Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy Belated Birthday Atticus.

One year ago last week, this fat little bastard entered the world. 

Yes, I'm kinda late in posting this.  Stop with the judging please. 

My little Atticus. 
The first time I met him, he was just a little ball of fat and fluff. 
He was the biggest puppy in the litter and he was just sitting in the corner of the pen, not making a peep, watching all his litter mates vie for attention. 
I picked him up and he just lay on my chest. 
He looked around, but never made a sound.  His wet, little nose reached up a few times to give me a kiss.  He let me hold him, never trying to get down or wriggle away. 
He was content right where he lay. 
I said I wanted him.  The one they called Goliath. 

We were supposed to pick him up a couple weeks after we returned home from our honeymoon.  He would've been 8 weeks then. 
Instead, we picked him up the day after we returned home from our honeymoon. 
There were rumors that the puppies weren't being fed and hadn't had their shots. 
Since MB's cousin was the owner, we had the inside scoop. 
MB's aunt, MB's mom and myself went over to feed the dogs and update them on their shots.
We arrived to find them all in one room, covered in poop and pee, with no food or water to be found.  Their mother wasn't with them and probably hadn't been nursing them.  They were covered in fleas and had actually lost weight. 
There was no waiting for Atticus.  He came home with me that day. 

Those first couple weeks were especially difficult. 
Raising a puppy is not easy.  When you add the grief over losing a beloved pet not 2 months earlier, the stress of having a brand new roomate, the dismantling of your home following a major kitchen remodel and the waning high of having just gotten married, it becomes even harder. 
We were not prepared.  Not in the least. 
There was a lot of yelling, arguing and crying for the first several months. 
Atticus was not an easy puppy to manage.  He had (and still has) an appetite for destruction. 
It's not his fault though.  He's a high energy breed who needs a job. 
We were not equipped to provide that at the time.  We both work shift work and were not able to provide him the consistency he needed. 
It really took it's toll on all of us, especially Atticus. 
He fed on our negative energy.  Our frustration and anger only fueled his own frustration and anger. 
He acted out because he could sense that we were, well...acting out. 
The more upset we got, the more upset he got. 
We actually had to consider whether we were going to keep Atticus or let him go to another family, who could give him the time and attention we could not. 
Things had gotten that bad. 
After many tearful conversations, we decided to stick with Atticus.  He deserved that.
We signed up for obedience class and agreed to communicate to each other so our stress didn't build up and consume us both.
We were able to gain some control over his behavior after going through obedience school and learning about how our moods were affecting him. 
We started to see improvement and actually started to enjoy our dog. 

However, it's still difficult. 
Some people say that raising a puppy is good practice for raising a child. 
I believe it. 
Don't get your mom jeans in a bunch, Moms. 
I'm not diminishing the responsibility of raising a child. 
Not at all. 
On the contrary, I have a new found respect for moms. 
I can totally relate to having a young, fragile creature dependent on you for everything, requiring your constant attention and care. 
It's exhausting! 
And the poop!  Oh God, the poop! 
It's actually made me think about my own potential as a mother. 
That's a story for a different day though as I'm not quite ready to have that conversation with myself. 

For all the stress and mental breakdowns, I still say it's worth it.  I love my little Atticus. 
He has a lot of learning to do, but he's such a good dog and he's worth the effort. 
It's been a hell of a year. 
I can only hope for a little less destruction in the coming year.  

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