Eve laying out in the grass on a sunny day.

2022: The Year of the Puppy

On January 9th, 2022, my partner Mary and I drove to Littleton, CO and picked up our newly adopted puppy, Eve. She was about 9 weeks old and around 11 lbs. And she was adorable.

A little smelly — but adorable.

Mary and I never lived in a place where we could have pets. In fact, we were pretty sure a pet would just complicate our lives. But roughly three months after saying goodbye to apartments and moving into our own home, we became drunk with power. No longer bound by the draconian laws of a lease, we could do anything! Even things we never wanted to do! Who’s gonna stop us?

So we started browsing dog rescues.

We desperately needed a way to fill that hole in our home. . .

Let me clarify: We genuinely felt drawn to the idea of having a pet now that it was a real possibility. After all, we had a little more space. We had an enclosed yard. And the previous owner of the house had savagely cut a large, drafty dog door straight through the kitchen wall. We desperately needed a way to fill that hole in our home. . . or at least something that could make sense of it.

So we poured over endless pictures of adorable dogs, judging them harshly for various petty frailties. A smooshed face here, a snaggle-tooth there. No shade was withheld.

And we aren’t idiots – we set smart parameters for our pooch pursuit:

  • At least 1 year old
  • Potty trained
  • Not too high energy
  • Minimal shedding
  • Medium intelligence

. . . she checked every box.

One fateful day, I was browsing profiles at the rescue where we’d passed a stringent screening, and I saw her.

This was Eve’s profile picture on the rescue’s website. I mean come on. Photo Credit: Sugar Bloom Studio

If you’re paying attention, you know right away why we are idiots. If we’d been looking for the exact opposite of our stated ‘smart parameters,’ well then she checked every box.

  • We had food in our fridge older than her
  • There wasn’t a surface in our house that didn’t become a toilet
  • Some of the very highest energy dog breeds combined forces to create her
  • Our home is filled with fur year round
  • We are captives to her inventive methods of manipulation and torture
Eve’s DNA results from Embark

We were warned. Multiple friends and family members told us, “Don’t get a puppy. They’re too much work.” I honestly don’t know what we were thinking. And maybe the craziest part is that when we first met Eve, she didn’t even seem to like us. She kept her distance while her brothers and sisters eagerly greeted us. When Mary first held her, Eve gave her this look:

This picture still makes us laugh. Even Eve gets the giggles.

But we couldn’t resist her blue eyes, big paws, white-tipped tail, and freckled nose. We lost our minds, plain and simple.

Thankfully, when the adoption process was complete and it was time to take her home, Eve seemed ready to join us.

We’d had a couple weeks to learn as much as possible about caring for a puppy before we went to get her. The fosters agreed to give us a blanket that held the scent of her litter mates and mother to help ease the transition to a completely foreign life. I felt some guilt about taking her away from her family and changing everything she’d known, but we were determined to do right by her. Once we brought her inside for the very first time, she started familiarizing herself with the space.

When you bring a living, breathing, pooping, peeing creature with needle sharp teeth and razor claws into your home, you have to let go of some things. For example, I’d previously maintained a flawless, lifelong streak of never handling fecal matter. And I was happy not needing to know anything about enzymatic cleaner — good for eradicating urine messes; bad for erasing the memory of what just happened.

Here are a few other things I didn’t predict for my future:

  • Cleaning up vomit with steely resolve
  • Affecting a soft, high-pitched ‘baby talk’ voice
  • Wiping a dog’s butt (thanks for the “stamping” stories, Hannah)
  • Actually feeling happy as I’m eagerly jostled awake at 6am
  • Spending hours per visit at the dog park
  • Saving up to support our dog’s “bully stick” habit (don’t ask)
  • Nearly breaking my neck tripping on dog toys
  • Being constantly covered in dog fur
  • Seriously considering fashionable clothing for a dog

. . . she never wanted to be without us.

We began crate training little Eve from the very start. We set her up with a nice spot in the living room right in front of the sofa so she could hang out with us while we watched TV.

We’d been taught by various trainers on YouTube that dogs are denning animals, and a crate would simulate that sense of personal space and safety. Our plan, in our infinite YouTube wisdom, was to have her sleep in her crate in the living room. . . solely for her comfort — not at all because she tended to potty-squat without warning, and our bedroom had brand new carpet in it.

This is how we learned that she never wanted to be without us. I don’t mean that in a romanticized “man’s best friend” sort of way. In the first few months, she would literally panic if we weren’t in the same room with her, filling our small house with wails of anguish and high-pitched yips. All the advice we’d found suggested that we just had to let her get past that, learn to self-soothe, and grow to enjoy some alone time. But hours of tortured crying left us with overwhelming guilt and concern for our little one.

