Multipotentiality and Puppies (or um… Children)
Photo courtesy of Christopher Macsurak.

Multipotentiality and Puppies (or um… Children)

Written by Emilie

Topics: Life

I just got back from having tea with my friend at Powells. She’s a dog trainer, and she was answering some of my puppy questions.

(For those who are confused, in my email last week, I mentioned that I was having problems with my landlord over getting a puppy. We’re still in negotiation, but it looks like we’ll be compromising on a slightly older/housebroken dog. He’ll be 4-5 months old, which is still darn cute.)

Anyway, it’s becoming abundantly clear to me that while I may be a keen observer of the human condition, dog psychology is a very different matter. For instance, people assume that when they leave the house and their dog chews something up, it’s because the dog is mad at them. In reality, it’s usually that the dog is feeling some separation anxiety, and so they chew on something that smells like their owner for comfort.

It’s becoming clear to me just how much I have to learn. I really want to be a good mom– provide enough security and routine, while still exposing the little guy to unexpected activities, noises, and socialize him to a wide range of humans and other dogs.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is how getting a dog will affect my freedom as a multipotentialite. Clearly, there are some new activities that I won’t be able to try. I won’t be able to take that architecture class, for example, since it’s four hours long. However, I can probably still do Bollywood and yoga classes, since they’re only an hour each. But this is sort of my own version of the “my kids are preventing me from exploring my interests” conundrum (on a much smaller level, obviously).

I’m wondering if life responsibilities are necessarily obstacles to your multipotentiality.

Having kids, getting a house, adopting a puppy– do these things invariably hold you back from pursuing your passions? Is there another way to look at them, so that you don’t become resentful?

I also know that we look for justifications not to pursue our dreams wherever we can. It’s a human response to fear. Some of these limitations are real, but most are exaggerated. I don’t want to subconsciously use the puppy as an excuse for not pursuing my interests. There’s usually a way to make things work… right?

I guess what I’m looking for is advice.

What tips do you have for integrating those “real world responsibilities” in with your multipotentialite lifestyle?

Is it possible that you could even view them, not as limitations, but as vehicles through which to further explore your multipotentiality? Hm.


  1. Matthew says:

    As someone who has a specialized 8-5 job (which no longer corresponds to any interest; changing careers; long story), who has a lot of varied interests outside of work, and who had a dog (at an apartment), I can tell you it’s a lot of fun. And by fun, I mean work. She was a good dog, but work started requiring me to travel more and more. I now travel nearly weekly. Back to the dog, I had to give her away. Thankfully, it was to my mother’s boyfriend’s kids, so I get to see her now and then.

    Basically, my need to make a living (and the difficulties of having a dog in a small apartment) made it necessary to give her up. Once I have a house, a family of my own, and my own yard, I’ll revisit the issue. You can’t ignore reality, but you may be able to negotiate a bit.

    • Emilie says:

      Eek well I guess I’m very lucky that I work from home (or at nearby coffee shops). It’s actually the reason I waited till now to consider a dog. Up until recently, I was a student and I also didn’t know where I’d end up settling. I was waiting till my life could accommodate a dog, and I think I’m finally here.

  2. Patty Tanji says:

    Oh, great questions! I’m responding from 30,000 feet after having experienced a huge ‘real world responsibility’ as in my daughter’s gymnastic meet way out of town! It was indeed a pleasure to discover the geography of the area while she was away doing her team stuff. I ran, enjoyed the shoreline, a museum, Salvadore Dali, to be specific as well as doing ‘mom’ duty in the gym. And, met some really cool people. It all was so in line with my multipotential existence….they live on boats here! You will be amazed how you adapt your new responsibilities of doggy parenthood to your own rhythm. I think you are experiencing much of my anxiety as a new parenthood I blogged about here…. Best of luck on this new journey. I can’t wait to rediscover the joy of dog ownership in your posts. (I have a beagle!)

    • Emilie says:

      That’s so great, Patty! You made me think of something my friend said a few weeks ago. She said that her mom always seemed to enjoy the “cultural adventures” she’d take the kids on, more than the kids themselves. Like going to museums, plays, etc. I could see myself being that kind of mom (or even dog owner). Having kids seems like a good excuse to get back in touch with your imagination and do awesome stuff like play magical games and colour!

