Sunday, September 27, 2009

In the Dog House

Have you seen or read Marley & Me? If not, let me catch you up:

Couple gets married

Couple buys dog

Dog becomes their "baby"

Couple has real baby

Couple hates dog

Now, there is much more to the story than this, including redemption of dog and the couple finding that he has been a very special and important part of their life. There were many ways that I related to this story, and judging from what my friends have told me, other people can relate as well.

My husband and I bought our beagles, Captain & Admiral, shortly after we got married. Like so many other childless couples, they became our "children." Captain was the smart and tortured one, as evidenced by his aggressive but intelligent nature. Admiral was the lovable doofus. I always equated him to the stupid football jock. Beautiful, but dumb as a rock.

We took our dogs everywhere with us for the first couple of years. We had puppy playdates and got a lot of mileage out of their travel carriers. Then I got pregnant. I thought about buying a cd of baby noises to get the dogs used to the sound. I read that you should rub a blanket all over your newborn and then have your husband take it home while you were still in the hospital so that the dogs could get used to the scent. As my due date got closer and closer, I stopped searching out ways to prepare the dogs and became more focused on preparing myself.

The day I came home from the hospital with my son, F, I remember stepping into the house and thinking one thing: Get these disgusting slobbering vermin away from me and my child! I put up baby gates so that they couldn't enter the nursery to shed even one disgusting dog hair on my son's floor. The needs of two dogs and one baby was too much for me.

Over the next few months, my husband no doubt enjoyed many frantic phones calls from me, crying and ranting about the horrors of cleaning up dog feces while trying to warm up a bottle. Around the time F was 6 months it was clear: one dog needed to go.

Now don't judge me too harshly. On Captain's bad days he would rip into Admiral for just walking in his breathing space. I knew it was a matter of time before F became a victim. We found him a new home, became a one-dog family, and the hating continued. Admiral had a new nemisis now: Me.

Of course, I am sure he didn't see it that way. He probably just wondered why his mommy was suddenly yelling at him so much and when's dinnertime? I'm ashamed to admit to the way that I've treated my dog in the last 3 years, but that's the way it goes for weak-willed, easily overwhelmed people like me.

On the flip side, Admiral has done his fair share of food-stealing and carpet-ruining. He's barked at completely non-exsistent noises and woken up babies more times than I can count. If you even look him in the eye he takes that as an invitation to splay himself across your lap and fart. But he is by no means a "bad dog" even if I do treat him as such. So when now 3-year-old F started asking me in his childlike innocence "Is he a bad dog?" a couple of months ago the realization of what I was doing hit me like a truck. Like so many things, I began taking small steps to change the way I speak and treat my incredibly sweet-natured pup. It seems that the added stress of having kids was what drove me to treat my dog like a mooching vagrant (still no excuse of course), but it was also what was going to make me clean up my act.

Baby steps. Not calling him an imbecile for barking outside. Not batting him away when he claws up my leg for a treat. But the big breakthrough came last week. Ready for it? Here it is:

I don't hate my dog. I just hate the added responsibility.

Profound stuff, right? Seriously, this revelation has made it so much easier to be nice. Once again, it's the things I can't control (like when Admiral swipes my dinner) that are making me crazy. And when I realize I can't control it, I put it in the "Don't Sweat It" box of my brain (also filed there: the weather and my son's inability to eat a vegetable).

I know I'm turning around because when I woke up to discover a puke present next to Admiral's bed the other morning (the result of one too many swiped dinners), I didn't yell at the dog for being an idiotic glutton. I didn't even stick him in the backyard for the day so that any further puke presents would be lunch for the flies. I just grabbed the bottle of cleaner, picked up a towel, and told F, "Poor Addy. He's sick today."

To all the stupid mangy mongrels out there: Thank you for being so forgiving.


  1. Love it! This is exactly true for us too. Our poor Pomeranian, Gidget, who was our baby from before we got married over 13 years ago, has been exiled to the laundry room (with dog door and the freedom to go in and out as she pleases) since Matthew was born. Sad, but the way things have to be. I love her, too, but the responsibility is too much--I won't beat myself up about it anymore though! Love your blog--I badly need to update mine!

  2. I was so glad when we moved b/c I was finally able to "give" Addy the laundry room in our new house (I'm sure he'd prefer the foot of our bed). I didn't know you had a blog! I'll check it out.

  3. Ah..I so worry about how our two dogs and cat will adjust to baby. I've been walking them with the stroller, trying to teach them to be "sweet." It breaks my heart to think I'll resent them. They are super forgiving and silly and always good for a laugh. I just hope they are willing to forgive the "new being" we're about to put in their lives. More gray hairs.

  4. This actually made me cry because I feel the exact same way about Bandit. I feel so guilty for constantly yelling at her and feel hatred towards her. She is so innocent and such a happy go lucky dog. Noah recently told me to stop yelling at her and that made me feel like the worst mother out there. I do love her, but, I HATE the responsibility that comes with having a dog. She sheds sooo much and with wood floors my house is always a mess. I keep thinking life would be so much better and easier without her......and then my guilt sets in and I realize Noah deserves to grow up with this dog he adores. So, i guess life with Bandit is going to be a constant struggle for me (will i ever be happy with her around....all I see when I look at her is her dog hair everywhere)?