Now That We’re in Recovery, Who Else Wants a Puppy?

recovery puppy on rug chewing a toy

Puppies and dogs need attention!


Updated March 2024

I was minding my own business the other day, and an idea popped up: GET A RECOVERY PUPPY. It occurred with the same kind of punch-in-the-gut suddenness my wine cravings used to materialize, so I should be wary. I know we are not supposed to start a serious relationship, get married, get divorced, or move right out of the sober gate, but can we get a puppy? After all, pets add structure and routine to life – and they’re so cute and dependent and universally positive!


Hold Up, Dr. Doolittle – A Recovery Puppy is a lot of Work

Hold up, Dr. Doolittle. Let’s remember that puppies are a lot of work. The idea of having something that loves you unconditionally is appealing until Sparky gets on the dining room table, eats the birthday cake (plastic Sponge Bob decorations and all), and vomits Technicolor effuse all over the white rug. And yes, that is an actual, hitherto repressed memory of a dog experience I had back in my drinking days. I am ten years sober, but I am a late bloomer, and it seems my life is just becoming orderly. So why in the world would I introduce an adorable but messy little dog into the mix?


Bernese Puppy sober pet

Recovery Puppy Pros

  • Dogs are empathetic
  • And loyal
  • With a puppy, you are never alone
  • And it is hard to isolate when you are house-breaking a pup (Who did that? WHO did that? Outside Spot, OUTSIDE)
  • Dogs are active
  • And protective
  • And they are social creatures who break the ice with strangers
  • Dogs release stress
  • A puppy is a boon companion
  • And a healthy distraction from all that thinking about drinking and using
  • Puppies are good listeners
  • And they keep secrets
  • Dogs motivate you to get off the couch and exercise
  • A new cur will encourage you to be more responsible
  • A dog will hold you accountable
  • Puppies are fun and playful and uncomplicated
  • Dogs are an excellent starting point for developing successful relationships
  • A dog makes you feel like a hero
  • A dog makes you feel good about yourself.


Recovery Pooch Cons

  • Puppies and dogs need a lot of attention
  • A dog is a long-term commitment (life expectancy is 10 – 13 years)
  • Maintenance is required, and dogs can be anxiety-creating (think chewed shoes and piddling on the carpet)
  • Puppies are like babies – they need to be trained
  • Puppies are expensive even if you get them at the Humane Society
  • Dogs are vulnerable
  • Puppies can be messy and destructive
  • And puppies grow up to be dogs
  • Dogs require organization and planning – especially if you work or travel
  • Puppies need responsible masters who have considered all the pros and cons of dog ownership
  • Dogs need dog people


recovery puppy ad

A quiet dog on your lap in virtual treatment provides comfort.


My original dog, the one I bought online at midnight (there should be a law against procuring live animals on the internet after drunk thirty), experienced the worst in me. Poor Fiona. I fed and watered her, but I was at the tail end of my tenure as a drinker when I bought her. I had trouble taking care of myself, let alone a baby bulldog with a skin condition and restless bowels. She had to witness me falling off my platform flip-flops and onto my knees a time or two as I dragged her on truncated walks around my condo.


Fiona actually seemed embarrassed for me when I stumbled, even though she was steadfast. The picture of chagrin; she’d look at me judgmentally, sit resignedly, and wait for me to struggle up from the pavement, patting myself to check for contusions or sprains. I’d look at her and say, “It could happen to anyone, Fiona. My shoes are loose.”


All’s Well That Ends Sober

Fiona moved in with my daughter after I quit drinking. She was very happy. In fact, when I came to visit, you could see a wave of panic flash over her homely face as if she was not sure whether to greet me appropriately or hide beneath an afghan until I was gone and the coast was clear. She enjoyed the settled, normalcy of my daughter’s family: the puppy play-dates, the crumpled pillows (mine have those perfect yuppie creases – no curs on the couch!), the lack of madcap spontaneity.


Dog trainer Jenn Gavin of A Pleasant Dog, Grand Rapids, says, “I hate to be a downer, but the demands of a young pup might be overwhelming for someone in the early stages of recovery.” Which brings me to the crux of the matter. You may be, but I am still not ready for a puppy. Having only recently found a glorious, separate peace in my sobriety, I think I will stay on the honeymoon for a while and get to know myself better before I shake things up. I am out of the business of snap decisions and midnight madness. And when I am ready for a pet, I will remember that a puppy is a big commitment. I will consider the pros and cons.


I will remind myself that, even though puppies are irresistible, I am not really a dog person.


puppy sober pet

Okay, wait – this one is really cute…


If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, eating disorders, or co-occurring mental health conditions, don’t wait to change your life – click the link below to speak with an admissions specialist.


after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.