Happy Birthday, Watson! You are six perfect years old. These are the best years of your life. These are the best ears of your life. 

I love you heaps and piles and forever and ever until the end of both of our days. Tonight, steak for everyone! Especially puppies. 

On our first real sweater-weather morning. 

Watson: squirrel-crazed, sunbeam-stupor.

I see you there, Watson. I know what you are thinking. That cake is for Conor’s birthday, and you’re not getting a single bite until the party. 

WHAT. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. OH, IS THAT YOUR PHONE RINGING? YOU SHOULD PROBABLY GET THAT. I WILL STAY HERE. PROTECT THE CAKE. I HEAR THEY HAVE MANY NATURAL PREDATORS.

[As I wander off, Conor catches Watson exactly one second before he attempts to shove the whole cake into his mouth. Rascal.] 

At home and in LA with Elizabeth, a blur of snacks, books, naps, and pictures of Watson. 

Watson meets the Pacific Ocean and has mixed feelings. 

Q

jenuity asked:

Hi! I love your Tumblr, and I absolutely adore Watson! I've been thinking about adopting a westie myself. Unfortunately, I have a 8-5 job & no one else is home at those times. I know it's not recommended to leave a dog home alone for that long, but I'll try to make up for it when I am home! I'm afraid that it'll develop separation anxiety and exhibit passive aggressive or just plain aggressive behaviors. If you have any experiences/advice that you can share, I would really appreciate it! Thanks!

A

Howdy! 

I’ve been thinking about your question for the past day. When I was looking at adoption applications and reading about dog care, everything made it seem like single people with average work days should not be dog owners. I wasn’t sure I should have a dog at all. At the time, I lived alone in Albuquerque, in an apartment without any fenced-in outdoor space. Including travel time, I was out of the house from 8:30-5:45. I didn’t have family or friends in the area (or the state). I had no previous experience being a dog owner. Fortunately, despite being a less than ideal candidate, I found a rescue willing to work with me, and to trust me with Watson.  

want to say that it won’t matter — that everything will be fine. And, it likely will be! Still, it’s more complicated than that, especially if you are adopting (PLEASE adopt!). The first week I spent with Watson was a mess. I took a few days off work, but my first attempt at leaving Watson alone led to him destroying my bathroom wall. The second attempt had him destroying his crate. I admitted defeat, and called my brother. Joe was sitting at home, post college graduation, with not a lot to do. Watson spent the days before Joe came to Albuquerque in doggie day care. My brother stayed for two weeks and spent every day crate training Watson, and working on his separation anxiety. Advice #1: Crate training is everything. If possible, try to be there (or find someone to be there) 24/7 in the beginning. Petfinder.com’s The Adopted Dog Bible looks to be out of print, but it was the best book I read about how to help an adopted dog adapt to a new home. 

After Joe left, things remained difficult. Watson and I went to dog training classes, and I bought him a metal crate that I locked with bungee cords. I walked away from my front door every day to screaming yelps and dog sobbing. It was terrible. 

Eventually, things improved. Watson loved his crate, and didn’t seem as troubled. I came home for lunch as often as possible. Four months later, I moved in with Kelli and Max to a house with a yard. I reduced my commute to work from 25 minutes to under 10 minutes. The move wasn’t all about Watson, but he was a big part of it. Kelli often came home for lunch with the puppies, and having one extra person and a dog friend around made all the difference. After Kelli, I lived with Tina, a student who was frequently home during the day and Tony, who worked from home. Watson was still sometimes crated for 8+ hours during those years, but with additional dog or cat company. I never again considered living alone, mostly because of Watson. Advice #2: As much as possible, try to make dog-friendly life choices

Now, we live in Brooklyn. Watson’s dad is a pianist. When Conor is in NY, he does most of his practicing at home, and tends to leave for rehearsals or concerts only a few hours before I get home from work. Conor travels extensively, though, and when he is gone, Watson is alone from 8:30 until 6:00. This is not ideal, but it is okay. We don’t use a crate anymore, and as long as access to trash cans are restricted, Watson is well-behaved. I leave him with kongs, puzzle toys, and pull up the blinds so he can look out the windows. This mostly works because after nearly 4 years together, we’ve finally sorted things out. Advice #3: This will take a long timeEven so, I’m starting to look at doggie daycare or dog walking in the area for days when I want to do something after work, or have to go in early. 

Watson remains very possessive of me and Conor, and tends to be clingy — there will be no personal space. If we pet other dogs at the park, Watson will snap at them. When dogs visit our home, Watson guards the bedroom, snapping if he thinks they are trying to go upstairs to “his” space. He still cries if I leave to get groceries on the weekend and hates it when Conor and I are in different rooms of the apartment. If I am traveling a lot and do not take him with me, you can bet there will be spite-poops in the living room the whole next week after I return. Ultimately, Watson is best behaved and happiest when he is with me. While I can’t take Watson everywhere (if only!), I spend a lot of time on his manners and grooming so that he is welcome as often as possible. This includes everything from minimizing barking, teaching cute tricks, getting him into a travel carrier, being good off-leash, and keeping his beard clean and white. Advice #4: Training is fun and people are much friendlier to polite puppies

The most important thing, though, is to full-on commit to giving a dog the best home possible and to being his or her best friend for all of his or her days. I could not have anticipated most of Watson’s idiosyncrasies, and it is likely that his problems and our solutions won’t be yours. If I knew then what I know now about Watson, however, I still would not have hesitated for a even a second to bring him home. Whatever goes wrong, we will fix; whatever happens, a life with Watson is worth it. 

