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The Puppy Diaries

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Confessions of a new Westchester pet parent.

On a Saturday in May, my husband and I moved into a dog-friendly apartment. On the following Wednesday, we filled out a few dog adoption applications.  Then, on Friday, we went to our local humane society and adopted a gorgeous 10-week-old puppy.

Her name is Kerry, which I believe is Gaelic for “tornado of destruction.” While we haven’t had an official DNA test, we surmise Kerry’s breed is half Labrador Retriever and half domestic terrorist. But we know for sure she is 100 percent exhausting. I grew up with dogs but had never raised one from puppydom. So, upon receiving Kerry, I punched my ticket for a crash course in puppy rearing. Welcome to my puppy diaries.

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During our first hour with Kerry, we headed straight to our local pet shop. It was there that we emptied our wallets and what was the last of our common sense and spent a small fortune on dog-related materials, necessary or not. We purchased a crate, food, and a mountain of toys she has not touched since she came home.

Our first night was a rough one, and shockingly, not because of Kerry. I woke up approximately seven times throughout the night just to make sure she was still breathing. The last time I was solely in charge of an animal was in preschool when I was allowed to bring the class rabbit home with me for a night. The only lesson I learned from that experience was that you will most likely get lice if you sleep too close to a rabbit cage. I had entered the world of puppies ignorantly.

My husband and I had the same concerns as most new dog parents, like, would she take to potty training? Was she trainable? Would her teething stop? Would she drop out of school, join a gang and run amuck with some miscreants? You know, the usual stuff.

The most important lesson I’ve learned in dog mom-ship is that you have to let your puppies foster their passions. We learned in the first week that Kerry loves a good home remodel. One morning as I was sitting at the kitchen table, Kerry was doing full laps running around our living room. Then, all of a sudden, I saw her charge all twelve pounds of her tiny body at full speed and run directly through the screen door to our balcony. I sat in disbelief, wondering if she broke the sound barrier. Conversely, Kerry celebrated her new conquest of the balcony, as one does, by urinating on it. We’ve fixed the screen several times, but Kerry’s been persistent in keeping the screen broken, a permanent doggie door to the balcony, mastered from her own mind.

“You have to let your puppies foster their passions.”

Kerry’s training hasn’t been too miserable. We’ve survived the many 2:30 a.m. wake-up calls that saw my husband and me making a mad dash to the door, with Kerry tucked under our arm like a football, trying to beat the clock of Kerry’s bladder so she would become housebroken. Once we had her on a successful schedule, we thought a doggie doorbell would be a great training tool so she could alert us when she needed to go outside. Teaching her to use the doorbell was the easy part, but now we have a puppy drunk with power who hits the doorbell multiple times per day and stares at us as if to say, “get me my treat, you peasant.” She even hits the bell when the door is wide open, and she can walk outside. (For evidence of her mischievous machinations, look no further than my TikTok video.)

But don’t let me mislead you — puppy raising isn’t all doom and gloom. There are plenty of perks! The best part about being a new dog mom is when passersby kindly compliment Kerry for being so cute. After which, I never fail to say “thank you,” as if I contributed any of my DNA to her long tail, perfect snout, or floppy ears.

I also don’t want to boast, but I think I’m pretty good at several different dog-raising techniques. The first being that I know how to celebrate Kerry. Every time she yawns or stretches, I put on a ridiculous voice and announce to no one, “big yawn!” or, “oh, big stretch!” Check the puppy handbook; I’m pretty sure this is the first rule of owning a dog.

The second thing I’m really good at is making pet names for my pet. Yes, our puppy’s is name is Kerry. But any good pet owner knows that every pet has a bunch of different “pet” names. There are no concrete rules on pet names, but they usually derive from your pet’s original name and are just fun remixes. Kerry has plenty. She goes by Kerry, Kerrita, Kerrlinda, Nancy KERRY-gan, Kerrlinsky, and, in admittedly poor taste, Monica Kerrlinsky. The last one is my favorite. And no, Kerry does not respond to most if not all of these names, mainly because she barely responds to “Kerry.”

I’ve been exhausted since Kerry came home. Still, when I come home, there’s no one else I’d rather see lounging on my couch, drinking my water, or leaving a trail of toy dinosaur carcasses strewn across my floor. Now, if you excuse me, I think I hear the doorbell.

Erin Maher is a writer and Westchester native. She has written on a myriad of topics, including life as a millennial and tennis. When not writing, Erin can be found on the tennis and pickleball courts or lovingly scrolling through pictures of dogs on Instagram. For more of her musings, visit erinmaherwrites.com, and follow her on Instagram/Twitter, @erinmaherwrites.

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