My then-boyfriend, now-husband, Russ, and I had been talking about getting a dog for a while. We already had a cat and wanted another furry animal to cuddle with—not to mention run with and play with at the park. So last spring, after living together for more than a year, we decided it was time to start looking.
There are tons of shelters and other rescue organizations near us in Brooklyn, so we followed some of them on Instagram. Within a couple weeks of double-tapping adorable dog photos, we’d already contacted two organizations to inquire about pups they’d posted. One of them got back to us immediately regarding a caramel-colored, 14-week-old puppy. She was in a foster home a 15-minute walk from our apartment, so we went right over to meet her. A few days later, she was ours.
Plenty of people had warned us that puppies are a lot of work, way more demanding than our nap-in-the-sun-all-day cat. We were ready for it, and we felt pretty lucky: Penny seemed to be extremely well-behaved for such a young puppy. She was almost completely housetrained when she first set paw in our apartment. She played well with other dogs. Everyone who came in contact with her loved her, and we were super-proud pet parents. Adopting had happened fast, but it seemed meant to be that Penny was ours.
But then the vet bills started racking up. And then she started chewing furniture. (Penny absolutely hated being in her crate and kept scratching her face to break out of it, so we’d started leaving her to roam the apartment before she was mature enough. Big mistake.) The chewing was an issue but not the end of the world—the couch was old, we should replace it soon anyway, and she’d grow out of the behavior, right?
The vet bills were a bigger problem. Penny had a few urinary tract infections, and then the vet thought she might have a bladder condition requiring surgery. Several visits, one ultrasound, and a few thousand dollars later, Russ confessed to me one night: “You know I love Penny, but I wonder if we shouldn’t have gotten her right now.”
I told him to be quiet and gave Penny a snuggle. But I couldn’t deny that he had a point. Maybe we weren’t in a good enough place financially to be responsible dog parents. Maybe Penny required more constant attention than we could realistically give her. Just considering these possibilities felt really awful. So many people adopt puppies, I thought. How can we not be responsible enough? How can we not be ready—we’re in our mid-thirties! If we can’t afford a dog, how will we ever afford a human baby?? What is wrong with us?
We never seriously considered getting rid of our puppy, but a lot of people do. The ASPCA reports that about 20 percent of adopted shelter dogs get returned for a variety of reasons. Experiencing doubt or even full-blown regret in the months after adopting a new pet is incredibly common.
“Pet owners should know that they are not alone in feeling discouraged,” says Meredith Stepita, DVM, DACVB, a veterinary behavioral specialist in Dublin, CA. “Many times behavior problems, in both young and older pets, can be successfully managed and improved over time by working with a veterinary behaviorist.” Ask your regular vet for recommendations of local trainers or behaviorists, or check the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists website for listings in your area.
If vet bills and other costs become too much of a burden, keep in mind that financial assistance might be available to you, says Stepita. Check out the American Veterinary Medical Association for more information. (Haven’t adopted yet? Make sure you consider all the expenses before you do, says Stepita, including food and treats; supplies like leashes, toys, and a bed; dog walking fees, grooming, and pet-sitting costs; and preventative care, illness, and emergency vet bills.) And check out these five things to know before adopting.
We didn’t hire a pro to help us with Penny, but we did finally figure out a way to keep her contained: with an industrial-strength baby gate, so she can’t break out and can’t destroy furniture (plus, she’s way happier than she was in her crate). And we took some advice from the vet about how to prevent recurring UTIs. (We’ve thankfully had zero vet bills for six months since doing so—knock on wood!)
As I cuddled with our pup on the couch a few nights ago, I turned to Russ and said, “We will never have another dog as good as Penny.” He agreed with me. I don’t think he’ll ever question our decision to adopt again.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.