Finally! It was a go!

I was glad that we had a few days to plan and prepare. My friend was kind enough to send me an email listing all the doggie basics that I would need for the big homecoming. Some items were no-brainers, others I would have remembered sooner or later, and some simply would have never crossed my mind. Out of everything she wrote, the part that always sits in the back of my mind is the last paragraph. It just goes to show why she is my go-to gal when it comes to making decisions about Phoebe’s care.

“Above all pay attention to her, keep her socialized, take her places, do what you think she likes to do (whether its agility if you find her athletic or being a service dog if you find her taking easily to strangers). Make her your love and companion, and she will be yours forever.”

Socialize? What the heck is that? That kept me busy on Google for a few hours. Agility? Well, that took another hour. Service Dog?  a few minutes researching that one and I made up my mind. Phoebe would be a Service Dog! What kind of Service Dog I was not sure; I just knew that was her destiny.

Once I finished day dreaming about how Phoebe would save the world, it was time to get moving on getting things in order. Training and socializing would come in due time. My immediate need was to get everything we needed to get us through the first couple of days. Once I had the basics in place I would be able to focus on Phoebe and keep things as stress free as possible.

The first couple of days are all about getting to know each other, so I didn’t need a lot to set up camp. Still, I made the mistake of running out and buying everything under the sun before Phoebe arrived, only to wind up returning at least one third of it. Now, I recommend just getting a few things at the beginning, check out the pup’s personality and then go crazy!

During your first days together, you can start sizing things up (literally). For example, the food you buy will tell you how much to feed at any given meal, and how much you feed will determine how big of a bowl you need. If you are getting a young dog, you will have to account for growth. This will determine the size of many things such as the leash, collar, harness, doggie seat belt, crate size, and toy size. There are a lot of things that will adjust as your dog grows, but you need to be smart about it.  So, take a few days and map things out; it will save you money and frustration in the long run.

Prepare for Arrival

Establish an eating station (a water bowl and a food bowl): These can doggie-bowlsbe anything from an empty margarine tub to a gold-plated bowl. You just need something that your dog can’t knock over and that you can wash and keep clean.  I could not resist a set of red bowls with a doggie paw pattern. Price: too much! $8.99 each

Doggie Mentor Quote # 2

“Make sure you have a water source ALWAYS available; big enough to where you don’t have to worry that she may run out if you are away for part of the day.  They can go without food, but NEVER without water.”

Set up a Place for Sleep and Rest:  If possible, set up a couple of comfy areas (one for the main area used during the day and another for the bedroom, unless you plan on having a bed dog). There are so many different types of beds. Choosing one can make your head swim. It seems that all dogs like snuggle beds. Raised beds (or cots) are good if they are sleeping in an area where the floor is cold, though you don’t need one for the first day. Just get something comfy and cozy. If you want to wait and make sure you get a bed that is big enough for your dog,  then fold up an old comforter and pile up some fluffy blankets for him or her to snuggle in while you make up your mind.

I’m not big on having a dog in bed with me, so we opted for two doggie snuggle bedbeds.  We dumped over a hundred bucks on two beds, and then walked next door to the TJ Maxx store. They actually had a doggie section, so we found two really awesome ones for $20 each!  We returned the others to the pet store. If you want to find a bargain, check out the TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Ross or similar store in your area. You can always call and ask if they have pet supplies. If they do it can be a tremendous savings! Price: At the pet store, $40 for one and $50 for the other; we returned them and got two nice ones at TJ Maxx for $19.99 each

Get Some Dog Food – Oh boy! That is a topic in and of itself and trust me, I have a whole lot to say about this topic. To choose a food for the first few days, scout around and choose a food with a 5-star rating. Just buy a small bag, because contrary to popular belief dogs will not eat everything you put in front of them. Be prepared to spend more on it ($12.99 – $18.99 for a 7.5 pound bag). It sounds crazy, but it is an absolute necessity! There are two areas where you never want to skimp: food and health care.

