Talking to New Pet Parents

Just like with new human parents, new pet parents have a lot to learn about their new young one.

As both a human dad and a pet parent, there were, and I guess still are, times when I felt that everyone I met walking around San Francisco was the “expert” on human kid care, dog care or sometimes both. When the triplets were young, Virginia worked every Sunday (she claimed it was to catch up on things but I suspect it was at least as much to escape things) so I would spend every Sunday with the triplets. We would go to the zoo, the park – frankly anywhere because I hated being stuck in the house with them.  Everywhere we went, someone would give me advice. I never realized how many people in San Francisco had triplets and were comfortable telling me what to do with them, or what I was doing wrong with them or, once again, both. That experience has stayed with me and I really try not to come off as an “expert” on pet care issues (though frankly after 17 years of running an overnight and day care facility for dogs and cats I do think I know a thing or two).

Just last night I went outside my home in Noe Valley and saw a woman walking a 10- week-old English Staffordshire puppy down the sidewalk. I casually asked if the puppy had completed its puppy series of shots (knowing full well that it hadn’t) and was stunned to hear “yes.” I pushed a bit harder: “are you sure at 10 weeks your puppy has completed all its shots and should be walking around the City?” I was then told that the puppy had received one round of vaccines at the breeder and was scheduled to go to the veterinarian at the end of the week.  The new pet parent asked why it mattered. I gently explained the reason for the puppy series of shots and why her 10-week-old puppy with only a single round of vaccines was probably not completely protected.  What I really wanted to say was, “Get that puppy off the sidewalk and carry it home!”

This conversation continued with her acknowledging that she had heard of parvo and then asking me “what parvo looked like so she could avoid it at the park.” I again bit my tongue and suggested that the puppy should not be going to a dog park yet to which she replied ,“But I’m taking him to puppy socialization classes, isn’t that just like going to the dog park?” I think it was only after explaining that the puppy socialization class probably required all the dogs to be vaccinated (as much as possible at their young age) and disinfected the floor, that the difference between the two environments slowly sunk into the new pet parent’s head.

So where did this leave me? First, it once again made me think that maybe there are some people who just shouldn’t be parents (of humans or pets), but that sounds too harsh. Second, it made me realize that someone (maybe breeders, veterinarians, adoption centers) really needs to help educate new pet parents on the dos and don’ts of early pet parenting. Third, and most importantly, it reminded me to bite my tongue lightly when speaking with new parents as I wish other parents had treated me.

Thanks for reading!