Hayden (AKA Hey, doofus/ Heddo/ Doof/ Bunny) was my biggest concern in the month leading up to the physical separation. He’s technically my third dog, but I’ve always co-owned dogs because I’m a selfish person — I never trusted myself to be a good enough owner on my own. I worried mostly about how Hayden would fare as a crate-dog, whether he would tear up his cushions or whine-yell for hours on end. Crating him during the day is necessary so that I can have peace of mind while I’m at work knowing that he isn’t trying to escape the yard or pacing in circles and driving up his own anxiety. I believe this is the best way to keep his anxiety in check (short of getting another dog, which, hell no) and I think my resistance to crating has been my own doing in anthropomorphising his existence. The fact is, a friend reminded me, he isn’t a human. He doesn’t need to be treated like a human, and this is still highly preferable to his former life as a neglected, emaciated runaway. He’s done so well this past week, so much better than I anticipated, and I’m feeling a lot of relief right now.

That said, owning a young GSD is not for the faint of heart. The day starts at 5:45am because he’s ready to go in the morning. We walk up to 10 miles every day and we also do additional training on top of that. I spend at least three of my eight free waking hours every day focused entirely on him. The stakes are a bit higher as an owner of a big, high-energy dog and I feel the responsibility to train him well since I want to have a dog I can trust and take out into public (and so I don’t have to put any qualifiers on my “Yes” when people ask, “Is he friendly?“).

Hayden is not the dog I chose to get and he is not the dog I would choose to get again. As an inherently lazy person, I firmly believe the best part about going for a hike is the fleecey pants I get to put on my tired legs after a hot shower. On the other hand, Hayden’s favorite part of the hike is coming home to play tug ‘o war. Still, at the end of the day, I’m glad to have his presence in my life and to be his human. He’s kept my momentum moving forward when all I’ve wanted to do was to stay in bed. In return, I just hope that I’m doing right by him. When I see his tired, droopy eyelids trying desperately to stay awake at the end of the day, I think I’m doing okay. We’re doing okay.

But seriously, are you an old dog yet, dude?

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