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You Don’t Realize How Selfish You Are Until You Consider Adopting a Dog

March 26, 2013
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I’m well aware of the fact that I like to be in command of my own life. I also know that I really enjoy the busy, independent, social lifestyle that I lead. What I did not quite realize, however, is that I am selfish. I think I’m selfish with a lowercase “s,” but I’m selfish none the less.

Big S selfish people are jerks who don’t give a damn about anything but themselves, I’ve decided. Little s selfish people (I’ve also decided) are wary of taking on anything that might alter the very specific lives they lead like, say, a lot of volunteer work or a tricky relationship or…a dog named Elliott.

When R and I first started talking about getting a dog I thought I was nervous about raising an animal. I grew up with a dog, but I didn’t have to take care of her very much. She was very self-sufficient, much like an additional, much harrier little sister. It wasn’t until one very specific dog came into play (ELLIOTT) that I realized I’m not afraid of raising a dog, I’m afraid of altering the very comfortable life I lead. I am little s selfish.

Here are just some of the thoughts I’ve had the prove this fact:

  •  If we get Elliott I’ll have to sit outside at the various cafes I frequent to do my work. A. that’s often tricky because of sun glare on my computer and B. when it drops below 70 degrees here, I’ll be cold sitting outside. 
  • What if Elliott is really annoying around the apartment while I’m trying to do my work? Like, what if he keeps trying to get me to rub his belly or something, and I can’t focus? 
  • Is one of us going to have to walk this dog at 7AM every single day for the rest of our life with him? Because sometimes I like to sleep until 8AM, and but that I mean 9AM…
  • Is Elliott going to make our apartment smell? Because I really like how our apartment smells.
  • What if Elliott doesn’t like to walk fast? Because I really hate walking slow.
  • Is Elliott going to ruin the leather couch? Because that was not a light purchase…that R made…but still. 
  • Let’s discuss the cost of dog food, dog boarding and dog training relative to my annual vacation budget.
  • Let’s discuss the possibility of a 1.5 year old dog still chewing on shoes…
  • What if Elliott likes R more than me, forever?

And those are the things I’m willing to publish on the Internet…

These are the thoughts every soon-to-be dog owner has, right? This is perfectly normal, right? My desire to rescue a dog and bring a loving animal into my life with R will very quickly outweigh any frustration with dog bone crumbs on the kitchen floor, right?

Bottom line: some degree of selfishness is normal. The degree of selfishness which prevents one from enjoying a pet in their life is not one I want to maintain, case closed.

Now onto deciding whether or not Elliott will be the one to help me grow up just a little more…

(Yes, that’s him in the photo. Feel free to weigh in!)


  1. If you walk away from Elliott and can’t imagine not having him as your dog, then you must get him!

    I have been deciding on getting a Golden Retriever for the last 3 years, and have decided that I’m finally ready to be less selfish and enjoy the company of a dog. A friend told me once that once you go for it and get the dog, you will make everything work (balancing your social life, relationship, and pet relationship) because you love your animal enough to do so.

  2. While I’d prefer to have a dog, my parents gave me a cat for Christmas. I shared many of the similar emotions about my life changing due to Eleanor. But two weeks ago I was home sick with the flu, it was so great to have a little buddy all day while I watched Netflix.

  3. I adopted the floppy-eared farting machine that’s snoring next to me about 9 months ago now. If I’m being really honest, yes, it is A LOT of work and A REAL LOT of money (boarding, training, food, shots, toys that she will destroy in less than a day). And the farting. Oh my god the stink. BUT, she has also made my life 100 times better. She licks my face when I cry, she forces me to get up and exercise every day, she’s introduced me to neighbors, she makes me laugh, and there is absolutely nothing like the sound of an excited thumping tail when you walk in the door. Even if she does get more excited to see my boyfriend.

  4. Adopting a dog will alter your life forever. When we adopted ours, he had hidden health problems that cost us several thousands of dollars to deal with within our first year with him. Not every dog will need major surgery like ours, but do be prepared for costly vet bills, toys, food, poop bags, new pillows/shoes/purses/rugs (which will inevitably get chewed or puked on).

    Dog smell and dog hair will permeate your home (I solve this problem with every day vacuuming and lots of candles). EVERY TIME I sit down to do homework or attempt to be productive in any way, I have a little guy clamoring for my attention and affection (the begging for belly rubs constantly? It happens!). My leather couch? Well, it’s hard to tell that it’s leather now because we have to keep it covered at all times. My dog’s paws and his slobber have not been kind to the leather.

    Before dog ownership I loved taking long, brisk walks every single morning. Now, my morning walks are a lot slower. Dogs need to stop and smell things, they need to absorb and experience their environment – that means slowing your walk speed down to accommodate. However, I never have to be up at 7am to walk with my pup – he’s on my schedule, which means we start our day together any time between 8am and 10am, but his last walk is late enough (between 10pm and 1am). I got lucky and adopted a super lazy dog who loves sleeping in! If I wake up early he refuses to even get out of bed, it’s pretty adorable.

    Also – you mention the cost of a dog and its potential effects on your vacation fund. Before I adopted, I assumed I could eventually go on a vacation and board my dog with a local kennel or dog sitter for a few days or a week. I quickly found out that would not be happening. A LOT (and I mean A LOT!) of rescue animals have separation anxiety. This means that when the dog bond with you, being away from you will be scary and painful. If you can deal with stressing your dog out, then a vacation could still happen. But I’ve had Ted for 3 years and have yet to go away for more than a night (he stayed with my parents and was beside himself the entire time). I’ve worked on the separation anxiety tirelessly, following all of the veterinary and trained recommendations I’ve received. And while my dog no longer rips everything in sight to shreds the moment I leave the house (a common stress reaction in dogs with separation anxiety), he is still so attached to me that if I’m gone for a few hours he gets really anxious. When I’m at home, he follows me from room to room (again, this has decreased some with training – but he was abandoned as a puppy and will forever be afraid that he’ll be left again).

