In mid June, my boyfriend Paddy and I brought home a 10 week old miniature dachshund puppy to join our family. Even though it was tiring and physically challenging for the first few weeks, I haven’t yet questioned whether we made the right decision as he’s brought so much joy into our lives. We’ve had him for just over 2 months now and I feel like now is a good time to give you an idea of what it’s like to have a puppy when you’re chronically ill.
I’ve totally fallen in love with our little pup Copper. He has such a fantastic personality and is just plain hilarious! I’ve not laughed as much as I have in the last few months in a long time. I’ve never had a dog in my life before and neither had Paddy until we got Copper so we were apprehensive and didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve wanted a dog for a couple of years now but we only started seriously looking around February when I’d been ill for over a year and realised I wasn’t getting any better. We thought a dog would be great company for me as I spend the majority of my time at home and could do with the company, and the situation would be good for a dog too. Plus, Paddy is able to work from home now when he can which is also a bonus for getting a dog.
When we found a breeder local to my family home in Gloucestershire, we were so excited and soon after went to see lots of little dachshund puppies which was AMAZING! Too much cuteness to even explain! When we came out of the breeder’s house however, I was absolutely covered in hives – I’d had an allergic reaction!! We went from being on cloud 9 to devastated in seconds. How could we get a dog if I’m allergic? The breeder came up with a plan that I’d go back to her house, she’d bathe Copper beforehand and then just bring him out to the car so I was only around only 1 dog, not 10 like there were in her house. It was fine, WOOHOO! We could get one! I think looking back on that, because my immune system is on the floor, I was experiencing dog overload and my body didn’t like it. I still get the odd few hives now but nothing compared to that thank goodness!
So here’s my thoughts on the experience just over 2 months on from collecting him…
Caring for a puppy may affect your ability to do much else in the first few weeks
When you first get a puppy, it may take up all of your very limited energy. Little things like getting up to pick him up and put him on the sofa, playing with him when you can, watching him to make sure he’s not getting into mischief and if he is, getting up to stop him, toilet stuff. Initially he followed me everywhere, so for example after I’d had a shower (when I’m in desperate need of quiet time) he wanted attention or playtime. He also chewed everything – clothes, shoes etc. I found this exhausting for the first few weeks and was feeling very very fatigued and weak. I was lucky though as Paddy initially worked from home quite a lot so he shared the load.
But things have become slightly easier as the weeks have gone on as he settled in and began learning what he can and can’t do. And he has become a lot more independent! He doesn’t really use up as much of my limited energy now as he sleeps a lot in the day and when he is awake he happily plays independently a lot (although I do have to keep watch of him). He is beginning to reach the adolescence though so I am expecting him to get more naughty. He’s already started barking at people out of the window!
Our main issue now is that I am not able to take Copper downstairs to go to the toilet (we live in a 1st floor flat) and we are toilet training him at the moment, so when Paddy isn’t here, Copper has to continue to use the puppy pads in the house which is a bit annoying. We don’t have a garden and I’d recommend one with a puppy for ease so you can just open the door and him/her out.
Sleep deprivation can happen initially
I think we were very lucky with Copper; we had him our bedroom for the first 4 nights in his crate. He would cry when we first put him in, but would then sleep almost as soon as Paddy put his hands in the crate and comforted him. He woke us up a couple of times in the night but only for a few minutes each time. Paddy would then get up with him at around 6 when he woke up and I would try and go back to sleep. Those first few days were so tiring, When we moved him into the lounge in his crate on day 5, he cried for about 20 minutes when we put him in but then didn’t cry until Paddy got up in the morning for work (around 7). And since then, he gets into his crate when we tell him to when we go to bed and then we don’t hear a peep until Paddy wakes up. We put his crate inside a zipped-up dog tent floored with puppy pads so he is able to get out for the toilet when he needs. If we didn’t have that maybe he would cry out for us in the morning, so I’d recommend getting one. In the next few days we are going to try and take the tent away and see Copper can last the night without the toilet.
You may feel like you’re missing out
Since we’ve had Copper I’ve only managed to attend 1 vet appointment and he’s had several. I’ve also not been able to go to any of the puppy classes or take him on any walks (although I have been out a couple of times with him to a park/garden). Initially I was quite upset that I was missing out on so much, especially the puppy classes as who doesn’t want to see lots of little pups running around!? But I’ve gotten used to it now, and feel like me and Paddy just have different roles in Copper’s life. Paddy takes care of him – takes him for beach walks, to the vets etc, and I am there to give him all of the cuddles and keep him company in the daytime!
I’m no longer as lonely
I spend the vast majority of my time at home, and often in the days I’m on my own. I also don’t have a lot of visitors. Copper keeps me company and makes me feel less lonely when I am by myself. I talk to Copper all the time and he has become a wonderful companion! He raises my spirits, makes me laugh and takes my mind away from my worries
He gives me so much love
Copper has to be one of the cuddliest dogs out there! Wherever you are, he wants to be. He loves all types of cuddles – on my lap, squished up next to me, by my feet, and he often becomes a scarf by lying right across my neck (although he’s getting a bit big for this one now!?). One of my favourite things Copper does is when I get up in the morning, after each rest, or when I’ve been out, he gets so excited when he see’s me! His tail is going at 100 miles an hours, he’s crying to be picked up and he tries to shower me with kisses. Now if that’s not love then I don’t know what is!
He gives me a sense of accomplishment
Copper has learnt so much since we picked him up and he loves learning new tricks. Paddy has been taking him to puppy classes and I love practising the tricks with him at home. He can do touch, paw, sit, down, spin, wait and roll now! Fetch isn’t going so well as he doesn’t enjoy sharing but we’re working on that. Doing a few minutes of trick practice a day gives me a sense of accomplishment especially when he gets them right *proud Mum*!
For me the pros far outweigh the cons!! But I would advise that you think long and hard about getting a puppy if you’re chronically ill. There’s no way I’d be able to have one if I didn’t have Paddy. I am simply not well enough to look after a puppy on my own and give it what it needs. You’ll need someone to take on the responsibility of being the primary care-giver unless you feel well enough to take on that role. We’ve been quite lucky with Copper so far, he’s not really been very naughty yet *touches wood* and he has such a lovely gentle temperament. My advice would be to spend a lot of time choosing the right breed – we wanted something small, that didn’t need much walking, and that was affectionate and loving. So make a checklist of your requirements and see what breed would work best for you! Good luck!
What are your experiences of getting a pet when you’re chronically ill?
And here is Copper now…(he’s grown a lot!)