Many people have asked us – how do two fully employed, career-oriented people take care of a puppy in the middle of Zurich city?
In Spring this year, we adopted a little puppy that we named ‘Cookie’. Since then, she has grown to be a full member of the family and we just couldn’t imagine life without her anymore.
I’d always wanted a dog, ever since I was little; but the maximum I could convince my parents of were a tortoise, a rabbit and two guinea pigs. Basically anything that was either not furry or able to sleep in the garage. The dream stuck with me though, and after settling in to life in Zurich, I started bugging my fiancé with my idea of adopting a puppy.
Since we’re talking about two fully employed people living in the middle of a city, there were obviously lots of things to consider, issues to foresee, questions to ask yourself beforehand. Many of our friends said they wanted a dog, but that they were saving it for when they live on a farm in the countryside or something (as if that would happen for many of us). And while I don’t believe dogs can only be happy when they can roam free like Pocahontas, I also want my dog to be happy, get enough attention, play outside, hunt rabbits… So, in fact it was neither an easy decision nor a quick one.
In the fall of last year, my fiancé decided to make a career change and start looking for new opportunities. Just before Christmas, he received a great job offer (proud of you, honey) and quit his old job. In Switzerland, you need to hand in your resignation 3 months in advance, so the earliest he could have started at his new employer was March. He decided to start in April and take one month off between the two jobs. As a side note – we are aware that we are very fortunate to be able to take a full month off without any income. It is not a given. However, if possible, I would recommend it to anyone switching employers. It is a rare opportunity and not only a chance to take time for yourself, travel, enjoy your time off, but also a chance to mentally prepare for the new challenges lying ahead. It might just give you the energy to reach even higher. If a full month or even two are not in it for you, many employers are willing to negotiate on letting you leave a bit early.
Back to the topic, of course I saw this situation as the perfect opportunity to ease a little puppy into our lives. While grown dogs can eventually stay at home for a few hours, puppies definitely can not. And while some people might do it differently, I really did not want to drop my puppy at a dog nursery two days after picking it up.
Over Christmas, I convinced my fiancé that we would start looking for breeders. We visited three over the weekends in Spring, after having decided on the breed we wanted.
It’s important to pick a breed not only because you think it looks cute, but first and foremost because of its character and personality type. Think about how much you can actually walk your dog. How large is it, how much space does it need? Do you want a dog that’s calm and social, or are you looking for a watch dog that can sleep outside?
We picked the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel because it’s a very social breed, great with kids (one day), not aggressive, eager to please and easy to train, and a breed that is happy to chill on the couch but active enough to go hiking in the Swiss mountains with us. Oh, and it’s the perfect size – it fits the airplane cabin requirements so we can take her with us (at least within Europe), but it’s also not tiny and looks like a rat.
We chose Cookie from one of the breeders we visited and fell in love instantly. She was a tiny worm when we first met her, and we decided to drive the distance (5 hours one way!) three times before finally bringing her home. On her way back to Zurich, 13 weeks old, she was wrapped in a blanket on my lap, and she seemed quite content. She hadn’t been outside that much, so she was a bit suspicious when we stopped by the road to give her a pee break every hour.
Settling in in Zurich was quite the adjustment (I don’t think she’d ever seen cars before), especially because we immediately started potty training so that she wouldn’t get too attached to her puppy pads. Here, the good preparation paid off, and especially the fact that Kjell could stay home with her for five full weeks.
During the first two weeks, he tried to get her clean, taking her outside to pee every hour. She quickly adjusted to the routine. Then, for the remaining three weeks, he started to leave her alone for twenty minutes, then an hour, then two. Sometimes he would just pretend to leave her, meaning he’d go to another room and close the door.
After those five intensive weeks, she was a changed dog! She already knew her way around the neighborhood, had found her favorite parks, seemed completely at ease at home and had established a self-confidence, partly because we took her to a puppy play group on Sundays.
Still, we were anxious before the first day when we both went to work for the first time.
During the first week, we managed not to schedule too many meetings to stay flexible, just in case something happened. We set up a video camera so we could watch her at work – basically we just used an old iPhone, a tripod, and the “manything” app.
Our routine was simple. One of us would come home during the lunch break (I work about 10min driving distance from home when I’m not at a client’s site, Kjell 10min walking distance), meaning she was home alone for 3.5 hours. Then, in the afternoon, there was another quick visit at 4pm. We tried to be home at least around 6-7pm.
These are not our usual working hours, and I especially need to be very flexible when it comes to traveling, but we both communicated the situation openly with our employers well in advance, and fortunately, they understood. One of the reasons we are able to do this was the fact that we don’t commute so far. On the other hand, we had hoped that one of us might be able to take her to work, but we couldn’t.
Now that time has passed and she’s 11 months old, we only come home during lunch. We don’t want to leave her alone for longer than 6 hours, which would actually be illegal in Switzerland. We could give her to a dog sitter, but we see (via the camera that we still use) that she basically sleeps all day when we’re working, she doesn’t seem like she’s under-challenged, and leaving them with someone else where there’s many dogs is also always somewhat risky.
We walk her three times a day and try to give her as much attention as possible whenever we’re home. Also, we take her everywhere we can – restaurants, the city, friends’ places, weekends away, you name it. That way, she is pretty used to all noises and situations and behaves well (we also took her to dog school).
So, is adopting a dog possible when you’re alone and working long hours with quite a bit of traveling involved? Probably not.
Is it possible as a couple when both work? Yes, with good preparation!
Is it easy? Absolutely not. It’s a big decision to be taken consciously, and it will definitely change your life. Having an animal so dependent on you and your care is a huge responsibility. But – it’s absolutely worth it.
Do you have a dog and work? How do you take care of it? I’d love to hear some of your stories.
For more of Cookie, follow her on Instagram: @cookie.cav