I haven’t talked to you all about my dog in a while, and I think that’s at least in part because we haven’t been feeling like very good dog owners as of late.
We have a dog who barks and howls – it’s a bit like living with a beginner trumpet lesson – he tugs and tears apart things of value; never the cheap things that need replacing anyway, and he seems to have a particular love for Apple products.
It feels like a failure almost every day.
And it’s been a year now – a real “college try,” as my grandpa used to say.
Our dog is now 2, if you do it the way we do and count the day you got him as his birthday.
I know it’s bad math, but I have other things to worry about.
And so, after a year, it seems his neuroses have only grown, and mine right along with him.
I would say that the amount of stress he causes in our household is more than an infant but probably less than a really rebellious teen, but I am only speculating because I’ve only experienced life with one of those – the other one just haunts my nightmares.
I worry about him running away, which he tries to do regularly.
I worry about him getting really scared and biting someone.
I worry about him worrying so much.
He recently scraped his cheek while escaping from his crate. I had only put him in his crate because the last time we had left him alone, he ate an entire pack of his anti-anxiety treats.
The vet had us give him hydrogen peroxide in the back yard, and he vomited profusely, making eye contact the whole time.
“You did this,” he seemed to say, and I felt like I did.
I shouldn’t have left him alone.
I should have put the treats in a smell-proof container.
I should find this dog a better home.
And so, this is how it has gone for months on end now. We’ve wondered if we will ever be able to do right by this dog – if we will ever be able to give him what he needs, and if that list will ever stop changing long enough for us to get some kind of foothold.
“He might just have something off in his brain chemistry,” a good friend who knows about dogs told me. “There might just not be anything you can do.”
Well sure there is, I think. We can just keep going.
I know I worry about my dog too much, and I talk about him too often.
He comes up almost every time I see my friends, as we sit and sip tea and eat treats and talk about our actual children. I find myself rabbit-trailing to my dog, and they listen so kindly.
Recently I got to meet a newer friend’s two dogs, and it was an eye-opener of sorts – as hard as I think I’ve been trying, I’ve still been doing my dog a disservice with my assumptions and expectations.
I have been comparing myself for a year now to who I was with our previous dog, who seemed to come out of the shelter ready to finally settle down and take some really nice naps.
He was an”easy” dog, and I now know there is such a thing, just as there are “easy babies,” and “easy kids” and “easy teens,” and probably “easy 40-year-olds.”
But in my mind, I’ve been beating myself up a bit about the things we can’t do with our new dog – we can’t take him for walks or to the dog park. We can’t take him to agility classes or Thanksgiving at other people’s houses.
He is not the same kind of companion our other dog was, and he might never be.
It’s taken me a year to get to that realization; but maybe that realization has also given me a bit of hope again.
This is a homeschool blog, and I am a homeschool mom, so it’s hard for me not to tie things together mentally to homeschooling, so here we go:
It occurs to me that our expectations for our kids are so often unfair, and we might have a tendency to compare our kids sometimes – or at least I do.
Jamie writes that all kids have special needs, and I tend to agree. I can’t raise my kids the exact same way; and even if I tried, they would certainly not turn out the exact same way.
I think sometimes in the trying, we can make ourselves miserable.
I am re-reading this book right now. The subtitle is “letting go of the try-hard life,” and those words pop into my head now and again, “the try-hard life …”
“The exhausting, frustrating, try-hard, damn life.”
Because I have been trying (trying really, really, incredibly hard) for a year to give this dog the life I believe he deserves. My stubborn Taurus side has seen me through, but all that trying hasn’t brought me peace or comfort, because I’ve also been secretly waiting …
I’ve been waiting for the day when I can walk with this dog on a leash, or take him to the adorable dog bakery for a treat.
And maybe that just isn’t what he needs.
There are real issues (health and safety), and there are inconveniences (as I write this, I have to keep shooing him off the couch and back on to his fancy dog bed), and then there is just literal icing on the cake: dogs have evolved just fine for thousands and thousands of years without gluten-free pupcakes, so maybe it’s time to let that one go.
So many markers for success (whether we’re talking about dogs or kids or life in general), are made-up, self-imposed, comparison-based or just our mother-in-law’s voice.
Sometimes we must ask ourselves how little we are OK with, and what do we need to do to get there.
Can we be OK with being a good mom to our own kids, letting them eat the frozen dinners they love?
Can we be OK with a dog who rests by our side when we are ill, but runs away sometimes twice in one day, so overtaken by spring fever that he forgets, for a minute, that he has a warm and loving home?
Can we stop trying quite so hard, and can we accept? Can we challenge ourselves to let go almost completely and to stop waiting for things to change?
But it’s the work of loving, I think.
Honest and ugly.