We Have a Puppy. I Have ADHD. What is Wrong with Me?

Last week, we added a standard poodle puppy to our family. Sounds ok, right? But wait, our family has changed quite a bit over the last few years. My oldest daughter moved out ages ago- yes- and she and her husband became parents. We added a wonderful grandson to our family.

Two years ago, my youngest left home and is now in her own apartment.

For the first time in 36 years, my house is quiet.

I crave quiet.

As a woman with inattentive ADHD who is super hypersensitive to noise and any kind of commotion, including the sound of the gentle whoosh of the dishwasher, I must question my sanity.

I’m a dog lover. I grew up with dogs. Our family- my husband and two kids- always had a dog and ten years ago, we had duet dogs: for some reason, one dog wasn’t enough. We added a Cockapoo.

Of the 4 dogs we’ve had over the years, ½ of them were completely out of control during their puppy phase. One ate holes in our walls and dined on the furniture. The other played superman, flying over our bushes and nipping at the kids’ heels until they learned to walk through a room via hopping on chairs. This is true.

In December, we had to put down our beloved Harper, another Matlen dog casualty to an awful, awful disease. Our hearts were broken. We still had/have Elliott, a slug of a dog who makes my inattentive status look like a wild woman.

So we did what all people with inattentive ADHD do when their house is finally quiet: we brought home a puppy.

Toolie is smart, as most poodles tend to be. He learned to shake hands after only being prompted three times. He sits handsomely for us. He is starting to pee on command in the backyard. However, he also pees NOT on command. On the kitchen floor.

Before I bore you with what life is like with a puppy, let me move on to why I’m even writing about this.

Those of us with ADHD– even those like me who are inattentive- are not always inattentive at all. Like when you get a puppy and need to pay attention 100% of the time so you’re not wiping up mini-floods all day.

Generally, in working with women with ADHD and knowing how my own inattentive ADHD brain operates (for the most part, but clearly not a week ago), a consistent message unfolds that tells me that we have some impulsivity in us at times. We may call that our creativity. Or our curiosity about things. Well, I think it’s more than that- I think many of us can simply be impulsive.

I certainly was when I told my husband how I missed having a 2nd dog in the house. We thought of getting another “Elliott” dog- a Cockapoo- because he is soooo easy to have. He literally can lay on his bed 23 hours a day. He is not emotionally needy. He is sweet. So why not? Cockapoos are small dogs, generally around 20 pounds or so. Let’s do it, we said!

Instead, we brought home Toolie who is expected to top out at close to 60 pounds. We really did not think this thing through very well.

Back to my point, which as you know, can be tough for us to do.

Yes, yes, I’ve seen all those squirrel cartoons. But this is real life.

What I’ve learned is I can work around my ADHD in raising a puppy. I have to. It’s not been easy because you are obliged to remember to feed him three times a day. And to let him out every 20 minutes. And teach him commands. And brush him. And so much more. Scheduling every minute of my day sure doesn’t come natural to me. It’s like having a baby- you put your life on hold to make sure all is well with your little one.

The other day, we brought in a dog trainer to help us with the basics. For 90 minutes, we learned to teach him to stay, to lay down, to stop eating his leash, to pay attention to us (haaa), to heel, to stay in his crate, and about 100 other things.

Guess what? I can only remember about three things. Thankfully, he said I could email or text him any time. Yes, I did video some of the exercises. No, I forgot to start taping him when he arrived. Yes, I WILL email him. A lot.

Alas, I won’t be handing in my inattentive ADHD card, since I am keeping up with this furry guy as best I can, but it sure hasn’t been easy. (hold on- gotta clean up that puddle).


  1. Did you ever have a puppy? How did you survive?
  2. What have you done that you thought would be totally impossible due to your ADHD? Was it hard? Easy?
  3. What is your pet’s name?

Share your answers/comments in the section below.

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Terry’s Top Picks

Sari Solden, one of my favorite ADHD experts and my own personal mentor, was recently interviewed by my sweet friend/colleague, Linda Roggli of ADDiva.net for ADDA. So much wisdom here, you’ll cry:  A Mid-Summer’s Night Conversation with Sari Solden.

While you’re there, please consider joining this wonderful organization (or go to www.ADD.org).

Terry Recommends

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