Carly Sletten
April 01, 2016 9:27 am
NBC

They say that if you want to see if you and your partner are ready for kids, you should get a pet first. While I won’t go as far as to say that this is true, I will say that having a pet definitely changes the way your relationship functions. At least, that was the case with me and my boyfriend. Having a pet is a huge responsibility, and when two people are involved, there can be some, let’s just say, adjustments, that need to be made on all fronts.

I had been begging my boyfriend for a puppy pretty much since we had moved in together. Having grown up with dogs, I knew I wanted one of my very own, and I thought that if I kept asking, he might finally give in. I was totally right. Two months later, we were the proud puppy parents of a cream-colored Shiba Inu, which we named Asami.

My desire for a dog was so strong, that before we even got her, we had moved to a dog-friendly apartment in preparation. The boxes were barely unpacked before we picked up our little bundle of furry joy. That was probably our first mistake. Not only were we still getting used to a new location, new apartment, and new neighbors, but we now had a new member of the family that required a lot of attention. Needless to say, the stress of the move plus the added responsibility of potty training, walks, and vet appointments took their toll.

In the beginning, we were both so enamored with her that we it felt like we had the best, most perfect puppy in the world. She could do no wrong in our eyes! Until she did. I mean, if pets were easy, I wouldn’t have written this article. We quickly realized that this was going to be harder than we thought, and we recognized the need to make some major adjustments to our lifestyle. While I don’t regret getting her (I love Asami so, so much), we had to learn pretty quickly. 

The first thing we learned as pet parents was that we could no longer do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. We had to learn how to juggle taking care of our new little furball around work, school, the gym, and our social lives. Gone were the impulsive road trips or the marathon nights out on the town. When you have a pet, someone has to be home to not only to pay attention to her, but to take care of letting her out and feeding her.

After countless discussions around who gets to go out with friends on Saturday night and who should swing by home first after work, we figured out a nifty compromising system that works great for us. We can now coordinate schedules like a couple of bosses. The key to that compromise is an equal division of work, which if you think about it, is a skill all couples can work on. If I take Asami to the vet, my boyfriend takes her on her walks that day, and so on. It’s not always an exact split, but we definitely have learned how to appreciate what the other does.

Getting a pet also changes the distribution of affection in a relationship. All of a sudden what used to be two is now three, and that means that time and affections need to be adjusted accordingly. Sometimes my boyfriend comes home and gives her a kiss before me. That’s just life, and I don’t mind. Spending time cuddling on the couch watching Netflix now means that there is a 23 pound dog cuddled right smack dab in between. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Finally, getting a pet means that no matter what, my boyfriend and I have one, solid thing in common, and we feel stronger and more united because of that. Our dog is our guiding light. She is the thing that brings us back to reality when we are in the midst of a stressful week at work, or if we are simply getting on each others nerves. We’ve learned that while life might not be easy, we know we can come together and keep an animal happy and alive, which must mean we are doing something right!

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