I should have said no, I really should have. But, when my husband surprised me on my fourth wedding anniversary with a trip to pick out a puppy, any resistance I had in me quickly disappeared when I first held my soon-to-be-named Lola in my hands (or hand I should say). Fluff of white fur, brown soulful eyes, I was a goner.
When Lola came into my life I wasn’t actually looking to own another pet, but I suppose one too many oohs and aahs over Paris Hilton’s purse sized doggies got my husband thinking and before I knew it I was driving home with a ‘teacup’ Maltese and packet full of instructions on how to keep the itty-bitty thing healthy. Now, one-year later, and thousands of dollars poorer, I reflect on the pros and cons of owning a ‘teacup’ sized dog and ask myself the question of would I go through this again?
Teacup Half Empty
Right from the start, the problems of owning such a small dog quickly became apparent. This dog certainly couldn’t go 10 hours without a meal, or hold its pee in that tiny bladder all day long while we worked outside the home, so a mid-day care plan was essential. Either someone came home, or it was bring Lola to work day for one of us. Next on the list of problems was figuring out how not to step on her (or lose her)! Having a one and a half pound puppy underfoot was much more daunting than I figured. Sad to say, Lola has had to endure a few times of getting caught in a closing door simply because she is so small and easy to miss. Good thing she bounces back and doesn’t hold a grudge! Tip #1- cat collar bells work wonders for tracking!
Its not that my family and I are unfamiliar with caring for dogs. We have owned dogs previously and are currently owners to an eight year old Doberman and Shepard mix with high anxiety and numerous allergy and liver issues, but there is definitely a difference in raising a toy class dog compared to a (now) fifty pound mutt. When you do your research (and I really hope you do your research), you will surely notice numerous warnings that small dogs are hard to train. They do not take to commands well and tend to still have problems with going to the bathroom in the house long into adulthood. Lola is no exception. She does well with her training, but often times does not do well for no apparent reason other than just wanting to frustrate me and look up at me with an ‘I’m too cute to do what you tell me to’ look on her adorable little snout. Because this was an impulse decision on my part, I did not know about these difficulties. I probably still would have forged ahead with getting her, because don’t we all think that those problems won’t happen in our home?
Last, but certainly not least, in the list of tough lessons I have learned about owning a ‘teacup’ or small dog is the health issues. Because of their size, small dogs cannot regulate their blood sugar or temperature very well. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a huge risk for these little ones, often requiring emergency treatment and constant monitoring. And, like many small dogs, Lola refused to eat much of anything, which necessitated numerous diet trials and many dollars and hours spent on home cooking chicken and steak (yes, steak) in an effort to keep the dog from withering away to nothing. Lola also has had numerous bouts of pneumonia and lung worms, has swallowed a screw and was too little to pass it so it had to be surgically removed, and finally has been diagnosed with a hepatic shunt, which requires prescription dog food ($) and care at a veterinary excellency center (cha-ching!). Yes, these issues do occur in larger dogs, but due to Lola’s size, she is more prone to illness and smaller dogs are more likely to have shunt problems according to the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine. As you would imagine, I could own a nice new car for the amount of money that has been sunk into little Lola.
Teacup Half Full
By now you are probably thinking, “man, this lady really must be sick of this dog” or “man, this lady is crazy for dropping so much money into a dog the size of a cup”, Well, it’s a little of both. The fact is that once we decided to take on responsibility for a dog, the dog became ours. Sure, we could have argued with the breeder and probably given back the dog, but what then? Surely, the breeder would have put her down, and what lesson does that teach our children about love and responsibility? Lola is our dog through and through and she shows us every day by racing to meet me at the front door and climbing up my ankles to make sure that I notice her. She sits on my lap all day long and stretches out to give me the honor of rubbing her tiny little belly and in true Paris Hilton style, rides along with me in my purse on errands and makes all who sees her smile. It has also been a treat to watch such a small creature act like a big one. Lola has no idea that she is small and, as my husband puts it, she has dominated every sock in the house. I have no doubt if a robber came in, Lola would do the best she can to protect us, even if that means licking the intruder’s ears until he is rolling on the floor and playing with her.
It has taken us one year to get Lola to a hefty three pounds. She continues to have eating issues and will require surgery in the next few months to try and ensure that she has a somewhat normal life span. She requires two medications, twice a day and more importantly, enough love and attention and socks to fight to keep her content and happy in her assigned place in our family. Would I own a small dog again? Probably not, but no one can separate me from my Lola now.