Monday, December 7, 2009

Accidental Therapy Dog

A few weeks ago I got a puppy. I've been looking for the right dog for a couple of years now, and was holding out for a good fit. I had a list of specific criteria:

  • Must be portable to fit into my constantly mobile life
  • Must be small so as to leave my range of possible housing as open as possible
  • Must NOT be annoying and yappy because that would make ME insane, nevermind my neighbors
  • Must be very trainable
  • Must be the manliest dog possible under 20 lbs
  • Must get along well with cats because I have two and they're not going anywhere
  • Must get along well with people because I am always out and about and interacting with people
  • Must get along well with children in case I ever have or live with children
  • Must be a rescue pooch of some variety
  • Must be a size of dog that I can enjoy getting some exercise/recreation with but that doesn't need to go for a 5 mile hike everyday because I'm simply never going to be that dog owner
It wasn't easy to find a good fit but I'm glad I held out because the last thing an ADHDer needs when accepting a new responsibility is extra stress factors.

The winner is Chichi. He's 1/2 Chihuahua and 1/2 Rat Terrier, both very trainable breeds of dog. Yes, it seems that any"Terrier" plus Chihuahua would mean instant noise problem but I did my reading and all experts say that the primary difference between loud and quiet in these breeds is good training. He's a puppy so we're starting from scratch, which would seem like a BIG job for an ADHDer, and I'm not going to lie, IT IS. But so far that's been mostly beneficial...a little externally imposed structure can be a good thing, even if it's sometimes frustrating. He's really smart and learns fast and hey, when he's not perfect, duh, he's only 5 months old.

My therapist was quick to point out that I have chosen a dog that is, well...just like me. Small, extremely energetic if not hyper (he races around the house like the Devil is trying to climb up his ass, it's hilarious) and needs a little bit of structure. And he does fit the "why do dogs always look like their owners" rule. Because the whole world is new to him, he is also easily distracted at times. He'll hear someone cough in the next parking lot over and suddenly he's forgotten he's supposed to be peeing and is trying to go to the sound to investigate it. I can totally relate!

The most interesting thing about him though, besides that fact that he's extremely adorable and fun to have around (even the cats are starting to like him, and will sit near him now, even when he's flipping cartwheels in front of them trying to get them to play with him)...the most interesting thing is that he's an accidental therapy dog.

I get way stressed out about making food and having to stop to eat. Well, the puppy (and the cats for that matter) has to eat. Several times a day. And he won't let you forget that fact. So he reminds me of the importance of feeding MYSELF on a regular basis. He also digs a lot of good naps throughout the day, which reminds me to slow down. He makes me take breaks too, because in order to potty train him (and even once he's potty-trained) I have to take him outside frequently. I take him to the office, and the fact that I have to be concerned about whether or not new experiences will frighten him as I get him acclimated to the big world, makes me more attentive to honoring my own emotional well-being. AND...this is the BEST...he helps me stay focused at work. I jump out of my seat to attend to distractions all day long, generally, most of which should be ignored. He likes to sleep on my lap while I'm working and I don't want to bother him, so when I feel that impulse to jump up, his presence forces me to rethink the impulse, and get back to the task at hand.

He's also totally non-judgmental and in fact, goes wild with excitement after I return from the few times during the week where I have to leave him at home alone for a little while.

And it's just a happy accident that the person who located this swell pup for also an adult ADHDer. She had already met him and knows my lifestyle and thought we would be a perfect fit for each other. So far, she is right on the money.

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