It's seldom spoken about, no one wants to admit they have it, it's one of those diseases people only talk about in hushed tones. I've heard that many people have been stricken with this malady and the symptoms are varied and many, but I can only speak from my experience and tell the story of how I suffered and, alas, continue to suffer.
Believe me, I've learned the hard way that once you have Puppy Brain (PB) it's really tough to find the cure and harder still to regain the normalcy of life as you once knew it.
I was first stricken with PB when a litter of Weimaraner puppies was born in New Jersey at the home of Linda and Walter Hartheimer. I was hoping to get a little girl pup and once I realized that, with a litter of 7 girls and 1 boy, my chances were pretty good that one of those pups would be mine the symptoms started to appear.
I thought I'd be insulated by the distance between my home and the home of the puppies, but somehow, even across 400 miles, the infection seemed to spread. I found myself continually looking at photos of the puppies, checking Facebook numerous times daily hoping for updates and losing myself in thoughts and dreams of all things puppy.
As the disease took over my brain it started to control my purchases, I bought puppy training books, puppy toys, blankets for puppies, a puppy collar, a food dish -- oh, would it ever end? And I didn't even have a puppy!
I pored over websites that offered any information on how to train puppies, read blogs and even followed the video link to a litter of pups that was of a similar age as the Weimaraner litter so that I'd have an idea of what was happening with that Grayhart litter in New Jersey.
Like a terrible addiction, PB took such a grasp on me that I decided that it would be a good idea to drive to New Jersey to visit the puppies in person and to drive back all in one day! I convinced myself that spending time with the pups would be like attending a spa and would ease the affliction that raged within me. In hindsight, it's obvious that a person must be sick to imagine that a fun day constitutes about 14 hours on the road to spend a couple hours smelling puppy breath and getting to know these adorable little creatures. Then I talked a friend into going with me to keep me company (thanks, Karen Yohe, for being as crazy as me)! Imagine my horror when I found that, instead of easing my PB symptoms, the visit with the pups exacerbated the disease and seemed to slow the passing of time so that four weeks seemed much more like four years.
I found myself constantly worrying about everything, the puppies, their mother, the Hartheimers. Then when Hurricane Sandy threatened the east coast my stress level rose and the worrying started keeping me awake. When I thought my level of worry was at the highest elevation ever reached in the annals of time, news of the loss of power at the puppies' home and damage to the deck and roof almost pushed me over the edge.
It was about this time that PB pretty much took over my life. All I wanted to talk or think about was puppies. I lost the ability to concentrate, which meant that my work suffered; it was impossible to proofread hundreds of pages of work when I couldn't stay focused for even one paragraph.
As the date to pick up the puppy neared I became more and more anxious for the day to arrive, as I knew it would help me to overcome these difficulties. I started the trip to New Jersey on a Wednesday evening and felt fortunate that I'd be staying at the Hartheimers' home until I left with my pup on Sunday.
To pass the time at the breeder's home I tried to pitch in to help with the pups, but found that the PB syndrome had worsened and become almost a curse. Every effort I made to do good seemed to go wrong, puppies escaped, messes were made and mistakes seemed to rule my days. Even a Weimaraner charm on a bracelet I wore one day broke off and the small charm fell into the puppy pen, where results could have been disastrous if it had made its way it into a puppy mouth and digestive tract before it was found.
Finally I found out which pup would be mine, attended the Puppy Party and it was time to head for home to start a new stage of life with my beautiful puppy Rigby. I hadn't realized that putting a new puppy in a crate in your car to head home would cause more symptoms of PB to arise. I recommend that no one should drive 7 hours alone with a new pup. Although Rigby was a great traveler and I never made a wrong turn, I traveled many extra miles due to my poor concentration and diminished mental status. Twice I convinced myself that I had gone the wrong way and turned around to fix the error only to find that the error I made was doubting myself in the first place.
Once again my friend Karen stepped up to help me in my travels from New Jersey as I called her several times during the trip to have someone to talk to as I drove those many hours. The conversation helped to keep me calm and made the trip much easier.
After I arrived home and Rigby started to settle in I found that some of the PB symptoms seemed to be alleviated and I felt that I was on the mend. I still had some worries, since we had not had such a young dog in our house for over 25 years, and I know my sleep patterns were not yet back to normal, especially the night I woke up remembering a conversation in a dream about puppies and parvo. But my ability to concentrate seemed to be restored and I started catching up on the backlog of work that had piled up.
One day shortly after bringing Rigby home I had a bit of a relapse in the concentration area that proved to be rather embarrassing. I was with a friend and Rigby was in the crate in the back of the SUV when I decided to get some food from a fast food restaurant. I pulled up to the menu board and ordered a sandwich and drink, then pulled up to the first window to pay for my purchase. The clerk at the window noticed Rigby and commented on how cute she was, and that compliment was more than my system could handle. I thanked her and, beaming with pride, drove off without stopping to pick up my food. I felt a bit sheepish when I had to circle around the building to stop at the pickup window and tolerate the well-deserved teasing from the restaurant employees.
As the weeks of puppy ownership have started to melt one into the other I do think that I will make a full recovery from this episode of Puppy Brain and I struggle to avoid relapses. I'm convinced that the more sleep I get the sooner I'll get over this, but I think the angst will always be there, at least for me, the constant worry that I'm a good owner, giving my puppy all that she needs; that I won't fail her with my efforts to train her to become a wonderful companion and fun dog to live with for many, many years; that she's getting enough exercise, enough food -- well, I think you get the picture.
I have no idea if I'll ever have another episode of Puppy Brain or if this is a one-time event. I've heard that there is no vaccination available for this disease and that some people have suffered through the syndrome many times throughout their life and I even think I have a friend or two who are currently battling with their own bouts of Puppy Brain, whether they care to admit it or not.
I can gladly admit that Rigby is more than worth all the suffering I did with Puppy Brain and I'm so glad to have her and look forward to enjoying her more and more as the Puppy Brain symptoms dissipate!