The road before we get Harley!

  By: Jason Coe, DVM, PhD
Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

       January 25, 2018


Ten years ago, my wife Genny and I began looking into getting a dog.  The timing seemed to be right as we were a double income couple with no kids.  We had also just moved from a small apartment in Ottawa to our own house in Guelph. The reason we were looking for a dog was, quite simply, because Genny is allergic to cats! The timing and situation seemed perfect, yet shortly after starting our search for a dog we learned that our double income no kid life style was about to change: we were expecting our first child.  We had a serious discussion about whether it was still the right time to bring a dog into our household. A baby was on the way, both of us were in the early stages of building our careers and we really did not know what lay ahead.  At the time, we made a conscious decision that it would probably be wise to make one major change/ addition to our family at a time. 

Now looking back, we are very happy with the choice we made because two years after Carter was born, our daughter Mackenzie arrived … two years later our second daughter Georgia arrived.  We were suddenly a family of five including a four-year old, a two-year old and a newborn.  It did not take Genny and me a lot of discussion or persuasion to decide that it was not the right time to bring a dog into our home. Let’s be honest, we still had two children in diapers at that point and we were not looking to do any more potty training than we already had ahead of us!  We also felt it would be unfair to bring a dog into a family that was already stretched to meet its current demands.

As our kids started to grow and mature, Genny and I regularly revisited whether the time was right to bring a four-legged addition into our home.  However, both of our careers continued to get busier, including me travelling away from home once or twice a month.  This often left Genny on her own with three young kids; she was very happy it was not three kids and a dog. This does not mean we did not have constant pressure on us to get a dog.   As our kids grew older the pressure from them grew with arguments like “Grandma and Grandpa have a dog”, “Nana has a dog”, “our cousins have a dog”, “EVERYONE else at school has a pet!”, “Why don’t we have a pet?”, “You’re a veterinarian; how can you not have a pet?”.  Specifically, our son’s intense and consistent pressure did not change our family circumstances for getting a dog. 

Carter's contract he made - "Do you agree that I can have a puppy if I take all responsibility over the puppy except the money parts" 

In response to our son’s insistent requests, last Christmas Santa brought him a robotic cat and this past Christmas he got a gold fish.  The reality was our family was not yet ready.   

More recently Genny and I started having discussions that were not quickly dismissed by one or both of us about getting a dog for our family.  We agreed that we have reached a point as a family where with proper planning and education we feel comfortable and excited to bring a dog into our home.  As a result, we have been encouraging our kids that if we are to get a dog we need to be prepared and educate ourselves.  Each of them, in one capacity or another, has started accessing the B4 U GET A PET website. 

The girls researching before we get a pet

My son has been using it to prepare himself for over a year and has gotten to a point where he can now answer every question correctly on the Test your pet knowledge on the dog page. 

Three days before Christmas Genny and I made our first trip to a breeder of our choosing in order to ask all of the questions from the Questions to ask page specific to breeders.  Everything checked out to our satisfaction and we made plans to move forward in bringing one of the seven cute puppies we saw on that day home in a few weeks.   During our second visit to the breeder we selected our puppy from the three boys, specifically looking for a puppy that was a bit laid back and that did not fight or fuss when cuddled (yes, we have travelled to the breeders twice already and not even brought a puppy home!). While I drove on our second trip, Genny signed him up for puppy socialization  classes that will start immediately after he arrives.  We also started researching veterinary clinics in our area knowing this will be another big decision soon after bringing our dog home as he will need 12-week and 16-week checkups and vaccines. 

One question I have received is why a puppy?  Genny and I have discussed this question and with young children we want to be involved in our dog’s important socialization period.  The B4 U GET A PET research team has just published work highlighting the importance of socializing puppies.  I found we also had many of the same questions other potential pet owners have before getting a pet, such as wanting to know about past history, past behaviour, etc.  For these reasons, and given our young family, we have chosen to get a puppy, which we have named Harley (The reason behind this name I will save for another blog!).

Although our kids are not aware (though we have ensured they have been doing lots of prep work!), we are extremely excited to have Harley join our family next week! Therefore, in keeping with our preparation, tonight’s task is to start researching pet insurance! 


 Harley at 4 weeks of age!