One of the great things about writing a book is hearing from those who’ve read it. I get notes saying stuff like, “Gee, I thought our dog was bad, but not compared to Henry…” Or “I loved your book but I’m SO glad our dog isn’t like Henry…” Or “Your book made me laugh, but OH MY. I’m not sure I want a dog of my own now…”
Seeing as how I have so much, er—experience with a bona fide canine catastrophe, I thought I might be able to give some guidance to folks in the market for a dog. Let’s call it: 10 Tips to Avoid Getting a Dog Like Henry.
If you want to be absolutely, positively sure you won’t get stuck with a dog like Henry, then don’t get a dog at all.
Really. No dog.
Think goldfish. They are very happy in little bowls and do not bark, nip, or careen through your house, busting holes in your drywall.
I’m saying no dog. Ever.
In fact, you need to avoid dogs. All of them. Run. I’m serious. Otherwise some stray dog or cute puppy will find you and steal your heart.
All that said, you might still want a dog. I mean, there are only so many Henrys in the world, and what are the chances you’ll get stuck with one?
Understand the breeds and types of dogs out there and know what’s right for you and your family. There are tons of beguilingly cute dogs out there. They’ll look at you with sad puppy eyes. Get over it. Temperament is your main concern.
Check out dog breed encyclopedias, websites, or books like The Right Dog For You by Daniel Tortora. Do you need a dog that can be happy while you’re gone at work, or do you want one that lives for your company? If you live a couch potato lifestyle, don’t get a boxer. If your life is a constant sprint, don’t get a pekingese. And realize that even among dogs of the same breed, there will be variation. Half my angst over Henry could have been erased if I hadn’t expected a clone of the perfect boxer I was remembering from my rose-colored childhood, who may or may not have actually existed.
Which brings me to…
The perfect dog is not actually out there. They all have issues. Some issues are just easier to manage than others. Expect some trials going in, then you won’t be blindsided. Your puppy will chew stuff he shouldn’t. Important stuff. Like furniture. Carpet. Curtains. Or maybe just your TV remote.
Your dog will get sick, have accidents, barf on your carpet, and in general require vet care. He’ll also have a neurosis or two, and probably a fondness for something weird. Be okay with that.
Think about getting an older dog. One who’s done with all that whippersnapper stuff and just likes to hang out with you and sleep. Consider adopting a shelter or rescue dog and take advantage of online resources like petfinder.com to help you find a social dog and successfully navigate the adoption process.
Come to the party with an attitude of what you can give rather than what you can get. You can give love. You can give a good, stable home. You can give food and care and friendship. It’s amazing how easy contentment is when you don’t focus on yourself. (Click to tweet this)
Here’s the truth—you really might end up with a dog like Henry. But you might not. No matter what kind of dog you find, or what kind finds you, be patient, be calm, be encouraging. You’ll likely learn a thing or two about yourself in the process.
And if you do get a dog like Henry, I’ll tell you a secret. One day you could find yourself learning the same lessons I did—lessons about tough love, and growth, and change.
Lessons about faults, and hopes, and grace.
Lessons about life.
And you won’t trade your Henry for anything.
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