  3. Julia says:

    I find that the only hinderance is perspective. If I want to take a class, I may not be able to drive 3 hours to get there, unless I had x, y and z planned out. I also may need to look at costs of the things I want to do. There are limits, but, I find that if I get creative enough, there is a solution.

    I have two kids who are school age, that attend school 6 hours a day. This puts me with limitations on time, as well as financially (it’s not cheap to raise kids!). So, if I want to take a class on whatever is interesting me at the moment, I can’t always drive to a college or classroom. I don’t always have the money to do that either. So, I find that online workshops work well, and sometimes I need to suck it up and just read the book/blog on that topic.

    If my perspective is that I’m limited, then I am. If my perspective is that I have choices, then I have freedom. You’ll figure out your boundaries, but also find that you have limitless choices within them. You have the ability to be as creative as you can get with your multi potentiality. Good luck with your new adventure!

    • Holli says:

      I want to +1 this comment.

      I too have kids (both under 5), and at first in my parenting journey, I looked at the needs I had to meet as stifling at times. It took me a year to shift perspective and see my responsibilities as joys to juggle with everything else.

      My kids have fueled my multipotentiality in food and creating recipes. I wouldn’t be on the crazy Gluten-free or vegetable focused path I am today without them. They are the ultimate motivators and promptly provide feedback whether I ask or not!

      So, props to you, Emilie for asking how you can enjoy the new one in your life while still being and doing what you want. I bet the new pup will even inspire your posts, and help you discover things you wouldn’t otherwise:)

      • Emilie says:

        Awesome Holli. And by the way, now that I’m getting some health stuff resolved and will be broadening my diet a bit, I will definitely be hitting you up for some recipes. SO excited!

        Oh and you can bet I’ll be posting a lot about the little guy when he arrives! Actually feel free to tell me to tone it down if I ever go overboard. Heheh.

    • Emilie says:

      “If I get creative enough, there is a solution.”

      I should hang this on my wall.

      Thanks Julia! You’re so right.

  4. Adam Lasky says:

    Great post Emilie.

    Getting married is a huge responsibility that caused me to shift my multipotentialite lifestyle. There are a lot of limitations on freedom to pursue interests. For example, I really love to travel. I’ve wanted to be a travel writer/adventurer ever since I spent 6 weeks in Sudan/Kenya one summer. Getting married put a damper on our traveling, since it’s twice as expensive and twice as difficult to coordinate work schedules. However, as you suggested, these obstacles can be seen as challenges to overcome. So, I have to get creative with the way I travel now. It’s kind of fun to travel hack, something I would never consider doing if this challenge was never introduced.

    The way I see it, there is always a reason to not do something. I either choose to pursue something or not. Circumstances do not define me or what I do.

    I decided to start writing again. But with my job I find it hard to write and stay involved with an online community (like Puttylike). But I don’t make excuses for not writing anymore (I did for 5 years). I get up earlier, go to bed later, stop Facebooking. I get rid of the silly distractions. I’m not suggesting a dog is a silly distraction (I absolutely adore dogs but can’t have one due to apartment rules), but I know that you will find a way to make whatever needs to happen, happen.

    Thanks so much Emilie for challenging me again and again!

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Adam,

      I’m a big fan of travel hacking as well. And you’re right, it’s all about seeing these things as fun challenges and asserting your ability to make choices. That’s actually quite empowering.

      Thank you!

  5. Manal says:

    Oh, I definitely need to hear the advice on this!
    I, unfortunately, always feel that there are so many things I can’t do w 4 young ones in tow. Its hard enough going to the grocery store, let alone travel and all the other things.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Manal,

      Have you read Refuse to Choose? I wonder what you’d think of Barbara’s recommendations for parents in this stuation. I think they’re good, but they could be more complete. Maybe you should come up with some more comprehensive solutions and write a guide! :)

  6. Seth Leonard says:

    Take the architecture class. Your dog can go more than 4 hours without you. If not, train them to use a porch potty ( If it’s because of separation anxiety, there are ways to work on that, too.

