How Being a Great Nurse Made Me a Really Bad First-Time Dog Owner
This article chronicles my journey as a first time dog owner and how being a nurse not only left me ill-prepared, but at a serious disadvantage! How I had to learn to get my "alpha on"!
I have been a Registered Nurse for about 20 years now. I have work in a ton of different areas, but mainly Critical Care and Hospice. Not to brag, but I consider myself to be a pretty great nurse. I am super attentive to my patients. I try to read their fears, worries, cares even before they voice them. I read subtle changes in skin color, vital signs, respiratory sounds, mental status changes and the list goes on.
All that set aside, our three kids have been begging to have a dog. Not just begging, but almost appear to be dying a bit over the whole matter. Moans, groans, weird facial contortions of distress when they hear about a friend's new puppy. Tears of heartbreak when Santa didn't bring one, and laying out the “you are the worst mom ever guilt”.
Let's be honest here. I have, for the past 24 years cared for everyone, from patients, to brother-in-laws with hernia repairs that have to recover at our house and complain about no bowel movements EVERY HOUR ON THE HOUR (thanks to us being the nurse- doctor couple in the family), to aging parents, to three children. I was not in any way egar much less excited to entertain the idea of caring for another soul’s poop…...I mean I am only now not wiping any tushies in our house.
In a moment of weakness, I caved. Sigh. This adorable brindle lab/ collie puppy who was saved by a local humane society took my heart. So, we keep him a secret from the kids until he was ready to come home with us. I showed up at the front door with him and rang the bell. The kids came to the door and cried tears of happy, giddy,joy. They then asked if I had to take him back to his owner. Background on that one….I am known to find stray baby ducks, birds with broken wings, lost dogs etc. I bring them home and find a human society, or owner, or wildlife expert to take them from there. So the kids are used to me bringing cute little bits of sweetness home but not keeping them. But this one, now called Murphy, was here to stay.
Over the first few weeks, we pottied all the time. Outside, inside, and on whatever. We chewed on EVERYTHING almost to an obsession. I asked every expert I knew about all of this and, of course, they asked how old he was and then after hearing my answer of 2 or 3 months old they got a good laugh out of me. I bought a book by the Dog Whisperer himself and do you know that little stinkweed of a puppy got a hold of that book and chewed it to bits!! Murphy and I had many little “come to jesus talks” as we like to say here in the south. I would cradle his sweet face, as he wrestled to be free to nibble on me some more, and beg him to please stop chewing the carpet, please stop peeing on anything left on the floor. He would stop for a moment cock his head to the side, give me the eyes, and go right back at it.
Then we start tugging on the cloths I am wearing….holes in my clothes, oh yeah now it’s on! Now I cry and beg him to please stop...so tough aren’t I? Progressively we move to Murphy's paw put on me somewhere everytime I sit down. As I work from home (CDI reviews) , he puts a paw on me, then jumps on me, then barks at me incessantly. So I stop working to figure out what he needs every 2 seconds because he needs something from his human right??? He is communicating distress or boredom, or hunger, or potty??? By mid day, I am getting nothing done and I am to tears about the awful decision to bring a dog into the family. My husband and kids can say “NO, DOWN” etc and voila….he listens. As for me...he barks more.
I’m at my whits end. Why is he so upset and unhappy all the time, I mean I am spending every bit of my day on his joy, peace, or entertainment right?! I call our local “dog whisperer”. Help me please!!!!!
He comes into the house and within 2 minutes has my dog doing everything right, crosses his legs while sitting calmly on my couch and says, “I can see exactly what (who) the problem is here”. It’s you Sarah. “You ma’am are a caregiver, my guess would be a nurse, which translates to your Dog as his personal assistant and enabler”. And to think I paid this man a bunch of money to come call me out in my own house!
The longer we talk, I realize that being a nurse, a nurturer, has been the worst possible personality trait I could bring to raising this pup! He is taking advantage of my kind, loving heart! Little turkey. I am trying so hard to read the needs of Murphy like I read my patients. Trying to meet his every need before he even knows he has it. Each dog is so different just like patients and they need personalized attention. WRONG. The don’t want or need all needs met every second of everyday. They need consistency, firm limits, discipline, love, but not when they are misbehaving.
It has taken much work undoing the nurse that is in me. Don’t give your dog a call bell or a PCA pump. They don’t manage the responsibility well. As puppies they don’t even know what they need. They are like the patients who watch the judge shows all day with the drug company ads on commercial break. They begin they think they need something for every feeling that comes their way. They are the patients who you ask if they need anything else before you leave the room and within two steps out the door they need a bedpan STAT…..oops, I just couldn’t hold it. Or the diabetic who wants a snack, not a diabetic one, and is then shocked that their sugars are high. Sometimes as a nurse, or a parent, or a pet owner, limit setting and following schedules that are predictable and consistent is a good thing.
Murphy has turned into a mostly obedient 5 month old goofy, hot mess but we are working out our mutual issues together. I am finding the “Nurse Ratchet”( as we would call her in nursing school) within me. Trying to stamp down the desire to read into his emotions and needs and meet every cute face he makes with a treat, which fyi will give them diarrhea if you give too many a day. I am just sayin……….Last edit by traumaRUs on Aug 21
Aug 21Great story. We are now empty nesters sort of and hubby and i both are "dog people". However, at the moment we are getting our dog fix by volunteering to walk the dogs at the local humane society because we just don't have the time for a dog.Nov 6I am now on my third Australian Shepard. I loved your post. The bad news is that now at 8 months (3 months later than your initial post), your dog is a teen-ager. He is no longer a child blindly following you wherever, but he is going to test his limits. Be consistent with your limits. Just like a child becoming a teenager, he needs to know them. If you don't want him jumping on people, start now. If you don't want him riding in your lap as you are driving, again start now. Even if he is small, depending on the breed, he may become too large for your lap and become a hazard driving.If you haven't already, take him to a puppy class and start him on the basic commands. As a teenager, he may completely ignore you. The good news is that the time a puppy is a teenager, is a lot shorter than a human's teenager lifespan. And when they become an adult, you will not be tested at much, if you were consistent earlier. Also they become that adorable and lovable dog you loved back at the puppy stage, just more intelligent. Good luck and have fun with your "kid".