested this gift to us when we got engaged and before her dogs were even pregnant! This gave us from February to July to figure out if this was what we wanted.
When you decide that you want to bring a fluffy bundle of ‘joy’ into your home you need to do breed research. This I STRESS. You need to write a list. What kind of house do you have? What kind of yard do you have? How much time can you take out of your day for outings? Do you have children? Do you want children? Do you have a cat? What do you want from a dog? Do you want a lap dog, a dog to run with, a companion? Or in our case, another cat in dogs clothing.
My husband and I wrote this list long ago when we were deciding to get a dog. Well before our engagement and well before Kelly’s offer. We have an old house that is a pet friendly rental. Our backyard is smallish but I (not my husband) do enjoy a long walk. We both work casually in retail so one of us is normally home and we have heaps of spare time.
We have no children, we want children but not until we are much older and more mature. I have a cat, his name is Louy, he is a giant and he doesn’t like dogs. We want an all-rounder dog. Active but still up for pats, intelligent, able to be left on their own on rare days we work the same shift, able to stay outside so not to traumatise the cat. With these stipulations in place, we made another list.
Cute dogs! What are they and where do we get them! I really love Great Danes, with their big drooling faces and their friendly cuddly personalities. Ben wanted a Siberian Husky because they are exotic, beautiful and interesting. I wanted a German Shepherd, mainly because their ears are floppy as puppies then they stand up, one at a time. So they go through an awkward teenager stage. Ben wanted a Boxer, because his parents own them and he has had them all his life. Armed with our lists… we made more lists!
The Great Dane pro and con list was up first. So we researched, researched, researched. YouTube is a great way to find out about dog breeds. Dogs 101 has a whole set of short clips talking about breed personalities, health, costs etc. with a neat little summary at the end.
I found a YouTube channel called Honey the Great Dane, which is basically about a family who have video-blogged their journey with their Great Dane Honey, from puppyhood to adulthood. From these videos and other websites I learnt that Great Danes really aren’t the dog we need right now. Because? They are $2500 to buy, which is more than my car is worth and it does not include spaying or vaccinations.
They only live until they are 7, so not too much bang for your buck and I am not ready for that heartbreak. When they are puppies and they break into a run they can break their big gawky legs and be crippled for life. If they eat too much, they can get bloat and die. If they eat puppy food their joints can become engorged and they can die. So you can see where this is going – two casual retail workers can’t afford the Great Dane vet bills!
German Shepherd list:
Heavy chewer, hip dysplasia, fear biting, $1500 outright cost! Ugh.
General consensus is this dog is as dumb a doorknob, which was further proved by Ben’s lovely parents buying a boxer puppy. His name is Harvey, and he is an absolute idiot who can’t breathe out of his own nose or eat proper dog food because of the shape of his snout.
At this point we’re hoping Siberian Huskies are perfect. Or we’re just getting cats. Hundreds of cats.
Escape artists, cat-like personality where they don’t care what you think, need hours and hours of exercise, will eat my cat if given the opportunity, will cost $1000, difficult to train. Dogs 101 described the husky as ‘a real dog’. Which I think means maybe they aren’t as domesticated as an Australian Silky Terrier (my beloved previous pet, Aussie).
After all this research Ben and I were pretty down in the dumps. No dog for us just yet.
Then we got engaged, and Kelly said, “Hey do you want a puppy for free?”
We had already done the research, and huskies did have more pros than the other dogs mentioned. So we asked our landlord and he said yes. So we said yes.
Kelly went on to give us plenty of husky tips and tricks to help us cope with the new addition to our family. She said to get a girl because boys are bigger and stronger and more difficult to deal with. So we said “Pick us your favourite gal and we will come to Mildura and get her when she is ready.”
When Rubi turned 8 weeks old we made the trip to Mildura to pick her up on a weekend, where we had family plans. We picked her up in the morning and she came to every house we visited, she was kissed and cuddled and she played with Golden Retriever friends, Sausage dog friends and everyone thought she was beautiful.
