My Puppy is a Blackbelt in Well-being

Turns out my new puppy is a multidimensional well-being evil genius. True story.

A little backstory…

The last few months have been sort of eventful from a “life” perspective. We got a new puppy, I turned 40, and I started working from home full time. While these events are not the same magnitude as getting married, having a baby, or buying a new house, they still bring about change. Suddenly, I’ve got this little wild beast gnawing on everything in sight, 40 is apparently some sort of age milestone, and working from home means a lot less face-to-face interaction with the humans. In general, these types of “life events” could have an impact on my overall well-being.

For context, when I refer to “well-being”, I’m not just referring to the physical aspect. There are all types of well-being; emotional well-being (like feelings and stuff), social well-being (interacting with the humans), intellectual well-being (the learning), financial well-being (show me the money), environmental well-being (yay, earth), occupational well-being (I work, therefore I eat), and spiritual well-being (eat, love, pray).

So, why is the puppy the important part?

It turns out that puppies are masters of well-being.

To be fair to our other dog, Dakota, was also a master of well-being. She is a 10-year-old lab mix and she’s become more of a master of eating, sleeping, and getting petted, which is great but doesn’t really cover as many areas of well-being. The puppy, Queso, is bringing a new energy to our household that is causing a well-being chain reaction that is benefiting all of us.

Allow me to explain…

I’m going, to be honest. Prior to getting Queso in March, I was stuck. I wasn’t really exercising. I work at a start-up, which means mountains of work and a lot of responsibility. I was super stressed and working all the time. I had put on 10 lbs in the last year. I was approaching the big 4–0 and wondering if it was going to all be physically downhill from there. My eating habits had slipped into a stage of sketchy that included ice cream as a major food group. I was not feeling my normal happy-go-lucky self. I was tired all the time. I was being more of a grouch. My family was like “who are you?!?!”.

Getting Queso was a catalyst for change in me. Of course, when we decided to get a puppy, we had no idea. We just thought, “Dakota is 10 and such a good dog. We should get a new puppy so that Dakota can teach her how to be awesome,”… end of thought process. (Side Note: Of course, now Dakota is like “whatever” about Queso and Queso refuses to learn anything from Dakota.)

So, now I have this 8-week old puppy that needs to learn how to exist in our world, eats twice as much as our 70 lb lab, has the energy of the Sun, and is pretty much happy about EVERYTHING. And this is where I start to make changes to accommodate this 7 lbs of crazy energy and love that started making positive impacts on my overall well-being.

Breaking it down…

In the first month, there were some immediate changes and benefits. First, I changed my work schedule so that I could work from home. It’s really hard to potty train a puppy who needs to go out every 30 minutes when she’s in a crate all day. I am fortunate that my work environment allowed me to make this change. This change resulted in a dramatic decrease in my work stress. Now, I can focus more on the work I need to get done because there are fewer interruptions and that makes me more efficient and productive. Win: Occupational and Emotional Well-being

Second, I had to get up and move more. I have a tendency to sit down to work and pretty much not move for HOURS. I get hyper focused and forget that time exists. But when you have a puppy who needs to go outside every 30 minutes, you are either getting up to let her out or getting up to clean up the mess. Win: Physical Well-being

Third, I started eating better. Ok, the puppy didn’t make me eat better. I mean, she’s just a dog, not a miracle worker. But being home meant eating from my fridge rather than from take-out or a restaurant. It also meant that I started making dinner more often because I was already home. I wasn’t driving past a bunch of eateries and telling myself it would be easier just to pick something up. I also started ordering groceries online for delivery, rather than walking through the store (since I couldn’t leave Queso for very long at a time those first few months), which meant that I didn’t grab the “bad” food and throw it into my cart. As a side benefit, I started saving money because we weren’t eating out as much and I wasn’t impulse shopping. Win: Physical and Financial Well-being.

After Month 1…

As Queso started getting bigger, her exercise and training needs started getting bigger as well. Her energy level was just unbelievable and if she didn’t get between 1.5–2 hrs of interactive (human and other dogs) play, she would literally be trying to bite our faces off at night. Not in a mean way, but in that “I’m a teething puppy and everything is the best and I want to chew on you and the wall and the cat and play with me” kind of way. Additionally, the need to socialize her became important. We didn’t want a cranky unsocialized dog that bites everyone and everything.

To cover Queso’s growing exercise needs, we joined the most awesome dog park, Fort Harrison Dog Park. And then we started spending 1–2 hrs a day there. Turns out, the dog park doesn’t just benefit the puppy. I had been working from home for about 2 months at this point and my interaction with other humans who were not my husband or teenage children was limited. While I didn’t really notice, my husband “claims” that I was getting weird. Ok, in his words, weirder. Going to the dog park provided exercise (it’s a supergiant dog park with a pond and hiking trails) and socialization for both the dogs and the humans. We even got a great recommendation on a plumber from one of our “dog park friends”, which for anyone who’s ever tried to find a plumber will understand is huge. Win: Physical, Emotional, and Social Well-being

While playing and running with her doggie pals was important, Queso still needed training. She is extremely stubborn and I was having a hard time getting her to learn things like her name and to come when I called. I had been spoiled by Dakota, who seemed to learn everything via reading my mind. Everything I thought I knew about dog training (which wasn’t really that much) was useless; Queso does not care if you yell or punish. So I hit the books. By “books”, I mean “the internet”. I read a bunch about clicker training and positive reinforcement training. Then, I got to work.

She now knows her name, sits at my feet patiently when she wants something, goes into her crate when I tell her to, and sits on command. She comes to me sometimes but only if she wants to, so we are still working on that. Training her has provided me with some lessons in patience, as well as giving me something new to learn about. Win: Emotional and Intellectual Well-being

But really…

The biggest impact Queso has had, though, has been on our overall happiness. She’s even won over our cranky-pants cat, Morpheus. Every morning we start the day with those two snuggling. When Queso sees that we are awake, she snuggles right up and you can’t help but smile. My husband used to wake up every morning and talk about his lower back pain. Now, the first thing he thinks about when he wakes up is the crazy happy puppy snuggling with the cat and he smiles. I walk in the door and I have TWO super excited dogs wagging their butts because I’m the best thing on earth. Try watching a puppy chase butterflies and stay in a bad mood. It’s IMPOSSIBLE. Sure, we have our moments where she’s chewing on a shoe or a wall or a teenager and we get frustrated. But those moments are overwhelmed by the joyful moments. We smile more, we move more, we get more fresh air. And it all started with a puppy we named Queso.

Can’t get enough of this adorable pup? Check out more of Queso on Instagram with hashtag #QuesoRowe. We don’t play favorites with our office dogs, but geez, she’s super cute.

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