Marty Nemko

My wife Barbara Nemko, Einstein, and me

Source: Marty Nemko

Having a dog is like having a baby that never grows up — Your responsibility lasts a decade or longer. Of course, there’s the time commitment: training, walking, feeding, finding dog-care, etc. But there’s also the cost. Even if you get a shelter dog, costs of food, vet care, boarding, etc, typically ends up in four figures each year.

Yet I’ve always had a dog and wouldn’t dream of not having one:

  • Of course, there’s the love that’s unconditional — unless you mistreat your dog. (Please, please don’t hit your dog. Even yelling is unnecessary: A firm voice gets the point across. And focus more on rewarding positive behaviors with praise, petting, and low-calorie treats such as Charlee Bear (3 calories of healthy stuff per.)
  • There’s the comforting physical contact: rolling on the floor with the dog, petting him, nuzzling in bed.
  • There’s the enforced exercise: You’ve got to take a dog for a walk a few times a day. One of my favorite activities is hiking with my Hachi to Trader Joe’s a mile away. Not only do we get our exercise, Hachi gets on empty, I get my shopping done, and I usually bring a thorny problem to think about and take notes using my FlipNote.
  • Finally, there’s the feeling of having possibly saved a life if you adopt a dog from a rescue or shelter rather than from a breeder. Doing that yields the side benefit of the dog not have been inbred, which increases the risk of serious disease. Even with the shortage of dogs caused by COVID, searching petfinder, adoptapet, and petharbor might well yield the kind of dog you’d like. A more under-the-radar approach: Call local veterinary offices. They typically know of dogs that are pregnant or have just given birth. That way, you can get the pick of the litter.

Which dog?

Here are the key factors:

Size:  If, like the majority of dog owners, you’d like having doggie sleep in your bed, especially consider size. Also, of course, if you or your kids would find it tough to walk a big dog, there are plenty of dogs in the 5 to 20 pound range.

Age:  Puppies are cute and you’ll have your dog for longer, but count on a year of hyperactivity, chewing valuables, and a week of assiduous housebreaking training followed by a couple months of training to sit, stay, and come. Senior dogs tend to be mellower and you’ll be doing a charitable act because senior dogs are harder to place, but as with all older souls, old dogs tend to have more health problems and medical costs.

Activity level:  Some dogs, like my previous dog Einstein, who was part Jack Russell terrier, craved tons of exercise, while my current mini poodle-mix Hachi is happy with one 45-minute hike plus three short walks per day.

Temperament. When you meet the dog, kneel down. Beware if the dog cowers or barks, and be reassured if the dog slowly (or not so slowly) approaches you. When you lift your hand to pet the dog, does it recoil or welcome your hand? Is his/her energy level consistent with what you’d like, hyper like my previous dog Einstein, or laid-back like my current dog Hachi? I was open to either.

The takeaway

Pick carefully and then take the time to train firmly and lovingly, and treat your dog like a member of the family. Do that and a dog can particularly enrich your life and your family’s.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

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