    Dogs are very smart, very resilient. Ours (from a shelter, bounced around a couple homes before us) does not get separation anxiety and can hold his bladder for 8-10 hours easy. But he gets sick and cars and gets anxious around other dogs. We’ve come close to solving the dog issue with a lot of work, but the car one is still an issue.

    In short, your dog will be different than everyone else’s. And you’ll be able to work with them (with dedication) to having them fit in your life. They’ll adjust. And you’ll have to adjust to them, too.

    You’ll just end up adding dog training to your long list of interests, like we did.

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks for the advice Seth! This is good to remember/know. I’m so afraid of screwing up that I want to do everything perfectly, but you reminded me that this will be a learning process for us both, and that that’s ok. Also, we do have a doggie door and gated yard, so he’ll be able to take care of himself once he’s old enough to figure out how that thing works (and also be trusted in the yard).

  7. jennifer says:

    A 4-5 month old dog is still extremely young and it’s unlikely for a dog that age to be housebroken, unless you’re getting a female (females tend to become housebroken a lot faster than males for some reason). Just a warning, not a deterrent :-) (it took my dog a year and a half to be fully housebroken)

    I will say this thou, having a dog can make it extremely hard to pursue your interests. Not because the dog stands in your way, but because of the extreme guilt you’ll feel leaving the dog alone or watching your dog sit there mopping because he wants to play and you need to work. It really tugs at your heart strings. It breaks my damn heart every night when I get home after 10+ hours commuting and working at my day job, and all I want to do is hug my dog and then get back to work on my business, but all he wants to do is play and have fun and he gives me the saddest eyes ever when I choose to sit at my computer and work rather than play with him. It depresses me.

    But since you don’t have a day job, you should be OK because you’ll be around a lot more than I am.

    Like the people who commented above me said, dogs adjust. Dogs learn routines and get good at them and they are OK. They are resilient and they love unconditionally, so on the occasion you do have to leave your dog for 4 hours to go take a architecture class, he will survive and be ready to lick your face when you get home.

    Puppies can hold their urine for 1 hour for every month old they are… so at 5 months your dog can go 5 hours (as long as he’s contained in a play pen or crate or something; if he’s running around your place loose, prepare for clean up duty when you get home).

    Good luck!! I love my Weiland more than anything in the entire world and I’d give up pursuing all my interests in a heartbeat just to see a smile on his little Poodle face.

    • Emilie says:

      Aww yeah, I hear you. I know the guilt would kill me, and I’ll just be worried about the little guy when I’m out. He’ll be in his crate for the first several months, when I’m not home. But after he can be trusted more, he’ll get access to the doggie door and yard, not to mention he’ll get to hang out with my roommate’s Boston Terrier, Troll (and possibly my roommates if they’re home). So he won’t be totally alone, even when I’m not there. But I do think I’ll probably be a major homebody for the first several months while he’s in his crate.

      Thanks for the tips Jen!

  8. Claire says:

    Hey Emilie,

    Wow a dog! For me a dog (or child!)would be a huge challenge, feeling like it’s an either/or decision – go to architecture class or stay home and look after him! There are some good comments above, but I guess I would ask (perhaps after a certain period of time) – do any of my friends care for and love my dog in the way that I do? Would any of them like to look after him while I go to my architecture class? One of my friends does this whenever he goes out of town. If one of your buddies loves dogs too, but is not able to keep one themselves, perhaps this is a possible solution for both of you?

    Enjoyed the email about the landlord and your response too!


    • Emilie says:

      Hey Claire,

      I just so happen to have a friend who’s a dog trainer. She also boards dogs, if I ever need to leave town for a couple days. And I have other friends who live closer by (not to mention a couple roommates right here), so yes, you’re absolutely right. Portland is a super dog-friendly city. Everyone has them and/or loves them. I’m sure I’ll be able to find someone to help me out.

      It’s good to hear from you!

  9. Jessica says:

    I would say just be sure to match your dog to your lifestyle. It’s tempting to go for the cutest face, but do a bit of research first to rule out breeds that don’t fit for you personally. For instance, if you’re not someone who can or wants to exercise 3 times per day, don’t get a dalmation. If you are super active and want your dog to be part of that, don’t get a bulldog. If you don’t want to put a lot of work into overcoming possessiveness, don’t get a chihuahua. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time and energy thinking up puzzles/exercises to work your dog’s excess brain energy, don’t get a working dog. These are generalizations, but you get the idea. You do not want to learn the hard way, like I did! You and your dog will both be happier if you consider fit first.