After a heartbreaking episode where she was so stressed that she had an accident in her crate and made a mess that took hours to clean up (with stakes heightened dramatically by a Giardia diagnosis a week earlier), we wearily decided to take turns sleeping out in the living room with her. These were four hour shifts between 10pm and 6am with alarms set for leashed potty breaks in the winter cold every two hours. It was our nightly routine for three full months. These were the darkest days – poor sleep, low productivity, and several kinds of frustration. But the in-between moments when Eve needed extra soothing were very sweet.

One thing I don’t think we were fully prepared for with a puppy this age is that you must have eyes on her at all times. Between destructive curiosity and no potty training, you really can’t drop your guard. A rational person might say, ‘James, just put her in the crate while you’re doing other things.’ Right. You try explaining to the puppy pictured below that it’s time to be locked in a crate. Do you see how she’s trying hard to understand, but simply can’t comprehend not being with you?

I won’t sit here and claim that we didn’t go a little overboard. Potty training in our household involved a spreadsheet to track poops and accidents. Laugh at us if you must (my dog-loving Mom and sister certainly did), but that spreadsheet eventually helped us predict the best times to take Eve out for a potty break. And five months later, she was finally trained (. . . more or less.)

The red highlight indicates multiple poops in the same hour. Triangles in the corner note when she had an accident.

For those first few months, I wondered if we were lucky and got a quiet dog. Then she grew tall enough to look out the front window, and I stopped wondering.

We quickly learned that our sweet little Eve is a vicious guard dog. Her bark became startlingly bassy, and was directed at delivery people, neighbors, small children, the elderly, or anyone else who deigned pass before our property. She simply wasn’t having it.

Then we learned that Eve considered any outsiders entering our house to be threat level red. We tried to socialize her early, to the extent that a waning pandemic would allow, but it seems that wasn’t enough to make her trust other people. Despite that, there were a handful of notable successes after lots of treats and no sudden moves.

We also learned how much Eve loves other dogs. We weren’t initially sure that would be the case. The first puppy socialization class that we took Eve to was scary for her, and she had to be isolated from the rest of the curious puppies because she was so overwhelmed. But by the second class, she was there to play – and she’s been a dog’s dog ever since. (Incidentally, while she barks at most things, she NEVER barks at another dog.)

Having a dog that gets along with other dogs is just such a joy. We get to see her in her element, zooming like a rocket around the dog park, chasing, being chased, and loving every second. She’s also pretty submissive, so if things get a little intense, she just rolls onto her back. This mostly occurs in the dirt, which makes for a dusty puppy, but it seems to keep situations from escalating with dogs that are a little too aggressive. We just spray her down with a hose when we get home. (Not her favorite part.)

A great thing about her entire litter being fostered together is that we occasionally get to meet up with some of her brothers and sisters.

At times, and especially with her sister, Dakota, they look like prehistoric creatures trying to kill each other. But I swear they’re having a blast.

Yuki makes a great referee during this sisterly grudge match. Also, puppy teeth are terrifying.

We continue to learn about Eve and her eccentricities as we all grow together. But some of those eccentricities have become complications. Out in the backyard I’ve observed her on several occasions trying to catch a bee in her mouth. It’s cute to watch her clap her jaws together without any luck, but also terrifying for the chance that she might one day be successful.

And that day came. I witnessed it from the kitchen as she thrashed her head in panic and flicked her tongue in and out from the searing pain. I rushed out to try and help her, but the damage was already done. Moments later, she was showing tell-tale signs of anaphylaxis. This would be our first trip to the emergency vet.

The vet referred to them as “spicy flies”. Photo Credit: Mary Coddington

Eve hates going to the vet. It’s to the point that our regular vet has asked us to administer anti-anxiety meds before visits, which we hate to do because they take the sparkle out of her eyes. (Though, to be fair, that sparkle is what lead to the bee sting.) There would be other trips to the emergency vet, and an unexpected surgery, too. The recovery from that surgery inspired our holiday card photo for the year. The poor pup spent over a month in an inflatable collar, and so we dressed in solidarity.

Over this year, we’ve seen our shy little 11 pound puppy grow into a confident 50 pound dog. She’s strong. She’s athletic. She’s wild. She’s fun. She’s not too cuddly, but she always wants to be with us.

You can see how our new family member absolutely stole the show in 2022. We’ve had plenty of ups and downs, and realized some unanticipated limitations as a result of becoming dog parents, but I’ve never felt a stronger connection with a pet in my life. Waking up in the morning and being greeted by her happy enthusiasm is a new highlight of my day. We’re able to communicate in ways that I didn’t know were possible with a pet. It really is a special bond.

Here are some more favorite pictures of Eve from 2022 in no particular order.