Photographer and writer, Roger Caras once said, "Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole." I completely understand this statement, since I'm head-over-heels in puppy love.
I guess you could say my puppy love began close to three years ago when I moved into a new home with my family. The dogs came with the territory and to say we were scared would truly be an understatement. Two pit bulls are no joke. When my landlords migrated and my boyfriend and I moved yet again into the condo at the back of the property, we were pretty much given full responsibility for the father-son canine duo. We had no idea what we were getting into.
Depression slowly set in for the dogs as they realised their owners were gone and we would now become their new 'parents'. We had to get used to feeding them daily - separately, so that they wouldn't fight. We added doggy treats into the mix to strike a palatable balance, and scheduled monthly check-ups and shots.
We had to get used to playful evenings - because we were away all day and the dogs would be bursting with energy when we got home. We also started a bathing and walking routine. For a young couple still finding our way, the dogs gave us structure. And they were more loving than we expected, sometimes fighting for our affection. The dogs also learnt quickly how to tap into our soft spots to get their own way.
What we were not prepared for was the drama. And there was a lot of drama! The dogs tested us in every way possible and we had to instil discipline. Medical emergencies would find us in panic at the veterinarian. These experiences drew us closer together, however, as we soon realised that we had become parents, of sorts.
But we are not alone. Photographer O'Neil Grant and girlfriend Teeah Anderson recently became doggy parents after carrying home six-week-old Snow. Snow is a Shi Tsu poodle, a mix between a Shih Tsu and a poodle. Grant explained that he wanted to get a dog to ease the stress of work and keep his company. He said the dog is like a human baby. "He cries at night, puts everything in his mouth, picks up whatever he wants and poops everywhere." He said he considers Snow as practice for the real thing.
"I just love how playful he is. That happiness helps me with stress," he added. His advice to aspiring puppy parents - "Prepare to have your patience tested and losing your favourite shoes. It will give you a small taste of what having a child would be like."
Paddington Bear, a pit bull and bulldog mix, was adopted as a puppy by Krystalle Sheil and her husband, Ross. "We also took the dogs I had with my parents, so now we have four, ranging in age from seven months to 12 years," she shared.
Sheil admitted that having a dog helps with sharing responsibilities and realising how different your 'training' styles are. "Inevitably, someone spoils the dog and the other tries to teach him manners or obedience."
She highlighted, too, that with dogs you can never have enough love.
"You also realise your partner is really caring and giving - it's another layer to the relationship," she said.
The couple have an eight-month-old boy added to the mix, so they clearly have their hands full. "It has been good so far. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to spend as much time with Paddington as we want to now. I'm back at work and hubby's schedule is up and down. But (Paddington) knows the baby and cries if the baby gets fussy, or whines when they are separated, so no jealousy so far!"
Some of her favourite moments with Paddington include "when he stopped chewing shoes; when he used to fit easily in my lap and followed us everywhere; his happy face and coming home to a happy dog."
Her advice to other couples in need of puppy love? "Think it through. It's a dependent little being for at least a few weeks or months. And make sure the puppy you get is from a good home, got all his shots and that you know the family history. Also, prepare to love more than you did before - then the baby comes and you get blindsided!"