Well, Christmas came a little early to the Baldwin household. After years on the horns of dilemma about a family pet, hundreds of dollars spent and varied success with ‘low maintenance’ pets (guinea pigs, geckos and the like), we decided the children—and by children, I mean my husband and I—were ready for a dog.

Now because of various allergies and household requirements, we needed a very specific animal: smaller, low dander, ideally able to read and write, bark with a British accent—the usual stuff. In the end, we settled on a puggle—a pug/beagle mix—mainly because she is really, really cute. I mean this dog is cute, like spell-it-a-different-way cute…qute?...kyoot?

For those of you contemplating first-time canine guardianship, there are a few things that came as a surprise to me that I think people should know. Hopefully, this will assist in the decisionmaking process.

NO. 1 DOGS DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH. This may seem obvious, but trust me when it’s 10 o’clock at night, and you ask your adorable pup to get up out of her warm, comfy bed and step out into the frigid night to urinate, and you interpret her unresponsiveness as a ‘no,’ you will soon learn. Furthermore, when the little thing invariably makes a mistake on the carpet, and in your most adoring baby voice you say, What a bad dog—did you poopy on the carpet? Did my sweet baby make a poopy on the carpet? What a bad, bad girl you are! For whatever reason, the dog does not interpret that as negative reinforcement.

NO. 2 CHILDREN ARE LIARS. Part of what got us to agree to this new addition to our family was the children’s affirmations: I will walk her every day, five times a day. I will give her a bath and brush her without fail. I will keep her water dish full…the yard clean…her nails clipped…and her breath minty-fresh. Well, I am six days in, and I am getting the distinct impression commitments are not being honored.

NO. 3 CUJO IS A REAL DOG AND YOU MAY VERY WELL HAVE ADOPTED HER. Puppies are mercurial little things. I mean one moment they are clinging to you like the reaper is in the room; and the next, they are attacking a shoe (to quote Best in Show) like it’s made out of ham. Velvet tongue but needle teeth—there’s a haiku in there somewhere.

Now, I have been accused by those close to me of adopting a dog for a new source of material. That, of course, is patently absurd (for one thing, Cranky is dating). I love our new addition to the family, and I’m sure, like any baby, she will provide hours and hours of affection and amusement, more to come on that…

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