Pet Therapy, Crate Training & An Analogy with Debt-Reduction

Introducing Kobe

  • DH = dear husband
  • DD3 = dear third daughter
  • DD2 = dear second daughter

We lost our Rocky in November – two weeks before we lost my mom. They were such great friends!

My mom was Rocky’s #1 person.

DD3 was most impacted by Rocky’s passing – especially tough as it was followed so soon by the passing of her grandmother. In the long winter ahead, she felt her double loss.

One particularly sad day in March, we were out walking when we passed by a man and his pug puppy. We stopped to “oooh” and “ahhh” and chat. DD3 knelt down, and the puppy leapt into her lap, his tail wagging in sheer joy. “You don’t know how much that lifted my soul!” she said as we walked away.

“Hmmm…” I thought.

Pet therapy

Just about an hour earlier, before meeting up with DD3, I had passed by an older woman at a bus stop who seemed to be speaking to a container on her folding wheeled grocery cart. “Would you like to see my bundle of joy?” she asked me. I stopped, and she pulled out a tiny puppy – a chihuahua I think. “She’s in training to be my companion,” the woman told me. “I’m on so many pills for depression…” We talked for a minute or two, and as her bus approached, I said, “I hope she brings you lots of comfort.” The elderly woman zipped her puppy back into her container, saying “Oh! She already does!”

Therapy pet. Sad daughter’s spirits lifted by a puppy. Was there a sign in this?

I took DD3 out for lunch, and while we were at the restaurant, I texted DH. “Let’s get a puppy.”

When we got home, I read some blogs and went to send out links on Twitter as is my custom. And what do you think was the first thing I saw on my feed? A vine showing a man who comes home to a dog jumping ecstatically into his arms. The bottom text gave this message: “Studies prove that pets are good for mental health.”

Yep. The signs were everywhere.

Our decision to get a dog

DH, who runs a business from home, was surprised by how much he missed Rocky’s constant companionship. Rocky would plunk himself down by DH while he worked, and then follow him out to the kitchen whenever he took a lunch or snack break. If DH had a power nap, so did Rocky. And if DH had to leave to run an errand, he would be assured of an enthusiastic welcome home upon his return.

When DH received my text message, it was a confirmation of something he already wanted.

May 20th, we brought home our Kobe.

On the way to his new home.

I forgot about the puppy stage …

Of course, no two puppies are alike. And there is a big difference between a puppy and an established family pet. Enter reality. The last few weeks have been crazy!! Kobe bites everything in sight, and he pees and poos all over the house.

In praise of crate training

I don’t like putting Kobe in his crate. He wants to run and play and be with his people, and I empathize with his longing for freedom when I close the door on his crate.

On the other hand, Kobe has a real resistance to doing his business outside. I can’t count the number of times we’ve walked him around our yard for that purpose with no success – only to have him do it within minutes of returning inside. Argh!! And when it rains, it’s a hopeless case! He doesn’t like the wet grass, and he’ll stand there in stubborn refusal as one of us gets soaked by the elements. No, it’s much better to pee on the mat by the front door and the upstairs landing. And the best place to poo is clearly the floor by DH’s work desk. Again – argh!!

I hit a critical point of irritation this week (not a proud moment), and I’ve completely overcome my reluctance to using that crate!

Parallels to debt-reduction

Kobe cannot handle freedom at this point. He needs us to set up super-strict parameters so that he can learn the basics of life as family pet. He sleeps in his crate. When he wakes up, I take him outside until he does his business. That means he gets to eat breakfast and then play with DD3. If DD3 needs to focus on something other than Kobe, he goes back in his crate – until DH is able to take over.

Kobe needs 100% vigilance. When we slip and give him only 96% vigilance, he’ll use that 4% to pee in the house or carry away one of our shoes to chomp on!

If I back-track to a time before our journey out of debt, I see that DH and I could not handle freedom. Financial chaos on my part and compulsive maxing out on his led to our chronic indebtedness and the chronic financial stress that went with it. We needed to set up super-strict parameters so that we could grasp the basics of personal finance and exit stress-mode. Budgets, tracking, cutting back, DIYing, steady focus …

Signs of success

It’s Saturday morning, and since starting this post, Kobe woke up. I saved my draft and went downstairs to say “Good morning!” to him. Out of the crate, into the back yard. Wet grass? Reluctance to walk on it? I got the leash and walked him around the yard. Pee! Yay! But we weren’t done yet. Around the yard again. And again. And then … Poo! It just does not get better than that!

