Today is the 4th day of the A to Z challenge, and I’ve decided to write on a tip I’ve used as a first time dog owner. It’s not something complicated, but I find it incredibly useful. And that is keeping a daily diary.
Yep, D is for Diary! This wasn’t something we started intentionally, in fact, it was quite organic. We just decided to jot down a few notes on a google doc to record QQ’s weight on the day we picked him up, and we continued to do so for the next few days, and it just naturally became a habit. We used one googledoc for Nov 2013-Dec 2014, and we started another one in 2015. We like to use googledoc because both of us can edit it whenever we want. Also, a quick “search” brings up any date or term. For example, a search of “bath” will show me the last time QQ had a bath. It’s not a lengthy diary record by any chance, just a few lines each day. Mostly just the weight, the places we took him to, if we fed him anything new, the days we applied his tick/flea/heartworm preventives. Here’s a screenshot of what a few days on the diary look like. This is five days from last February.
As you can see, we don’t write a lot. And what we do write, we write quickly, and it’s filled with spelling and grammar errors. It doesn’t take us more than a couple of minutes each day. But after a year or so, I realized how helpful keeping a daily diary is and I want to share that with all first time dog owners. We record QQ and Chyler’s weight daily. This might be borderline obsessive, but it helps to track how QQ grows. When we adopted Chyler, it also helped us to see that she actually was likely underweight when we first adopted her. Her weight increased from 6 lbs to 8 lbs. When their weight began to plateau, we knew that they likely reached optimal weight, in this way we could watch and see if they start losing weight or gaining weight for any reason. For example, Chyler hit 9 lbs for a while and I don’t think it’s healthy for her to weigh so much for her size, so I watched her treats (I was actually feeding her the same amount of treats as QQ even though she weighs half his size, so it was mostly my fault), and she quickly went down to 8 lbs. We try to bath the doggies only once a month because any more could strip their skin of natural oils. Recording makes it easy for us to check, if they start looking dirty if it’s time for a bath. We also record the day we feed them/apply preventives, and we should do that once a month too. We do set a calendar reminder, but it’s nice to have a record for refer to. We record all medications we feed the dogs here for easy reference. We also record any new food item introduced. In this way, if they happened to have diarrhea or throws up, we can check back to see if it might be anything new we fed that might have caused it. We also record any reaction to food. For example, a search of “peanut butter” brings up a record on Nov 14th ‘ 13 that QQ’s poop was exceptionally soft after we gave him a kong filled with peanut butter. (TMI, anyone?) We refrained from filling the kong with peanut butter since, and only give him peanut butter sporadically. We record any incidents that happened in the day. This is especially useful for training purposes. such as house-training. For example, I can now check back and see the last time QQ had an accident at home was May 2014. So he has been accident free for almost a year! When we were house training QQ, the diary is especially helpful because we will record the times we took him out. It allowed us to see what timing works, especially at night. We record training successes and failures, such as above on Valentine’s Day of last year, we tried leaving QQ alone in an XPen while we went for a sushi dinner. He did well, but he almost climbed out of the XPen when we came home and he was so excited to see us. It might be surprising, but although we only jot down two lines recording the incident, when I read those two lines, I actually can remember what happened. Short notes like this trigger your memory, so you don’t really need to write detailed descriptions of every incident. We also record all the tricks he learnt, and any place he went to. This turned out helpful recently when I suddenly developed a rash on my arm. I had no idea what it could be. I went to the doctor, and he asked if I’ve been hiking recently. I checked the doggie diary, and we took the dogs hiking once 10 days ago, and a quick check online showed that the place could have poison oak. Apparently it is possible for people to only see the effects of poison oak after 10 days! A side benefit of keeping a doggie diary is that it also makes you keep a diary in a way. For example, the husband and I was talking about how we should celebrate his birthday this year. He asked me how did we celebrate it last year, and for the life of us, we couldn’t remember. Then we decided to check the doggies’ diary. We didn’t exactly write how we celebrate his birthday, but in the entry for that day, I wrote that I brought QQ to Cheesecake Factory to pick up the husband’s birthday cake. And that triggered our memory that we actually just had a personal celebration at home – I cooked dinner, and we had cake from Cheesecake Factory afterwards. And best of all, the diary is a record of the days we spent with QQ and Chyler. Sometimes, I find it fun to just go back and read through it, and kinda relive all those puppy days of excitement and frustrations. I think keeping this diary was extremely helpful for us first time dog owners, and it is also unexpectedly rewarding!