    Rescue dogs come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances. They make amazing, loving, loyal pets, and I would not give Ted up for the world. But they’ve been through a lot. Rescue dogs, more than most animals, need forever homes. I volunteer for an animal rescue and have encountered many situations where people think they’re ready for animal ownership but ultimately return the dog within a matter or months. It’s so confusing and frightening for a dog to be taken in and then returned. Please, please consider if you’re ready to make a 15-year commitment to your potential furry friend, and be ready to change your life – a lot. You need to be flexible, relaxed, and have a sense of humor. In return for your love and care, you will be rewarded with the most loyal, adoring, adorable friend you could ever hope for.

    (I’m sorry to be so verbose, but I hope you find some of this helpful!)

  5. Not all rescue dogs have separation anxiety issues. It all depends on what their life was like before the rescue. We’ve been on vacation/weekend trips/all day outings just as frequently as we did before her (thanks to great housetraining and some very willing dogsitters). Each dog is different. Ask the rescue group as many questions as you can and don’t be afraid to get professional help if needed.

    Double your budget for everything — food, vet visits, etc. A single emergency visit could cost you $1k; your dog might have dietary issues or allergies; etc. It’s amazing how quickly it adds up.

    But it’s worth it. Despite the health scares and vet bills and puking on the bed at 3 am, it’s far outweighed by the french kisses, tail wags and unwavering love. It’s been the best year of our lives because of her. Plus it’s good practice for kids 😉

  6. My hubby and I have been married for just about a year and a half and we got a dog, Sadie, last year. When we brought her home she weighed about 4 pounds and neither one of us knew what we were doing. I did a lot of Googling on how to crate train to how to stop her from barking at nothing. I knew our lives were about to change and I remember sitting on our lovely leather couch the night before picking her up, thinking to myself, “this will be the last night I don’t have to take a dog out before bed” and boy was I right.
    The Ethan Allen leather couch my husband worked so hard for is now scratched and scuffed (some of that is the dog; the rest is from the cat). I had to throw away a down comforter that we received as a wedding gift because she peed on it too many times. Our bathmat became her favorite place to relieve herself. And my poor cat… we have ruined his life. All she wants to do is play with him and he wants nothing to do with it because he is a cat after all. He just wants to sit in the sun and sleep. She wants to eat his head.
    Her expenses have been built in our budget but the first year is what was really expensive. From getting her spayed, to figuring out what food she will eat. I have wasted money on food because it didn’t sit well with her belly. Look into dog insurance that covers more than just routine visits. It is a monthly cost but it will help you out of he were to get really hurt.
    You are fortunate to be able to work from home. We don’t go to happy hour or anything after work because Sadie has been in her crate all day. How would you feel if you didn’t get to pee for 10 hours? Granted, she does sleep most of the day but I still feel bad. We need to be home within a certain amount of time (4-5 hours) on the weekends to let her out. If we go away for a weekend, we are lucky to have a friend that will watch her for us but boarding can get expensive! A day at doggy day care will cost us $25 a day!! Then there is grooming… around $40 a pop.
    I wouldn’t trade her in for anything but she has definitely changed the way we live. I wake up between 4:15 and 4:45 every weekday morning to take her out. On the weekends, we take turns. If we had a yard it would be different but we live in an apartment. Good luck!!

  7. He’s so stinkin cute! I have wanted a dog for the last 3 years and I finally got one last year when I started dating my boyfriend, we were already friends so I already knew the dog (Lucky is her name) and she was a little skittish at first but super friendly overall. The cafe thing is a little bit of a conundrum since you could leave him at home, he doesn’t have to be with you at all times. Maybe a crate situation would be good for when you’re out of the house. If I had to guess, I would almost think having him there would make your work from home situation easier, dogs are great listeners! Not even joking, I have full blown conversations with my dog. And puppy therapy is such a good stress reliever! My dog will usually try to jump on the bed at 6:30 am, but it’s just to snuggle, if we started feeding her in the morning instead of 1st meal at lunch.

    Dogs typically like to walk at a rather fast clip, so no worries there. Well, minus the sniffing around, that can get annoying, but it’s also really cute. I would also suggest training the dog to stay off the couch, it’s just easier that way. Keep your bedroom door closed (for the shoes’ sake). And Elliott will play favorites I’m sure to whomever feeds him/gives him treats.

    Boom! Go get him, tiger!

  8. Oh also meant to add that we have a dog walker in our neighborhood (I live in Seattle) who comes by our place while we’re at work during the day at noon to take her for an hour long walk, which she loves, she’s made friends with the other dogs that go with her. We negotiated down to $12/day which comes to about $250 a month. I agree with the person above regarding pet insurance. Boarding can be a little costly, but it’s a good idea to make friends with another dog owner so when you go out of town you leave it with them and then return the favor later on! It’s a nice way to save some money.

  9. Yes, you definitely sound selfish with those reasons. Adopting an animal is a wonderful endeavor, and you accept that your life changes. Not that it’s cutting into your ‘vacation fund’ or going to bark while you’re going to do work. It Will do these things, and if you can’t deal with it, don’t be selfish enough to get one and be a neglectful owner.

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