Kobe had an equally productive walk after his breakfast, and now he’s peacefully lying down in his crate again. Some day, he’ll be able to lie at my feet while I write, and if he needs to do his business, he’ll let me know.

Likewise, DH and I have succeeded within our parameters of debt-reduction. We hope and believe that some of those strict boundaries can be replaced with more flexibility. We are well trained for our growing freedom.

Last night, Kobe was exhausted after a long walk. All pooped out – both literally and figuratively – he gave us a glimpse of the family pet he is becoming. And he is lovely – everything we could ask for.

DD2 visits us a lot more often these days.


Do you think pets are good for mental health? Have you ever crate-trained a dog? Your comments are welcome.


 

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prudencedebtfree

18 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Yes!!! I can so relate to this. Our GSD “puppy” just turned 14 months. She was our first puppy and it was so much work at the beginning! You totally hit the nail on the head: structure. Puppies need oodles of structure and those of us wanting to improve our financial futures need tons of structure too. Great analogy. My husband (who doesn’t love the dog, but tolerates her for the 6 of us) always laughs when we open the crate door and she hops right in, regardless of the time, day or night. That early puppy training sure sticks with them! If only her “stay” command were as rock solid 😉 Power to you, puppy mama!

    • Janeen, I can’t imagine having a puppy along with 5 children! I hope that your sons and daughters are helping out a lot. Though I can’t help but think you would have trouble with consistency with so many puppy trainers at work. We’ve had a tough time coming to an understanding of the rules of the game – and we’re 3 adults. All the best with that “Stay” command 🙂

  • What an adorable face on little Kobe – what breed is he? I haven’t had a pet in over 45 years, but probably will get a cat when I am “old” lol. It is a good thing that your DH is home in the daytime as it will probably speed up the house training with his constant supervision, plus Kobe won’t get lonely. Enjoy your new bundle of joy 🙂

    • Thank you, Nancy! Kobe is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – just like Rocky was. And yes, we’re hoping he’ll be trained soon with not only DH at home working, but DD3 out of school for the summer and only working part-time. Soon I’ll be home for the summer too, so no excuses. I think a pet might prove to be a shock to your system after 45 years!

  • Great analogy, Ruth. My friend is a vet tech and she is all about crate training for puppies! It seems like the way to go. For humans, I think it depends on personality, but it makes sense that most people need more parameters while trying to establish a new habit. You can’t form a habit if you’re always making exceptions to go outside the behavior you’re trying to develop. In turn, the parameters and new habits and skills can give way to freedom. So glad you’ve been able to experience this!

    • Thank you, Kalie. I think that as a society, we tend to be addicted to our own comfort. And there is nothing comfortable about changing habits. I think that’s a big reason why people often don’t stick to it. In my case, I’d had enough of the discomfort of financial stress, and I was willing to put up with the discomfort of changed habits to get me out of it.

  • So happy to hear you have welcomed another dog into your home! Welcome, Kobe! Since I’ve owned dogs of my own, we have always crate trained them. I don’t recall using them with our dogs as a child. Our 10-month-old Meeko was just neutered this past weekend, and life with a cone has been interesting for him and the family. We had a 6 month period when didn’t have a dog in our home, between the passing our first a yellow lab and before we brought Mushu home. There was certainly something different about house/home. A dog certain adds something special.

    • Smart cat! I think pets have a sense about us. They want to make sure all is well. I’m glad your cat is taking care of her humans 🙂

  • Oh you got the softest puppy in existence! I love Cavaliers. We can’t go back to the puppy stage though, not at this point in our lives with the human-puppy. We’re struggling with the new adult addition who never got any of that structure either and obeys commands like she’s got an itch the whole time, so it’s slow and steady for us while we figure out if we’re the right family for her. Here’s to many long and happy years with Kobe.

    • Thank you, Revanche. Having a puppy and a toddler at the same time would be to much for me too! To me, it sounds like you are the right family for your “new adult addition.”

  • Oh, absolutely! They bring us so much joy and it’s one of the best things about home ownership, being able to have a dog. I’m not sure I’m cut out for puppies, cute as they are – we adopted ours at about 1yo and even that was challenging… We haven’t crate trained (though occasionally I think we should have and SPCA did suggest it for one of ours, the neurotic one).

    • Thank you NZ Muse. I have a greater understanding now about why so many people choose to get grown dogs instead of puppies 🙂

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