Good luck!! 

image

"HEY MAHHHHM," says Watson on a Thursday evening. "IS IT TIME FOR THE PARK?" 

"Almost," I say, "but let’s sit quietly for a while."

"IS IT TIME FOR THE PARK?" Watson asks, when we are halfway through a movie. 

"Not yet," I say. "Get off the windowsill." 

"THIS LOOKS GREAT," Watson says, "I NEED A BIG BREAKFAST BEFORE GOING TO THE PARK. BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO EAT?"

"Okay, here we are. We are at the park."

"PARK PARK PARK," Watson says, "PARK PARK PARK.

SQUIRREL? PARRRRRRRRK.” 

"Did you have fun today?" I ask. 

"zzzz" says Watson. 

A poorly organized overview of things, recently: 

Good Sign, the new doggie day care in our neighborhood, and their sign featuring a Max and an almost Watson

Bad Sign, the G train circle has been painted over. It’s going to be five sad weeks of sad commuting.

Summer Fridays are the best ever. I could really use some Fall, Winter, and Spring Fridays, too. This was Elena’s last full weekend in NY, so we filled it with John Luther Adams’ Sila: The Breath of the World at Lincoln Center + Red Farm + unpictured cream puffs and unpictured bagel sandwiches + The Frick + Ladurée. Also, rambling with Watson, and alternating between The Fosters and Inside Amy Schumer (less jarring than you would think). A quality oh, wow, New York City is amazing! sort of weekend. 

And suddenly, it’s August. 

The most difficult part of Watson’s transition from New Mexico Adventure Dog to New York City Dog has been the loss of off-leash running-about-like-a-fool time. The parks of full of squirrels, feral cats hide under every car, and the streets are a buffet of pizza crusts, chicken bones, and melting ice cream cones. And yet, the leash. Always, always with the leash! 

I’ve known about off-leash hours at Central Park for some time, but living in Bushwick means having to wake up by at least by 7am on a weekend morning to get there on time. I love Watson, but that is a seriously tough sell. 

Finally, though, the guilt got to be too much. On a hazy Saturday morning, I dragged myself out of bed and dumped us both onto the train. It was so, so, worth it. 

Watson was the happiest I’ve seen him since moving here. The whole park was like a magical wonderland. Dogs everywhere, all perfectly behaved. Dogs everywhere!! All shapes, sizes, and colors. Herds of dogs standing about, dogs chasing frisbees, dogs running through the paths, the grass. It was like all of my “I wish dogs” dreams came true. 

This is going to be a thing. 

Weekend activities: 

  • Sybarite5 in Bryant Park (Dogs allowed at the concert, but not on the lawn. Oops! We are still learning the rules).
  • Elena and I JOURNEYED to The Cloisters, where we considered medicinal herbs, unicorn imagery, and buttresses. We also shared disdain for 20-something young men who feel entitled to mansplain to the docent with more years of experience than he has life. GROAN. 
  • Squirrel chasing, couch reading. 

Pictures of Watson sent to Conor while he is in Santa Barbara.

In her first visit to NYC, Rori learned: 

  • to say “om nom nom,” “dogs! dogs! dogs!” and “at-sin!!” I’m such a good influence.
  • about gelato, pork dumplings, pesto, freshly-shelled peas, and fennel sausage
  • and also beet-radicchio ravioli from Eataly, pizza from Roberta’s, ramen from Momofuku, strawberry lemonade from Shake Shack, sticky rice and mangos at Smorgasburg, and double chocolate cookies from Blue Bottle  

Which is to say, Rori is a girl after my own heart. 

Watson learned: 

  • Rori is an excellent food source
  • it rains string cheese under the highchair
  • to gently take cookies from tiny baby fingers 

I learned: 

  • babies are simultaneously resilient and constantly in danger
  • sleep is for nobody 
  • you have to watch movies in increments, split into “the one hour you can stay awake after Rori is asleep,” “the forty minutes she wants to watch before trying to climb to her death up the stairs,” and “the twenty minutes before she decides to stay up all night.” 
  • Never, ever side-eye the parents with a crying baby on the subway. There is literally nothing they can do to make it stop.
  • If you have a small plastic dog in your pocket, you have a secret weapon like no other. 
  • They are hiding all sorts of good snacks in the baby aisle — little puffy things, mango-peach pouches, little melty yogurt things.

I am so in love with Rori, and filled with a newfound respect for all parents, ever. You are all amazing. I am also, however, going to enjoy the heck out of my silent home, giant bed, and easy-going Watson. Sitting on the couch last night, sharing a bowl of blueberries, Watson and I reveled in our selfishness, heaving the big sigh of relief of indulgent-but-childless aunts and uncles, everywhere. 

Exploring time! In Columbus Circle, after a long stroll through Central Park.

Watson and I did a lot of carrier and crate training early on, and it’s somehow spilled over into backpacks? He loves being in backpacks. Still, I wanted to find something safer, more supportive, and more comfortable for our city-and-beyond exploring. 

On the recommendation of a friend with a schnauzer named Norman, I bought Timbuk2’s Muttmover bag. After walking around the house to try it out, I unzipped the bag to let Watson out. “NO THANKS,” he said. “I’M COMFORTABLE.” He’s strange. 

From the picture and descriptions, I wouldn’t have thought it would fit Watson (or Norman); at 17 lbs., he is on the far end of the “small dog” category. It’s plenty roomy, though, especially since Watson likes wedging himself into snug spaces. The quality is great, and it sits comfortably on my shoulders. I’m really looking forward to what this means for new adventures.