Meet the monster peeing in my house
The ups and downs of fostering a puppy, and my struggle to build healthy routines
This newsletter is a day late for several reasons, the first of which is a puppy named Gouda. She is a four-month-old black Lab mix and she has been my foster puppy for a week. And she’s driving me insane.
But more on her later.
Since the beginning of 2019, I’ve been trying to establish a morning and nighttime routine. Hell, I’ve been trying to establish a routine for a decade. I have always struggled with organization, in all sorts of ways. The attributes I dislike most about myself often center around the same theme: I feel like it is so hard for me to do everyday things like organize my physical space and stick to a schedule. The most stressful part of my day has always been getting out the door on time in the morning. I putter around, just like my dad (he made me late to school constantly), going back and forth between the same two rooms 40 times to collect things I’ve forgotten. I’ve tried meal-prepping the night before and laying out my outfits, and that helps (duh). I’ve just never quite been able to stick to those simple, good, life-enhancing habits.
My negative self-talk often shows up as, “You’re so messy. You’re so scatterbrained. Why can’t you do this like a normal adult? Why are these basic things so hard for you?”
(Does anyone else feel like this? Can you relate, or am I really out here at 32 years old still trying to get the basics down alone?)
In high school and college, I constantly left papers and projects to the last minute, but still managed to scrape by with good grades. I told myself I thrive under pressure, and to a point, that’s true. But I’ve learned that when it comes to writing and reporting something I’m proud of, I’m a slow worker and need to leave plenty of time for edits. Left to my own devices, the self-harming practice of procrastination still often gets the best of me.
I have built some healthy routines for myself over the past four years or so. I went to the gym in the mornings before work for years. I exercise regularly, and even when I fall off the bandwagon I always find my way back. I eat healthyish and have a good relationship to food. When I started this newsletter 11 months ago while immersed in a black hole of sadness, I never missed a deadline. I meditate and journal, I practice yoga now and then, I make sure to get outside often and early.
Having a full-time job with set work hours and responsibilities helps me schedule myself; I’ve long been punctual at work and don’t miss deadlines. But I don’t have a job right now, and my anxious, busy mind is screaming for structure, structure I find really hard to self-mandate! After I got laid off, I enjoyed a slower schedule of pretty much nothing for a couple of weeks, reading and suntanning and watching dumb TV and taking long walks. I quickly tired of that, so I decided to schedule meditation, tarot, yoga, running, writing, and job hunting into my schedule. I certainly had the time to do all of it. But in the end my followthrough remained half-assed at best.
Finally, after three months away, I returned to New York. I was so happy to be home, so content to walk in Prospect Park and see my friends and have my days entirely to myself again. I set up an hour-by-hour schedule for myself, shocked at how many hours there actually are in an unemployed day: time to work, play, work on a passion hobby, and even nap. From June 8-10 I stuck to my schedule pretty well, and noticeably felt relieved of the brainwaves insistently reminding me I was lazy.
Then, Gouda arrived.
Since I live next to the park and have so much time on my hands, I knew I wanted to foster a dog when I got home. I applied to several rescues, knowing they’ve had tons of applicants and might not get back to me. Then a friend put me in touch directly with his cousin, who’s involved with Barrk Long Island. She called me to vet me and get a sense of what dogs I would be comfortable with. Since I have a cat and a roommate and not much experience with dogs, I told her it would be best for me to have an adult dog with medium energy—up for long walks but who wouldn’t constantly attack Minerva. “Would you be up for a puppy? she asked. “I want to be sure, because they’re a lot of work!” I thought about it. “Well, I don’t have any puppy experience, but I’m open to any dog that needs me.”
My fate was sealed. A few days later, I brought a timid, googly-eyed Gouda inside for the first time.
Gouda has a gorgeous, soft coat, loves to play in the grass, and just wants to be near me at all times. She is sweet to her core, shy but gentle with dogs and people, and will calmly sit next to me in the park for hours. Fireworks have been going off in my neighborhood every single night, but she sleeps right through them. And she’s taken quickly to crate training. She fills my heart with joy when she falls asleep in my lap or wraps her arms around my leg in a puppy embrace. She loves to roll over so I can rub her belly, which still has soft, bare puppy skin. She’s learning to play fetch and it’s very, very cute. She’s even pretty nice to Minerva, giving her space and some inquisitive sniffs.
BUT. She is so much work. She is not house-trained, and I’m supposed to take her outside hourly to pee. I live on the sixth floor of an elevator building and a block away from the park, so every single trip outside is an event. (Today, my f*cking elevator is out, so on every trip, it’s a long walk up and down six flights of stairs, with Gouda fighting me the entire way.) Gouda is still scared of many things, including all the loud noise on the street, and she never walks out of my front door willingly. She’s constantly walking in front of my feet or twisting her leash around me and stopping hard to smell things every few seconds. I now understand that there are more bones in the park than there are blades of grass; it is Gouda’s full-time job to find every single one, so I’m constantly bending to grab them out of her mouth. If I want to get anything done, like the dishes or cleaning up my room, I have to put her in the crate, where she barks and cries until I release her or stay in the room with her.
The hardest part, though, is how taking care of her has blown up my already-fragile schedule. I’m supposed to be applying for jobs, learning how to be a better anti-racist ally, and working on inner peace. Just when I was getting back on track, this puppy laughed (then peed) in my face.
But guess what? I asked for this! And I will give Gouda a home full of love and care as long as she needs me. Every time she pees on my rug or won’t come to me no matter what I do, I look into her sweet eyes and remember: She is a literal baby. She’s so small in a huge world. She physically can’t hold her pee very long. She got trucked in from whatever state she was in before to this loud, people-packed, bone-filled city. My first week in New York was daunting and full of anxiety and so many tasks to fulfill and new things to learn. I don’t think I peed my pants, but I won’t rule it out. I’m stretching my muscles of patience, empathy, generosity, and caring for those outside of myself. I need to think about creatures both animal and human outside of myself.
If you or someone you know is looking to adopt a sweet-as-pie pup to fill your home with joy, you can apply on the Barrk LI website. And you can ask me any questions you might have about our little girl Gouda. Just think: maybe I will have successfully potty-trained her by the time she arrives in your home. Maybe.
For now, Gouda’s schedule is my schedule. It’s summer, and I get to spend hours outside with a baby animal who looks at me with a universe of love in her eyes. And even though being on her timeline means I’m not as organized or productive as I’d prefer, I get to use this time to continue to extend kindness and patience to myself, the same as I do Gouda. We’ll slowly grow and build a routine together. For now.
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