People warn you before you get a dog of the challenges that await you. You will have to walk your dog every day, whether it’s raining buckets, storming or snowing icicles. Potty training takes patience. The dog will drag in heaps of dirt. Sometimes you’ll have to carry a bag of dog poop for miles in sweltering heat. Planning holidays will be more complicated. You will have to teach your dog to stay home alone and for the first few weeks or even months you’ll find yourself stuck at home more often than you like. Ironically, however, none of these things have proven the stumbling blocks I was told to expect. Maybe I’m wired wrong.
I don’t mind walking the dog every day. For years now I’ve had the best intentions to add daily walks into my schedule. The longest I’ve been able to go through with it was two weeks. Then the weather got nasty and I fell out of the habit quickly. With Sunny I walk about two hours every day and the weather is no consideration at all. I go for my first walk of the day as early as six o’clock, when it’s still dark out with only the barest shimmer of dawn showing on the horizon and temperatures that feel near to freezing after one of the hottest summers I’ve ever witnessed. It’s invigorating and I love it. Ambling through the woods on the lookout for natural obstacles and tree trunks to play games with is plain fun.
Potty training was a struggle for all of one day, until dear husband and I figured out what we were doing wrong. Sunny did great and slept through the nights from day one. We had a couple of accidents before he was fully trained and we walked down two stories as often as 14 times a day, but it was okay. My thighs never looked as trim as during those early months of owning a puppy.
We’ve owned two indoor cats for 15 years, one of which had potty issues all her own and thus the added dirt didn’t register all that much.
Surely, I’ll never not mind carrying a bag of poop around, but there are worse things to be had. It’s not like cat poop smells like roses either and at least Sunny doesn’t stench bomb the entire apartment. Unless he farts, in that arena he goes unchallenged.
The holidays we’ll figure out when the time comes. As of right now I cannot see myself dropping Sunny off at a dog hotel or leaving him with others, while dear husband and I gallivant all over the world. But my feelings on this might well change over time.
So far we’ve managed to take Sunny wherever we wanted to go and he’s easy on his own for a couple of hours. He just sleeps the time away and is super duper happy whenever we get home - a nice big kennel and a couple of baby gates and we’re all set.
And yet my struggle feels very real. I’m dissatisfied most of the time and my last thought of the day usually revolves around the fact that I’ll have to do this all over tomorrow. Sometimes I find myself sitting on the couch with Sunny lying next to me and as I look down on him my life feels unreal. What on earth is a dog doing in my apartment?
I keep trying to get to the bottom of my dissatisfaction but I cannot seem to unravel this mystery.
What has changed?
My life as I knew it has disappeared. Sunny’s presence is absolutely disruptive. I think it’s been almost five months since the last time I was able to use the bathroom on my own, without either a dog taking up all the space in our tiny bathroom or him whining outside and scratching at the door. By now I have to lock the door for my shower, because the little devil figured out how to open the unlocked bathroom door. He’s a lab. He loves water. He will not accept that I may enjoy the benefits of a shower without his participation. Therefore he’ll stick his head around the shower curtain and start licking the water droplets from my legs. Not exactly what you’d like to have happening while you’re trying to get clean.
He follows me everywhere. He sticks his head in-between the sheets while I’m trying to make the bed, steals my socks from the wardrobe while I’m getting dressed, lies down on my feet while I’m trying to cook, paws the keyboard while I’m trying to write, licks the pages of the book I’m reading, chews on my iPhone, destroys my eReader and chews on all the furniture.
He forces me to make small talk with complete strangers. Yeah, okay… he doesn’t force me, my manners do. But never in my entire life did so many people want to talk to me. All because every time he sees a human being Sunny wags his tail so hard his ass almost falls off. Also, puppies are cute and bring forth gushy friendliness and heaps of baby talk in all people. And, of course, the assumption is that I must be a friendly and chatty person or else I would have gotten myself a frightening looking pitbull instead of a friendly lab.
It feels like a lifetime since I’ve had the time, space or peace of mind to sit down and write and actually finish a draft. Whenever I think of the unfinished painting sitting on my easel my stomach cramps - so many promising sketches all over the pages of my notebook, waiting for their moment to bloom; my new camera sitting on the shelf, gathering dust and waiting to capture the beauty of the world. My creativity is stagnating and the few tries I’ve made to unearth it feel stale and sallow. As I’m writing this down I feel my throat constricting. I loved my life as it was. And I miss my cats so very much - for their own sakes, but also because they were so damned easy to live with.
I hear that things will get better as soon as Sunny is all grown up, but it’s a really hard concept for me to grasp. My life feels off right now. What do I care about a year from now?
At least I managed to pick up my daily meditation practice again. And only two weeks ago I finally figured out that Sunny needs a clear structure around our mornings so he can sleep. He needs limited options and he needs to know that I’m absolutely not accessible. Only then can he relax and sleep while I sit at my computer. It’s only two hours every morning and my writing muscle has gotten too rusty to hammer out usable writing in so little time, but it’s a start.
And do you know what the worst of it is? I love this dog. I truly, honestly and absolutely adore him. He drives me batshit crazy Every Single Day. He’s hit puberty and is behaving just as any obnoxious male teenager would. Sometimes it’s hilarious, other times I could just scream, tie him to a lamppost or drop him off at the closest shelter - except I would never do that. Or actually, the screaming I’ve already done. We were out in the middle of cornfields with no other living thing around for miles and I exhaled a nicely frustrated scream to the skies. Sunny’s befuddled expression was priceless. It wasn’t my most poised moment of dog ownership, but I’d rather do that than scream at him. Or tie him to a lamppost. Or god forbid, drop him off at a shelter. For reasons that are absolutely beyond me, considering my dissatisfaction, I love this dog.
|What's not to love?|
I just did not expect this to be so hard.
And clearly I need to reevaluate what my/our life is going to look like. Life as I knew it is over. I need to find a way to move on. Because it’s very likely that the new life awaiting me isn’t half as bad as I fear.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstance, to choose one's own way.It's time to grow up. You hear me, Sunny? Nah, just kidding. I need to grow up. Sigh.
~Viktor E. Frankl