Our family adopted a puppy last week, and he is adorable. He’s big and fat and clumsy and floppy, and we named him Obi Wan, Obi for short. He has giant paws, hazel-y green eyes, and a coat as soft as anything I have ever felt.
And he is totally bonkers.
Let me back up. We are smart, responsible people. We researched breeds, we contemplated puppy versus older dog. We read books, listened to audio, watched YouTube videos. We found the right crate, the recommended food, the squeakiest, chewy-est toys. We were READY, y’all. Prepared.
Well, I don’t know if you know this or not, but puppies are insane. INSANE. They want to eat everything, including the humans attempting to give them food and shelter and love. Their biological imperative is to explore the world with their mouths. This may not seem like a big deal or even all that surprising. However, in a cruel twist of fate for the canine/human connection, during this I-Must-Explore-Everything-With-My-Mouth period, puppies are equipped with tiny, razor-sharp, shark-like teeth, and a crazed look in their eyes that makes you certain they have come into your home to end you. I think this is why puppies are so undeniably adorable. Otherwise, we, as a species, would never, ever have brought these small, furry, biting, unhinged beasts into our caves, lo, those many million years ago.
As for us, we brought Obi into our own cave a week ago. He was so exhausted that first night from the long drive; he was just a sleepy lump of a love bug. Then on Saturday afternoon, he woke up. For reals. And by Sunday night, we were all terrified of this 16.6 pound ball of rage, and everyone had been bitten and everyone had bled and everyone had cried. And I mean EVERYONE.
So I did what I always do. I asked for help. From a real, live, human person.
Let’s be clear. I am not someone who has any trouble saying, “Um, excuse me? Ma’am? I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING RIGHT NOW, AND I NEED YOUR HELP IMMEDIATELY BEFORE I COMPLETELY LOSE MY SHIT.” While some people may see this as a sign of weakness, I think that asking for help is one of my finest qualities. And clearly I’m good at begging for help. The booked-for-five-days trainer* read the panic and worry in my note and said, “How about I come tonight?” Cue happy tears.
Is everything perfect now? Not exactly. Do I still fear that this tiny, adorable, furry, demonic creature is going to break me? Oh, God, yes. But it is getting better. Little by little, we can all see glimpses of a wonderful life with Obi. We know how to set our boundaries, we know how to calm him down, we know how and when to get those adorable puppy cuddles that we’ve all seen on the TV. In short, we have a concrete understanding that, if we are diligent and put in the work, this, too, shall pass.
I’ve found that whatever it is we’ve faced – a flooded house, a crazy dog, a problem at work, a child who needs help, a diagnosis that rocks our world – there is always, ALWAYS someone who can help. Can they make it all go away? Sometimes. But, honestly, the best helpers are the ones that give us the tools we need, the confidence to use them, and then they let us solve it ourselves. Yup. In the end, you gotta solve it your own damn self. It’s a surprise ending in a post about asking for help, I know.
While I’m quick to ask for help, I’m fully aware that the end game is for me to say, “I got this.” And we should all be able to do both. I seek help when I need it, and then I put on my big girl panties when I’m ready ready to take the mantle back on myself. The key is to know when to do what. And if I’m not sure? You guessed it, I ask someone I trust.
So here’s some advice from someone who constantly seeks advice: build yourself a tribe, a really, really good one. Your tribe can be comprised of family, friends, and/or outside counsel. Go to them when you need them. And be there for them when they need you. What goes around comes around, and you always get what you give. Be an active participant in your community, whatever that means to you, and the benefits you reap will last a lifetime. It truly does take a village. Not just to raise a child, but to raise a fully-functioning, emotional, strong, empathetic, kind and capable adult.
And, in the meantime, if that village can teach Cujo not to attack the couch? Well, even better.
*Trainer Kelley Fallon has a business called A Well Behaved Dog in Marin, and while our puppy was Lucifer, she was an angel. She taught us in one hour how to regain control of our home, to show Obi that WE are the Jedi Masters, and he is but the Padawan. In dog speak, we are the pack leaders, and Obi is our follower. The kids learned it all even better than the adults (no surprise there…), and after she left, our youngest said, “Instead of crying because we’ve been bitten, now we’re crying tears of joy!” You can find Kelley here.