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Falling hard for pandemic puppy love

Falling hard for pandemic puppy love Photo by Andrew Dreyer from Pexels

I’d always heard having a puppy was a little like having a baby. I’ve learned over the past two months that information is correct. 

As a Christmas gift, my boyfriend and I decided to get our collective five children an Australian Shepherd puppy. We deliberated between two puppies from the same litter, a black tri-color and a blue merle. After much rumination, we were drawn to the fluffy black tri-color with a flame on his forehead. Once we knew what our little guy looked like, we spent hours talking about names. 

Similar to two parents selecting a moniker for their child, we made lists, trying to find meaning to whatever name we chose. To get started, we researched the Australian Shepherd breed. Despite its title, this medium-sized herding dog is quintessentially American, a breed developed out West in states such as California, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho. The original purpose of the breed was to tend to the large flocks of sheep grazing in this part of the country. 

We wanted his name to reflect his Western origin. Our initial list included Mac, Ringo, Bogart, Finn, Sam, Baker, Hatch, Durango and Bowman. Our friend suggested he have a first and middle name. Ultimately we decided on Ringo Mac. His colors offer the impressions of rings and the flame on his head made me think of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire. The word “Mac” is part of our street name. 

Though we adults usually call him Ringo, the kids have created a few nicknames such as Ringo Bingo and Ringus Dingus. He’s a bit of a stinker right now so the latter names better fit his current personality. 

After about two weeks of snuggly puppy time, Ringo turned into a full-blown, bull-in-a-china cabinet toddler, chewing everything in sight, using the bathroom wherever he pleased and waking his parents up in the night. While I’ve owned dogs in the past, Ringo is the first puppy I’ve raised from infancy. And boy, is it an experience. 

Since I’ve been working mostly from home during the pandemic, I’ve taken on the daytime responsibilities while my boyfriend gets up in the night. Ringo has already made great strides on the potty training front. He very rarely goes number 1 in the house, but he still occasionally goes number 2. My veteran dog owner friends assure me that four months is a turning point when it comes to potty training. Ringo will be four months on March 10. We’re counting down the days. 

Then there’s the issue of those pesky sharp puppy teeth. He doesn’t nip too much at us alphas, but he tends to nip incessantly at the kids when he wants them to play. This doesn’t bode well when it results in holes in Adidas trainer pants or broken skin that requires a Band-Aid. At a recent vet appointment, the doctor said his puppy teeth should be falling out any day. Woo-hoo! 

In Ringo’s defense, he has a wonderful disposition. He loves being with his humans and follows us around everywhere, which is very cute. If we’re sitting at the dining room table, he’s under our feet. If we move to the kitchen to wash dishes, he follows us. When we transition to the living room, he follows us there too. 

He’s also learned quite a bit in his young life. We’ve taught him how to sit, stay and fetch. He’s great with other animals and enjoys socializing. He’s trying extremely hard to make friends with our cat, Oliver, who isn’t very interested in a friendship at the moment. Maybe one day. 

We’re working hard on leash walking so we can take Ringo out and about with us wherever we go. Our pup also loves to ride in the car. We want him to travel and adventure with us, so we’ve made sure he gets used to riding in the car at a young age. 

I’m not sure we would have chosen to get a puppy had the pandemic not happened. In a typical year, we’re constantly on the go and traveling all over the place so having a young dog would have been challenging. But with more time at home and more minutes to think about what’s truly important, we decided to delve into the world of dog ownership. 

We’re not the only ones, apparently. An estimated 11.3 million U.S. households have acquired a new pet during the COVID-19 era, according to the American Pet Products Association. Further, three out of four pet owners say spending time with a dog, cat or other animal has helped reduce stress and increase a sense of well being during the pandemic. Whether to fill an emotional void or because of more time at home, pet sales and adoptions have soared over the past year. Shelters and breeders are having trouble keeping up with the demand. 

 Despite the challenges of having a new puppy, I’m falling madly in love with Ringo Mac. Just like with our kids, I know time will fly and before we know it, he’ll be an old tired dog sleeping most of the day. We have more training to do and it will require much patience, but I feel motivated and excited. It takes a lot to turn my heart to mush, but our new furry family member seems to be doing it with ease. 

(Susanna Shetley is an editor, writer and digital media specialist with The Smoky Mountain News, Smoky Mountain Living, and Mountain South Media. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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