    Otherwise, as other commenters have noted, your dog will adapt to your routine and your lifestyle. And good, consistant training/socializing up front can cure a lot of common issues that crop up, like seperation anxiety.

    Good luck! Like people say about kids, having pets totally enriches your life. Sometimes it is hard, but it is so, so worth it.

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I am a multipotentialite with 3 dogs and 2 cats. Granted, I couldn’t have quite as many pets if I didn’t have a supportive husband who doesn’t mind watching them while I’m off exploring, but I did have 1 dog and 2 cats pre-husband, and never felt like I missed out on things because of them. :)

    • Emilie says:

      3 dogs and 2 cats– that’s awesome and inspiring!

      Oh and I’ve already picked out a breed. I’m getting a miniature schnauzer. I grew up with a schnauzer and I’m very comfortable with their temperament. I’ve always connected well with those mustache-sporting terriers. :)

  10. Janet says:

    Hi! Love your blog, thanks for sharing with us! I’m sorry to be so long winded, but if you don’t mind I’ll add my two cents. I think the other comments here have been great.

    It took us a lot longer than 4 months to train our dogs (we have 4, one for each person in my household, basically.) One of them was a stray and we’ve never successfully, fully house trained him. He was probably 3 years old or so when he came to us. We have a dog door (live in a house) so it’s easier for them to go when they need, but that had little to do with actually training them to go outside to do their business. It seems to depend on the breed of dog too – our dachshunds took wayyy longer to house train and I’m guessing this is because of their stubborn nature – I’ve heard similar things from other dachshund owners. Our pomeranians are much more interested in doing what they’re told, but being long haired dogs, they require a lot of upkeep – though I wouldn’t trade them for anything. In the summer they get “puppy cuts” which make them look like cuddly teddy bears, so that helps with the hair issue.

    I’m not trying to give a horror story here, but last October, after noticing he seemed to be in a lot of pain and wasn’t moving around much, one of our poms (age 8) had been diagnosed with cancer. That was a very expensive (almost $3k) and time consuming situation. I have to thank the blogosphere for being there – support groups and people I’ll never meet had so much helpful advice. My husband and I were not about to put him down as it was a slow growing cancer and in one of his hind legs – he ended up losing the leg. For the first few weeks after his surgery, we were with him 24/7, taking turns feeding him, medicating him, and making sure he was ok. I literally sprouted a bunch of gray hairs on top of my head when that happened – they really are like our children. But, he’s healed now and has more energy than ever, and can even run as fast (if not faster) than he used to, and I’m so glad we could be there for him. Every time he runs up to me now, bouncy and happy, I feel like he is saying, “Thank you for my life!”

    So, don’t just think about the training time, think about the amount of time you’ll spend cleaning up after the dog and potential health issues. You may have already thought about all this. Cleaning is not just for potty accidents but the hair and odor issue. Some breeds (like hounds) are more oily (smelly) than others (like snow dogs which produce less body oils). When we have to go out of town, we board them if there aren’t family members willing to watch them for a few days. “Single child” dogs do get lonelier (I think) than when you have more than one – they’re pack animals and do best when they have daily interaction with someone, either another dog or with you. The saddest thing I’ve seen is when people treat their pet as furniture, and, past feeding and letting them out, don’t really play with them. That said, if you want to take a 4 hr long class, do it! Your dog will learn to hold her bladder. She’ll be happy to sit with you while you work or watch tv, but also wants to be walked and played with. And while you’re away, make sure she has toys to keep her busy!

    Also, consider activities you might like to do *with* your dog. Having one opens up possibilities IMO, not closes them off.

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Janet,

      These are all things I’ve considered. I know that getting a dog (much like entering a relationship) will inevitably entail heartbreak. Hopefully that won’t happen for a while though. I’m really sorry to hear about your dog! Those stories are heartbreaking.

