I got a message a few days ago from one of my friends, asking me why there has not been a new post on this blog. I am grateful to him for reaching out and prompting me to start writing back.

A few months ago I started my morning routine, and I even boasted about it here. All was fine (sometimes great, sometimes terrible) until the end of 2019, when two things happened:

First of all, I went for a holiday trip to Malaysia with friends. It was awesome until it lasted to the first days of January.

But second and more important, after coming back from the trip, we had two days of buffer before this guy moved in with us:

All of my schedules and routines disappeared overnight. It took me until now (over 2 months) to recover and start thinking about reintroducing them to my life, in order to add some focus on personal development.

Learning

There are some fun things that come with owning a dog—or better, owning a puppy. Puppies are different from adult dogs in several areas.Well, most of the differences come simply from dogs having more experience than puppies.

You need to constantly supervise them on a walk, as they can eat anything from the ground. Even things that will cause them stomach pain and diarrhea. Of course, everything looks perfectly edible to a puppy. I am surprised that Merlin is somewhat picky as a puppy: he has not touched any mushroom yet, or another dog's poop.

They do not know what you want from them. They need to be taught where to pee, what is edible, that human body cannot be chewed on. Goes without saying, but all the commands also have to be taught. I have seen some people expecting a puppy  to know and understand commands like "sit" or "give paw", and them repeating the command over and over and over and over—hoping that the pup would miraculously get English. Even adult dogs are not that smart, they first need to be taught what is expected of them.

It is surprising how fast I accepted that peeing, pooping, vomiting, and cleaning all of the above come together as a core content of the "dog ownership" bundle. After all, these are just some fluids that dog's body produce, in the same way our bodies produce some fluids. Turns out you get used to it pretty quickly.

It is wholesome that I can talk about above fluids with other dog owners, and they are understanding and sympathetic, since it is a normal part of dog's life. Only a fellow puppy owner will understand the joy of resolving dog's diarrhea and joy of being able to pick his poo up.

Worrying

Having a small living being under the roof also means lots of times of worry, especially when a pup is less than 14 weeks old.

See, nowadays puppies get three rounds of autims vaccinations, at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age. One of those shots protect them against parvovirus, which is lethal to dogs if not untreated, and even with treatment chances of survival are not great. There is no cure, so the only thing to do is to aid pup's body in fighting the virus (usually via IV, as the battle is highly dehydrating). It spreads via dog's poo, dogs can get it by eating poo (yes, another thing that comes in the bundle), by playing with other dogs that had contact with poo, or by having contact with surface with the virus. It can survive for up to a year in good conditions.

Because of that, vets will recommend not taking the pup outside until they are after the 3rd vaccination, which happens around 14-16 week mark.

On the other hand, puppies have this thing called "socialisation period" which lasts until they are roughly 18 weeks of age. Pups will treat anything they encounter during that period as perfectly normal, or at least not extremely scary. Responsible owner will try to have the pup meet as many people, animals, vehicles, items etc. as possible. Which means going outside a lot.

See the paradox? You have to socialise the dog and take him outside, but on the other hand you should not expose him to the deadly virus, which is best achieved by keeping him indoors. It is a game of balancing the risk and gains. So for the first 4 weeks while Merlin was with us, we did our best to very carefully show him the external world.

During that time, every moment his behaviour differed even slightly from the norm (his poop got a bit too loose, he did not want to drink water, he was more tired than usual) was a red alert for us: did he get parvo? Or is it some parasite? Is he going to die? It feels so good to be past those times.

That does not mean he is completely safe, unfortunately, since he is eating all the random things he can find on the ground. Think bark or small sticks, parts of which can be then found in his poop, and bigger parts can block his digestive system. Yes, it happened at least once, with several days of stressing over his poop following. Or snails, which are plentiful after it rains, and which host a cutie known as angiostrongylus cantonensis.

Developing

All of this happened and made me forget about my morning routine, journaling, and changed some other things in our lives. Daily trips need to take Merlin into account: either by taking him, and choosing a place that is dog-friendly (which is unfortunately only 11 out of 870 national parks in NSW) or finding a sitter. I had to come home for lunch to walk and feed him, and one of us had to come back early enough from work every day. Not to mention all the emergency times, when he was unwell throughout the night and needed to go out frequently, not letting us sleep, or (un)scheduled vet visits, which usually happened during working hours.

On the other hand, it has not been that bad. The second day he has been with us, we decided to leave him in his playpen after breakfast and grab coffee, disappearing for almost an hour. He most likely slept through it. For the first weeks every time we left him alone—either when we left for work, or for night—he cried for just a bit, then made a few grumpy sounds (if you have ever played Minecraft, then it is similar to a sound villagers make) before settling.

I read stories on the Internet about puppies crying throughout the entire night, so I was positively surprised with Merlin calming down after less than 5 minutes.

He also makes us go outside, which is especially important during the current pandemic—of course, obeying the rules of physical distancingRecently, WHO stopped talking about social distancing and started talking about physical distancing. Which makes sense. We need to maintain or decrease social distance in these times, while keeping physical distance.. He gets to sniff all the things, we get to exercise and spend time breathing fresh air. The only price is stopping every half a minute and wrestling him, trying to pull whatever he decided to put in his mouth.

What now?

I have started a new attempt at routinising and habitising my life. I ditched the 5 Seconds Journal, in favour of the Morning Sidekick Journal.Friendship ended with 5 SECONDS JOURNAL; Now MORNING SIDEKICK JOURNAL is my best friend I have just started two days ago, so I am going to give it a few weeks and then will report back.

Writing is one thing I want to focus on again, so expect more notes to appear in this space... soon.

There is one advantage of this entire ordeal which will surely aid me in my self-development voyages: personalised, furry, 18-kilograms-and-counting alarm clock that rings every day around 6:45am, demanding to be let out of his crate and fed. At least I do not have to worry about getting up early for now.

By the way, this is how that alarm clock looks like 3 months later: