Today my first tea garden post went live (If you're keeping track (and not thrown off by the moving around I have done as I wrote #pitmad and querying posts and published them sooner rather than later) you'll know that I am about a month and a half ahead with my posts at this point). I was surprised to see that it did well. In the first day, it received more visits than the post before it did in all the days leading up to it (which is to say, not that many visits). And so I decided...if my readers enjoy reading about one of my obsessions (tea) then they may just enjoy reading about another one (dogs).
I swear, though, my dog obsession is still related to writing (she said with her hands raised in surrender).
Because my dog Asha is my very best writing buddy and a good old friendly face when I am down in the dumps about my writing.
I mean... what insane person wouldn't want to look at that all day??
In all seriousness, though, I have learned quite a bit about dogs, raising dogs, and Asha's specific breed since I got her in March 2020.
That's right, I got her right at the start of quarantine. My mum had brought a Facebook post to my attention mostly to show me the adorable puppies in it. They were labradoodle puppies and man, were they cute! Some fire or something ignited in me (though, really, I have always loved dogs and wanted one of my own) and I decided to reach out to ask how much they were. They were somewhere in the thousands. Way out of the price range for a college student living at home with her parents and working at In N Out.
But the fire wasn't put out by the price tag on those Labradoodle puppies and I ended up asking my parents if I could buy myself a dog (it is, after all, their home). To make sure I could get a yes, I did plenty of research. I found possible pups on craigslist (and costs). I researched what I would need to buy the pup (and costs). And I researched the breed (Labradoodle) of the puppies I was looking at to ensure they would get along with our current dogs, not chew things, and not bark.
While that meeting didn't go well (my parents decided I could only get a small dog) it was only days later that I discovered Asha, a Mini-Goldendoodle puppy being offered in my price range by a breeder.
I should break here to note that "Asha" means "hope" in Sanskrit and "life" in Swahili. When I first saw the name, I also saw it meant something else in another language but I cannot remember what that was. Asha also has the Bible verse Is. 61:1-3 on her tag which says "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor."
Maybe that's a very literal way to take the name Asha and find it in a verse but I liked it (and she did like to play in ashes when she was little!)
The day I picked her up was the last day I went into the church (I brought baby Asha in to show a few people after picking her up) and a few days later shut down hit and my family self-quarantined.
Being stuck in the house gave me a lot of time to really bond with, train, and get to know my puppy. Asha was a huge joy, distraction, and source of laughter for the family (really helpful throughout COVID) but that didn't mean she was without her difficulties.
The dog seller had originally told me that Asha was potty trained but it quickly became apparent that if the dog seller had at all been telling the truth, my dog was not accustomed to the new environment and was using that as an excuse to pee and poop all over the house. It took me months to properly train her. Months in which I was cleaning up the mess. I honestly have no good advice on this one. They don't like lemon juice or pepper so you could try putting those where you don't want them to pee. You can also pick up some of the spray that should be sprayed where you do want them to pee. Outside of that, you'll need patience, a good cleaner that works on your floor, and plenty of towels and paper towels.
What I can give you some advice on is everything else. I like to think that there are a few main things you need to know when thinking about owning a dog:
Research, Research, Research: This was super helpful for me but many people just ignore this step. The more that you research ahead of time, the less that weird quirk worries you, and the more you can get on top of things before they happen. There are two things I suggest researching before you get home.
1. Your Dog's Breed: Each dogs' breed is super unique and will present different advantages and challenges. Not only will researching your dogs' breed ahead of time help you to choose the right breed for you but it will help you to be aware of those challenges before you get to them. My dog is a Mini-Goldendoodle. She is an F1b generation which means she came from the cross between a mini-Goldendoodle and a mini poodle. Usually, these dogs don't shed at all but Asha is flat-coated (she doesn't have "furnishings" or scruff around the face that Goldendoodles usually do and looks more like a Golden Retriever) which commonly results in shedding. This is likely why she was sold to me cheaper as the Goldendoodle breed is often sought out for being non-shedding dogs and hypoallergenic. They also generally love to swim (Asha doesn't) love touch (Asha does) and are incredibly smart (Asha is).
2. What You Will Need For Your Dog: Usually this is pretty generic. I can't see one breed of dog needing largely different items than a different breed. The biggest differences will be depending on your dog's size and coat. For example, if your dog has incredibly short fur and/or doesn't shed, you may not need to brush it (and won't need a brush) whereas the opposite is true of long-haired breeds. Even if you are being incredibly minimal, you will need food, bedding of some sort, a collar and tag, and a leash. You may also want dog shampoo, toys, brushes, toothbrushes/paste, water/food bowls, towels, and a crate. I will link some of the stuff my family and I use down below.
Food: There are, of course, three different elements of food that you will want to consider for your dog that are incredibly important: Treats, regular food, and food to avoid.
1. Treats: I like to give my dog a lot of treats (I'm just a good owner that way) but I do not like to fatten her up or give her anything unhealthy. I also don't like to feed her peanut butter because I know there is at least one brand that is bad for dogs and I'm allergic (and don't like the smell). That makes our options very limited. I can buy teats for Asha but that gets very expensive very fast at the rate I feed her treats. I do like to give her Greenies dental treats every now and then (though I technically got given them for free). My favorite recipe, though, is a homemade recipe that I somewhat put together on my own. I start with an egg(usually a fresh duck egg from our ducks) and about a cup of fruits and veggies. I like to use carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, and bananas and I often use whatever is not being used or is on the verge of going bad (but isn't). Then I add as much oat flour (blended oats) as needed until the mix is dry enough to roll and cut. I cook it at 350 for 7-15 minutes or until the treats are crispy enough that they won't go bad for months (my dog doesn't mind if they're a little burnt. She's not picky).
