Although my family owned dogs while I was growing up and I had several friends with dogs before we got Zara, there are some things I didn’t realize or understand until I had my own dog. Or maybe I just didn’t do enough research ahead of time (though it sure felt like I did). Some of the items below apply to any type of dog, while others are specific to the vizsla breed.
1. How much the vet bills would cost.
This is a big one. I did try to research this because Chris asked me to put together a spreadsheet of how much Zara’s care would cost both upfront and on a yearly basis. However, I significantly underestimated the amount of times Zara would have to go to the vet. I think we went ten times in the first year. Granted, a few of those visits were for the puppy shots but the rest were illnesses: three ear infections, an upper respiratory infection, kennel cough, mysterious fall/winter allergies… I don’t think I’ve ever left the vet without paying more than $100. We do have pet insurance through Nationwide and it has been worth it. We’ll see if this next year is as costly but it’s nice to have the peace of mind that if something major happens, it will likely be covered through the insurance.
2. That the floor would never be clean.
I didn’t even think about this. It’s not a huge deal but if you’re really OCD, it could be a problem. We have a hardwood floor right at our main entry and in the winter especially when it seems to always be wet/muddy/snowy outside, there is always a dull finish of dirt and puppy prints on the floor. I’ve just kind of accepted that about 30 minutes after I mop, it will get dirty again. And yes, we wipe Zara’s paws on rainy/snowy days.
3. How much I would worry about her.
Okay, let me just say up front that I probably spend too much time thinking about Zara in general. But the only times I’ve been really worried about her is when she’s gotten sick. A couple weeks ago, Chris was out of town and I was home alone with Zara on a Saturday. It was snowing hard so we couldn’t go anywhere. I noticed in the morning that she had a swollen toe and it looked like something had gotten caught between her toes and the area was rubbed raw. I wasn’t too concerned about it at first. I took her hiking in the morning before it started snowing. Then she slept pretty much from 12-9pm, except getting up to throw up, eat dinner, and have diarrhea. Combined with the swollen toe, I suddenly became totally freaked out that her toe might be infected and the infection was spreading throughout her body, causing diarrhea and vomiting and lethargy… Of course, it was snowing so I couldn’t go anywhere to get any medicine or go to the vet. I felt almost sick with worry.
Finally, around 9pm that night, she got up and wanted to play tug of war and started acting like her crazy self. I think she was just very tired from hiking and a lot of activity the day before. She ended up being fine. But it’s scary when you see them in pain and they can’t tell you what’s wrong.
4. How needy she would be.
Now, I definitely knew that vizslas are velcro dogs and that they require a lot of attention and work to train and tire them out. But unless you’ve been around the breed for an extended period of time or lived with one, I think it’s hard to realize just how needy they are until you own one. Zara gets a good amount of exercise most days, but she still whines for attention a lot: especially when we are clearly doing other things: making dinner, trying to work at home, etc. But most of the time, I don’t mind the neediness too much.
5. How tolerant of the weather I would become.
My ideal temperature is 85 degrees and sunny. I am one of those people who is always cold and I don’t like winter. However, I do like being outside. Since I have an office job, I try to get outside a fair amount on the weekends. And with a dog with so much energy, staying in the house all winter is not an option. Before getting a dog, I would have never gone hiking in 20-degree weather, stood outside at the park for hour in the rain, or trudged through six inches of snow to take a walk. I’ve done all three now. This February was particularly harsh weather-wise, with a lot of snow and below-average temperatures. I knew my cold tolerance had adjusted when days with a high of 40 degrees started to feel warm!
6. That I would meet such a great community of vizsla (and dog) people.
I’ve been lucky to connect with so many fellow vizsla owners on Instagram as well as through our local vizsla Facebook page. This has resulted in playdates and hikes and lots of swapping stories and sharing tips. I’ve had friends playfully tease me that I only hang out with other vizsla owners, instead of people with other types of dogs. For me, the goal is always to exercise and tire out Zara. I’ve found that most vizsla owners share this interest, so it’s mutually beneficial to us to get our vizslas together. Plus, Zara needs playmates that can keep up with her energy and desire to play and run around for hours.
7. That I wouldn’t mind her sleeping in our bed.
Chris and I both agreed, before getting a dog, that the dog would not sleep in the bed with us. My parents let their beagle sleep with them and I was always kind of turned off by the amount of hair that covered their bedspread.
We crate-trained Zara from the start, so she didn’t have a chance to sleep with us. After a month or two, we started letting her in our bed in the early morning hours when she’d start crying in her crate. It was still winter, so we thought she was cold and felt bad. When she was about six months old, we progressed to having her sleep some full nights in bed with us. I don’t remember exactly how that happened. All summer long, she would sleep with us every two or three days and then we’d make her go in the crate on the other days.
However, once it got cold last fall (around October), Zara was ending up in our bed more and more…and we started feeling bad putting her in the crate again. She was just so cute cuddled up next to our pillows. Next thing we knew, she was in the bed two, three, four nights in row. Until we stopped putting her in the crate. Now she’s in our bed every night. Once I get in, she waits for me to lift the covers up so she can go underneath, curl up in a ball beside me and put her head on my stomach. It is so sweet. :)
As for the dog hair on the bedspread…well, it just kind of blends in. And I vacuum a lot more now. We actually did just start retraining her to the crate for when other people watch her overnight. But I prefer to have her sleep with us.