About six months ago, my husband and I became the proud human companions of a mutt named Pepper. He's a rescue dog with a bug eye who loves to cuddle. I grew up with multiple dogs, so I already had an idea of what it would be like. The one thing I failed to add in to the equation was the fact that I grew up in Schaumburg with a giant, fenced-in backyard. I live on a busy street in Wicker Park. This is not the same.
We're not sure where Pepper came from originally, but his foster home was in Elgin. While it has been an adjustment for us urban folk, this poor puppy has had to learn how to be a city mutt. I'm a great guide for suburban people trying to make it in the Windy City - see the above Schaumburg reference - but unfortunately I didn't know how to help poor Pepper get acclimated. We've learned together, and I now have some great advice to offer.
So while I'm waiting for a patent on my idea to add a human-to-dog translation app for Google Glass to be approved, I figure I'll list out some of my best tips for the next shelter puppy who finds a forever home in the big city.
There is a lot of strange shit on the ground. This is not food.
I've lived in Chicago for almost 10 years, and it wasn't until I got a dog that I realized just how incredibly dirty the city is. I have pulled items out of Pepper's mouth that I never dreamed I would have to touch. Used condoms. Giant pieces of lettuce covered in mayonnaise. Dead rats. Yes, on three separate occasions I have had to pull dead rats out of Pepper's mouth. I may be carrying the plague now.
The homeless man on the corner does NOT have treats for you.
Sure, his hand is out, and he has a giant toothless grin for you. But jumping up into his arms is a good way to inspire a psychotic rant that will end with you being kicked. Stay away from anyone who smells worse than you.
Get used to loud noises.
The first time Pepper heard the "L" train he went into full panic mode. He peed all over himself and tried to hide under a dumpster. Now he can walk right under the tracks when a train is overhead. That's the mark of a true city dog.
Dog parks are the GREATEST PLACES ON EARTH.
I never realized how magical dog parks are! Even if you don't have a dog, go hang out at the dog park. Sure, people will judge you, but the dogs won't.
Humans are weird.
Dogs bring out the crazy in otherwise relatively normal people. I was walking Pepper past a father and his two daughters, and he asked if we could stop so the little girls could pet him. He then grabbed Pepper's head and continuously kissed him until I kindly but swiftly walked away. We've been fortunate that Pepper is so friendly, but sometimes I think even he is rolling his little eyes.
And lastly, here's my PSA for the evening: if you're looking for a loving pup to take home, please please please consider adoption! There are so many amazing mutts looking for wonderful families.