      I grew up with a schnauzer so I sort of know the drill re: grooming. They don’t shed, so that’s a big plus. And my breeder and I will both be using the “error free house training system,” though of course I’m not expecting it to truly be 100% “error free.” But a crate will help a lot. Plus as I mentioned in an earlier comment, once he’s old enough, he’ll get to use the doggy door and hang out downstairs with my roommate’s dog. Socialization is a big concern for me too. I plan on introducing him to a wide range of other dogs and humans.

      Thanks for all the great suggestions!

  11. Hello! It’s been ages since I’ve been here and I think that is probably a very telling way to start this response. Yes, I find that having kids has affected my ability to do all of the things I want to do. Not that I regret having them at all – it has just made me be more creative in the way I do things. An example would be that I’m trying to learn Italian by using home based methods instead of attending a class, which I might have done earlier. The key seems to be to find different solutions to do the things I really want to do with my life yet ensure that I am a good parent too – I chose to have my children so I owe it to them to make sure that they are at the forefront of my decision making and not an after thought. Lots of compromise, choosing some easier things I want to do now, and realising that perhaps some of my travel ambitions might have to wait a while.

    On the plus side, sharing the world with small children and seeing it afresh through their eyes is the best way I know of reinvigorating my urge to really live an authentic life as a scanner. So, I may well be in touch soon, about making a start on that!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Elizabeth, it’s good to see you!

      Everything you’re saying makes a lot of sense. I think you’re also right though, that when you have kids, you may get to revisit your childlike self in a way, which could be pretty great!

      Don’t be a stranger. :)

  12. Ann-Sofi says:

    I guess most is covered by previous comments, just want to confirm what you probably already decided on. I don´t have much experience from dogs but from other “responsibilities” as children, cats,horses, houses and gardens… when looking from the outside it´s so easy only to see the limitations since you don´t experience what it GIVES. An excample: My husband resisted us having children for a very long time, since he was so afraid of the hard work & limitations he saw other parents suffering from. These days he keeps telling me, if he had known this was what it was like to have children he would have wanted it much earlier. We discussed just the other day that most of the things you think you will miss as a “child free” person (like maybe easily going to parties or concerts etc. ) just don´t seem very important any more, that the “sacrifices” you do for your child(or dog) is so much compensated from all the love and fun and pride you´ll experience together with them. I´m totally convinced your dog will add up to your life quality, making sure you get out to play every day, being your loving companion whatever you´re up to – and thereby support and inspire you in your multipotentional lifestyle, but maybe I wouldn´t plan for bigger assignements like that architecture class the first 6 months or so – just to give the two of you a stressfree start in your relationship;)

    Wish you good luck! /Ann-Sofi

    ps. I often see people travelling with dogs, or even bringing them to work. My ex neighbour, who is a carpenter working on his own, always brought his dog in his car when he went to work at different places, and I think this made his days much more pleasant:)

  13. Denise says:

    Hmm, this is a tough one.. you know I need the same advice having 2 kiddos myself.

    But, what I do try to do is wake up early and do something for me first before the kids wake up. Anything creative or just something I am interested in or passionate about.

    Because when you have kids, it can feel like you’re always sacrificing what you want to do for what they want to do, so entertaining my own interests first thing puts me in a good mood.

    And anyways, the best thing you can do for the people you love is take care of you, right? Happy mom, happy kids.. or puppies :)

    • Emilie says:

      Absolutely! Thanks for the reminder, Denise. I’m feeling much better about my decision (as per today’s Puttylike email. :)

    • Kimberly says:

      Hi Denise! Just wanted to say I really like your suggestion and perspective on this one. I don’t have kids yet but I’m already trying to set up some good multipotentialite-friendly lifestyle habits now (like waking up very early to write), so that it’s an easier transition when my husband and I have little ones.

  14. Kirsten says:

    As a multipotentialite with two dogs, one of which is still very much an energetic puppy, I’ll admit it can be a challenge on some days. I’ve started selectively dropping off the younger at doggy day care when I know I’ll be out of the house for a while or especially busy. And the first thing I did when I moved was find someone I trusted to keep them when I had to travel.

    That said, the dogs provide an entry into a whole new world of interesting sports – rally, agility, flyball, tracking… the list goes on. And there’s nothing better than starting the morning by watching them romp, or taking an afternoon walk to break and recharge from whatever I’ve been working on. I wouldn’t give them up for anything, and I’m specifically training them to come with me in the life I’m crafting for myself.