By the time it was time for the four-hour drive home, Rubi was pooped. So she slept like a baby all the way home, and went on to sleep comfortably in the laundry all night long, and we thought… “Well she seems pretty chill.”
Nope. This dog had to be the most not-chill dog ever to reside on this earth. The first day we had our baby in our house was typical of new puppies. They aren’t like cats that use a litter box – they need to be trained. The best way to train any animal if you want a loving relationship is positive reinforcement training, which means every 30 minutes (because puppies have very small weak bladders) you need take your puppy outside and wait.
Somehow, Rubi’s bladder always had a different schedule than our backyard outings. We would take her out after she had eaten and wait. Sometimes for hours. Then we would give up and go inside (we have things to do you know).
As soon as we entered the house. Oh! Suddenly her bowels worked and she took a turd on the rug. The rug, the only piece of carpet in the entire house! If you’re going to have accidents, dog, have them on the 100 square metres of floorboard!
On the rare occasion she was outside and went to the loo, we would drop what we were doing and immediately rush out and say “You go Rubi!”
To this day she still isn’t house trained.
Another thing we learned about Rubi when we brought her home: after living with two children who fawned over her and then switching to two adults who need time to do things alone … she had severe separation anxiety. Lucky I like research because I needed all my skills to figure this one out.
On our second night together, she was certainly not as tired because puppies can’t really go into the world until they are 16 weeks old, due to vaccinations. So we set her up all comfy in the laundry, closed the door and went to bed. She started howling and sooking which is expected from puppies at bedtime.
Normally they quiet down after 10-20 minutes or so and snooze. Not Rubi. Four straight hours of screaming and throwing herself against the door! It’s now 3am and I start work in two hours, so we let her into our bedroom and she went to sleep. We gave up. We also almost had a divorce before we were even married. We felt like teens with a toddler. It was too much.
But it’s important not to give up – if she was a toddler we certainly wouldn’t give her away. We would keep going. So we did.
I made Rubi a mix tape, of calming tunes that dogs apparently like. She yelled at most of them, but she really liked Linkin Park’s In The End for some reason. To this day I can sing it to her and she calms down. So now the plan: put her in her bedroom with Linkin Park playing by herself, pop our heads in five minutes later and tell her we love her, and slowly the times between seeing us would get longer. It took us weeks. But she got better and soon we had a dog that is so independent, sometimes I feel like when I go out to see her I’m interrupting her plans for the day or something.
Another of the most important parts of a dog’s life is socialisation; dogs need to play with other dogs. Luckily for Ben and I, we have a dog park nearby, so when she got all of her shots, we took her down to hopefully meet some doggy friends.
When we arrived we were overwhelmed, there were probably about 40 dogs there. Not small dogs either! I know now they are regulars so I can easily list them: a Burmese Mastiff called Fred, a German Shepherd (the leader of dog park) named Flynn, Luna the Labrador, Bella the Golden Retriever, Milo the Groodle (who is massive much to his owners surprise), and what feels like hundreds of others.
Rubi spent the hour between my legs just watching. But after a year of going everyday she now has more best friends than I do and she gets upset when we don’t take her to catch up with her mates. And when she is upset she eats the sheets off the line, so we try to keep her happy.
Despite all the trials and tribulations of owning an ADHD puppy with the strength of the ox … Rubi is a very much-loved member of our family. Her crazy personality can be wearing some days, but most days we find her entertaining.
The best part is she got us off the couch. This dog took a couple of humans who lived watching TV and playing video games, and dragged them outside for long walks, beach days and sometimes, even some running.
She made us more active and healthy and provided us with a routine. She also has given us the responsibility of looking out for her. She may be only our dog, but we are her world and therefore we’re charged with making that the best world possible. The responsibility is nerve-racking to think about, but really, she is 18 months old now and she is happy and healthy. The vet even said “Perfect!”
So my husband and I have nailed it, and there is no better feeling. So if you are thinking of adding a fluffy member to the family – be prepared. Be prepared for anything! It’s all trial and error. Do your research and good luck!