Chew Toys: NO rawhide! It can be dangerous! Until you know your dog’s chewing habits, you will not know what is too big and what is too small. It is a choking hazard, not to mention that you have no clue where the crap was made.

Some dogs are gulpers and will swallow large chunks. Other dogs, once they get it chewed down to a slimy mess, might decide just to swallow the last piece, which can be too large and they end up choking on it. Sometimes it gets stuck in their teeth. If you aren’t a tooth-checker you won’t even know they have a big gunk in there. Just steer away from it and get something reputable and non-ingestible like a Kong Puppy Wubba ($5.99) or something similar. There are lots of things you can use for the chewing urge, but you only need one or two the first couple of days.

duckPlay Toys – Yes. I did come to learn that there is a difference. Do yourself a favor and just buy one or two inexpensive ones until you see what he or she likes. I wanted to buy the whole store, but settled on a stuffed fleece duck ($6.99), and a Kong squeeze ball ($4.99). She destroyed both of them the first day, so I was glad I did not stock up.

A Leash – The recommended width, length and material is based on the size of the dog.  I am not an expert in the leash department, but I do know that some cities have ordinances dictating the maximum length you can use in public. Where I live, we cannot take a dog out on a leash any longer than 6 feet.

At the local pet store, leashes for everyday use usually range from 3/8” to 1” wide and 1 foot to 12 feet long and are made out of nylon cord or woven fabric (the options online and at specialty stores are enormous). For starters, just pick a mid-sized inexpensive one (during the first few days you will probably only need it to take the pup to the vet anyway). Once you have sized things up, you can invest in one that is the correct width, length and material for the long haul.

For Phoebe, I chose a leash that was 6 feet long and 1” wide. That was the easy part. In typical “me” fashion, I agonized for nearly 30 minutes over which color to choose. Seriously!!!  I finally settled on a purple one, only to turn the corner and find another aisle full of leashes, including another purple one. I spent another 15 minutes deciding which shade I liked better. I picked one made from tightly woven cotton – price: $16.99. I lucked out. It turns out that the leash is perfect for her size and temperament to this day.

Collar:  As with leashes, they come in widths, sizes and material. Once I figured out which leash I wanted, the collar was easy. I could not remember how big she was, so I chose one that was 3/4” wide and adjustable.  Once again I lucked out. She is still using the original collar I bought. Price:  $7.49.

Dog ID Tag: In case you have an escapee. I splurged on an engraved dog tag with her name, our address and phone number.(I just had to buy the deluxe model) Price: $7.99

A towel and a doggie seat belt for the car ride home. That way the little one isn’t jumping all over you while you are trying to drive, and won’t go flying if you have to slam on the brakes. If you aren’t sure what size of seat belt to buy, bring a friend along to sit in the back seat just to get the pup home. Then go get yourself a doggie seat belt.

I bought Phoebe a “Solvit” harness seat belt and love it! As with the leash, I took a stab at what size I would need. The range for each size is pretty generous and overlaps. If in doubt, get the larger size. As with the leash, I lucked out. It fit perfect and has room to grow.

Doggie Treats:  Don’t buy any!  They will have enough trouble adjusting from crap shelter food to nutritious food, feeding treats will just add to the tummy stress (not to mention that some are lethal).

A Pee and Poo Basket: That sounds wrong, doesn’t it? Basically, have a bunch of old towels on standby along with a spray bottle full of vinegar and a box of baking soda. If the dog has an accident, blot it up, spray some vinegar and shake on some baking soda. Once it is dry, vacuum it up. This will kill any lingering scent and prevent recurrences in the same area well, that’s the theory anyway. For linoleum and  hardwood floors, just use the vinegar. The baking soda just makes an ugly mess.

Well that addresses the “stuff”– the easy part. After I rounded up the basics, the real work started. I had to figure out how to properly use all of it. What to put in that food bowl, where to take her on that new little leash, how often to play with her and her few little toys, how to rid myself of the pee and poo basket as soon as possible (potty train), and where to take her with her little car harness.  Actually, the last one was easy; we would take a ride to the vet.