    • Emilie says:

      Aww I’ve gotta say, it’s really cool to hear about your experience, Kirsten. I definitely think little Grendel’s going to be a bit of a business sidekick. He can help me celebrate my small wins. :)


  15. Kimberly says:

    Hi Emilie!

    You already know yourself and your rhythms well, so I’m sure you’ll find a creative way to make room in your life for a puppy without necessarily dropping other projects. Also, remember that you don’t have to have everything figured out now, either — you’ll experiment, just like any first-time mom does. What matters is that you’re *already* disciplined, mindful, self-aware, loving towards yourself, and devoted to this puppy that you haven’t even got your hands on yet. All of this together tells me that you’ll be a great dog mom.

    I’m a therapist and I’ve learned that parents who read all the parenting books and blogs end up being good parents…not because they’ve read all the research, but because they’re the *type* of people who will stop at nothing to improve as individuals and as parents. I see this quality in you. You’ll do great! :)

    • Emilie says:

      Kimberly, your comment has induced big smiles. Thank you!

      And you’re absolutely right about having the time to find my rhythm. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  16. Maria says:

    I have had many dogs (and cats). I even had 2 dogs and one cat I moved with me to Hawaii for a year, at the time going through quarantine.

    I don’t really see them as a burden because the benefits are so great. They all have beautiful spirits just like we do and so they remind of our beautiful spirits just by being with them. Animals live in the present. They see the good in us even when we don’t or the world is unkind. They are wonderful for maintaining perspective.

    I have trained many animals. Have a set schedule and using praise works wonder. I would reward our dogs with a cookie for using the outdoor bathroom, and they learned very quickly.

    I always treated my animals like another person, which means honoring them; each is different with a different personality and needs. I have always found that by honoring their individuality my pets felt comfortable and relaxed with me. They felt seen and therefore were less fearful and I did not have to worry about acting out.

    I made a point of having 2 of each because they could then be companions for each other and that eliminated loneliness problems.That may be too much right now, particularly for your first pet but it may be an option in the future.

    Personally the benefits have outweighed the costs for me and I hope that you find the same is true for you.

    • Emilie says:

      Beautifully put, Maria. Thank you! Also, after reading through all these comments and reflecting on things over the last few days, I’m feeling much more confident with my decision to get a puppy. I cannot WAIT to meet the little guy!

  17. chitra says:

    I have two kids under the age of six,that I love more than anything in the world. I’m not going to lie: there have been times that I have felt so frustrated because I couldn’t attend a course, or work on a project due to life responsibilities.
    Having always prided myself in being somewhat of a ‘free spirit’ before having kids, I have had to seriously rethink how I organize my time in order to still pursue a variety of interests.

    Like many other people that have posted here, I wake up way earlier in the morning to do stuff before the kids wake up, which is a great energy booster believe it or not.

    I must point out here that my kids are my biggest inspiration, and have prompted me to do things that I never would have done otherwise, from impromptu painting sessions in the park to trampolining contests.

    Most of the things that I am doing now have organically evolved from my activities with the kids. An example: because of the many afternoons I spent at the library with them, I discovered a love of story telling, and am now writing and illustrating a book.
    I have also rediscovered a lot of old interests through them too. When my daughter started dance classes, I started dancing again too. And I am always up for water-fights and climbing trees.

    Basically,it all works out in the end because we have such a lot to learn from each other. Have fun with your puppy!

  18. Jay Piltser says:

    I was in exactly the same position a few years ago, before I adopted a tiny cute lab border collie rescue.

    My one piece of advice, get a smaller dog if you can or one not bread for work and stamina. This will maximize the chances that you will be able to spend less time at home. Also, consider positive crate training early. (the goal being small room, not crate long term)

    These are my favorite books on understanding dogs:

    The Culture Clash: A Revolutionary New Way to Understanding the Relationship Between Humans and Domestic Dogs by Jean Donaldson

    Don’t Shoot the Dog: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor

    If you need other resources, go here:

    Kendra is great at both getting me out into the woods and talking to people, so yeah, it can expand your experience.

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