Welcome to Girl Seeks Dog, a new biweekly column where Amberly McAteer embarks on her quest for her first pup, and details all the life changes that come with it. (Think Rex and the city.)
Nails scamper across hardwood floor, then a shrill yap jolts me awake. It's 6:35 a.m. Saturday morning. A tiny wet tongue scrapes my cheek. I pretend I'm sleeping, but he's relentless. Grumbling, I throw on my rain boots and take Benji – the world's tiniest, most co-dependent, outrageously adorable Yorkie – for a pee.
It's a big shift from my usual routine on Saturday, the blessed day solely dedicated to me. Usually waking at noon, I'd briefly consider laundry, then spend hours watching useless television. An eventual trip to the gym, a call to my mom, followed by a late night out: I'm a single 28-year-old girl living a responsibility-free life.
None of that is happening today. Instead, I'm test driving my first "rental dog." I threw a tennis ball for two hours, picked endless kibble off the kitchen floor, and scooped warm dog poo through frighteningly thin plastic bags.
Benji vies for my attention at all times. He howls while I'm in the shower and springs onto my laptop when I least expect it, erasing my work – the little editor.
The next day I trade the pipsqueak for the giant, diving into the other end of the dog spectrum with Luna, a bumbling, bulldozing Bouvier. At 85 pounds (38.5 kilograms), she's all fluff and flop, the canine equivalent of Mr. Snuffleupagus.
She slides into walls, pees on the lobby floor and regards smaller dogs as jazzy new playthings; she stole my heart in 10 seconds. We head to a tiny greenspace called St. Andrew's playground among the skyscrapers, where neither of my dogs makes friends: the bulldogs, the black labs, the Boston terriers, meanwhile,frolic and sniff each other.
I don't trust my test-drives, or myself, to let them off-leash. When the weekend is over, the pooches return to their owners. I'm exhausted – and heartbroken to see them go.
I've pined for a dog for nine years, ever since moving out of my parents' home for university, leaving Amigo, my family's 100-pound (45-kilogram) Boxer, behind. He and I were inseparable, and I've longed for that kind of playful, slobbery bond ever since.
But I was busy with school, then I was broke. I jumped jobs and apartments, and when I finally settled, my then-boyfriend was more of a "cat guy" (how is that even possible, right?)
But I realized I don't have to wish aimlessly for a pup any more. I've got a stable career and the skills to look after another living creature.
So, I am carpe diem-ing my quest. I've given notice on my beautiful, spacious midtown apartment, leaving my beloved roommate. I'm searching for a downtown condo to accommodate lunchtime visits with my TBD dog.
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It won't all be a walk in the park, tossing Frisbees and cuddling on the couch. Aside from the training challenges, I know there are trying financial times ahead.
I will be nearly doubling my rent, and for the first time, there will be someone other than me to spend my money on – huge sacrifices to my lifestyle and my wallet.
When I share the news, the questions are aplenty: "How will you afford it? Will you crate train? Wet, dry or raw dog food?"
And my favourite question of all: "Do you really know how much work a dog is?"