Having grown up on a horse farm in South Florida, I’ve always been surrounded by a menagerie of animals. We had the horses and ponies, the dogs we adopted, the barn cats that adopted us, and the slew of rodents that parents are pressured into buying for their children to give them a simple sense of responsibility. To say the least, my understanding and ability to relate to animals was born early on. Thus, my eagerness to adopt the first dog of my own as soon as I graduated from college was only natural. Cue Gromit, the “corgi/lab” mix (who possesses identifying features of neither breed) who I adopted from a shelter about an hour away from my urban college campus.

The entire puppy–rearing process has been nothing like I have experienced before. My kitchen door no longer opens up onto a sprawling dog yard; instead, three flights of stairs down from my New York City walk–up greet me every time Gromit needs to learn that my bath mat isn’t the perfect place for her to pee. There aren’t squirrels and shadows for her to chase, just cigarette butts and newspaper shards for her to be scolded time–and–again for picking up off the sidewalk. There aren’t acres of pastures for her to run through or endless games of frisbee and romps around with other dogs, instead fetch is confined to the limits of my apartment hallway and doggie greetings are limited to short interactions on the streets. Needless to say, puppyhood isn’t as simple as I’d recalled.

I now wake up early to make sure Gromit has enough time to sprint around the apartment before I leave for work. When she can go with me somewhere, she does — turns out Bed Bath & Beyond has shopping carts specifically for your dog to ride in. Running up and down the stairs for walks and hour–long games of fetch (which she is impressively good at for a 4–month–old, even the ‘give’ part) compose the rigor of her exercise. It’s hardly the puppy experience that I’ve had before, but it’s one that thousands of pet owners deal with.

It is hard not to feel guilty knowing the alternative puppyhoods she could be having, but she is the happiest little dog that has ever existed. Each stranger on the street is her new best friend and the day she got big enough to jump up on the couch was by far the best day of her little puppy–life. My responsibility as her mom (please don’t tell her she was adopted, she has no idea) now falls on keeping her fit and healthy despite all of the restrictions.

This is where FitBark comes into play. Using a tiny bone–shaped device, I can monitor Gromit’s daily activity to scale with a personal goal for her age, weight and breed. Getting some confirmation that I am doing enough to keep her active and healthy, especially during her early development, has been crucial for my confidence as a pet–parent. Gromit’s toothy grin, wagging tail and endless energy seem to give constant positive reinforcement. But, knowing that all of the time I put into making her days exciting is actually sustaining her fitness has been integral to my survival of the city pet experience.


About the author

Hilary Miller, @HilMills