2. Regular Food: One thing that you should always ask before committing to buying your dog is "what are you feeding them currently?" Your dog seller or adoption agency might bring you a bag of food when you pick your dog up but if not, you will need to have the same food ready to go. It is best to transfer your dog from their current food to a new food slowly not suddenly (whether that is puppy food or adult food). No matter what, you should have an idea of what you want to feed your dog (as a puppy if you are getting them as a puppy and as an adult) and what it costs. My family uses Blue Diamond which you can find on Amazon here. If you subscribe you can save a percentage. My family goes through quite a number of bags but we have two small dogs and a Husky-German shepherd so that's to be expected. When I was feeding Asha alone with this size bag (we have recently consolidated our feeding) one bag lasted 2-3 months.
3. Bad Food: Most people know that you should not feed dogs chocolate but there are a lot more foods on the "no-no" list than you might expect. It is important to check the list out before getting a dog. Personally, I don't usually feed (or let others feed) my dog anything unless I'm sure it's safe. I would prefer to play a game of "guilty unless proven innocent" because "guilty" could mean death for my dog. Some of the foods that are safe for dogs include the ones in my treats (which are high fiber by the way!!), cheese, greek yogurt, milk, and many types of meat (but not all). Some that are not safe foods for your dog are coffee (and caffeinated tea), candy, onion, uncooked potato, grapes, avocado, and stems or seeds of fruits like cherries and apples. Please also be really careful to check any meat you give your dog for bones first as pieces of bone (or bones that were already small) can break off and choke them
Toys: I try not to buy my dog too many toys. She actually is super playful and really enjoys them but she really doesn't need anymore and getting more for her is more a delight for me than it is for her. She would be just as happy with a stick. That being said, there are plenty of tricks that I have found that delight both of us. First: Pinterest. Pinterest has a plethora of amazing DIY dog toys you can try out. I recommend trying out this DIY octopus dog toy. I have made it twice now for Asha (she destroyed the first one) and it's one of her favorites. Second, if you have the time and patience, Pet Parade can be an excellent tool to get free dog supplies (treats, toys, leashes, you name it). It is a whole process and can be extremely frustrating but from the app, Asha and I won a couple of toys and two leashes. Finally, don't underestimate the power of random house objects. I cannot tell you how many times the "toy" of the day has been a scrap of material or a toilet paper roll or some other random object. Just make sure it won't become a choking hazard (or anger the original owner) and you're good to go!
Tricks: Tricks can actually be a lot more than a party trick although, I will admit, now that Asha can "play dead" I will be using that trick at parties. Tricks are a behavior manager and a tool to teach your dog whose in control. They give your dog something to use their great brain on so they don't get bored and start digging up the garden and they can be useful for all sorts of random things. You can teach your dog to carry things to you, to shake off the dirt and water, or to open gates (Asha can only do that last one). I don't have a lot of tips on how to teach the things I taught Asha. You can probably look most of them up online but the main principle is forcing them to do it (with rewards) until they can do it without rewards. Here's what Asha knows how to do:
"Sit" - pretty self-explanatory
"Down" - lie down
"turn" - turn in a circle in the direction the treat (or hand) is being turned
"high five" - put your paw on/in my hand
"rollover" - roll 180 degrees over from a lying down position
"bang!" - play dead or rather, fall onto your side and stay there
"balance" - balance on your hind legs for 3-10 seconds
"let's dance" - put your front paws on my knees while I wiggle around like a crazy person
"stay" - stay right where you are even if there is a treat on your head
"leave it" - ignore that bit of poop or squirrel you seem so interested in
"come" - She hasn't actually mastered this one. She's a bit ADHD and get's distracted outside. But it would mean "come to me."
ITEMS MYSELF AND MY FAMILY USES:
food - Blue Diamond dog food
leashes - I still use the ones Pet Parade sent me (pack of 2, non-extendable ones, blue and black)
Bedding - Our dogs sleep in a crate on mismatched beds from Petsmart. I don't know the brands. I do know my dog also has a bed made from her baby blanket, some extra material and pillow fluff, and a few pom-poms. Towels work great too.
Water/food bowls - our dogs prefer to eat off the ground (in fact, Twixie is afraid of food/water in the bowl and Asha just wants to fit in with the crowd) but I do like these expandable water bowls that are easy to take on outings.
Dog toy - Asha was sent home with one of these toys from Walmart. I have since bought her the other two (they're only $1!). She still has them. She also loves her pig (which we got from Pet Parade) and a Santa Clause from Pet Smart which has just about died since Christmas.
toothpaste/brush - please do not forget that your dog's teeth need brushing too. At least once a week. I prefer the finger brush as I find it is easiest to get my dog to accept and I recently bought this poultry flavored toothpaste because Asha was having a funny reaction to the mint one.
dog shampoo - I cannot, for the life of me, find the shampoo that we use online anywhere (I am probably just typing in the wrong thing or maybe we usually get it at Winco). I usually bathe Asha once a week, though (she gets pretty dirty and greasy) with an oatmeal and chamomile dog shampoo.