Friday, September 24, 2010

True Confessions: I Want to Kick the Dog to the Curb

As a very little girl, I wanted a dog. In fact, I fell in love with a small black puppy at a church picnic and was thrilled when the owner told me that I could take it home. I cradled the little thing in my arms in the car, until my parents realized, at some point, during the drive home that we had an extra body in the vehicle. They could not believe that the owner would have just given me the puppy, so they insisted that I take the dog back.

My love of dogs was as short-lived as that, really. Just a year or two after that touching scenario played out, we were at another picnic ... this time a craft fair where my mother was manning a booth. My brothers and I were waiting patiently for her to finish, when a large dog began chasing me. That thing tackled me to the ground and bit me, right on the buttocks!

At some point during elementary school, I know my walk home from school involved passing a fenced in yard containing one or two vicious dogs. Even though there was a fence to contain them, I was still fearful of a dog attack.

With my interest in dogs safely behind me, I would have never looked back, if it weren't for the pleas of my sons. When we moved to this spacious property, my husband had promised that we would finally be able to get a dog (none of the rental properties we had lived in had allowed for dogs).

I put the boys off for quite a while, but knowing the day was approaching I began researching what kind of dog we might wish to purchase. My husband had grown up with miniature poodles in his household. He was plugging for a poodle. But, I find poodles exceedingly yippish.

It was love at first sight when Trevor (at age one) crawled over and made friends with a gorgeous Goldendoodle on the soccer field at one of Bryce's games. I talked to the owners and they couldn't recommend the breed more. They mentioned the gentle disposition, the poodle-like mane which eliminates the prospect of shedding and is easy on those with allergies. Besides, the dog was stunning!

It isn't like I went into this arrangement without carefully weighing the options. The Goldendoodle breed sounded perfect for our wants and needs.

If only I could have known what this dog would be like before I encountered him in the previous owner's kitchen that fateful day almost a year ago. And it is not even that he is a BAD DOG. He does, indeed, have a gentle disposition. He would probably make a fine dog ... for another family.

I feel a twinge of guilt when I read on Facebook, the dolorous tones of others who are mourning the demise of their cherished dogs. The love they feel for their pets is so foreign to my experience, I cannot even fathom it. I begin to wonder, "is there something wrong with me? is it my fault that I cannot seem to establish a loving relationship with this dog??"

He looked so adorable in Stephanie's kitchen. She cried as she had to let him go because her husband had put his foot down. I hugged this stranger and assured her that she could visit him whenever she wanted. She came twice. Hasn't come in a very long time. Perhaps, she felt a small portion of my present sentiments. Who can say?

At our garage sale last Saturday (a successful four hour effort, despite the electronic Baby Tad which my husband diligently placed new batteries in and then GAVE away to someone for $1, less than it cost to fill the thing with batteries, no doubt), I placed a photo of Harley with tear-off portions bearing our phone number. We have had several inquiries, but no takers.

Yesterday morning, as I was blow-drying my hair, Sean walked into the bathroom holding his face, crying. The dog had nipped him and the triangle of flesh between his eyes was bleeding. I have to admit, I wanted to kick that dog. I didn't. I swatted his behind and put him in the crate for the rest of the morning.

There isn't a person in this family who loves that dog more than Sean. He spends most of his mornings nestled in the dog's fur, just loving on that dog. How dare the dog bite my little guy! I was incensed! Even Sean said, "I don't love Harley any more. I want to get rid of him, too."

And so here I am, owning it: I am NOT A DOG LOVER! I don't feel any affection for this dog. I can't even understand what made me think I would want a dog to begin with. Now that we have laminate flooring, the dog hairs seem to show up everywhere. It is just another endless task on my daily agenda. Not to mention, the poop scooping, the way he follows me everywhere I go, and his gigantic size.

I thought he might provide incentive for walking, but walks with Harley are merely an exercise in frustration ... not beneficial exercise for the body. He yanks and pulls. I've given up taking the boys along because they hang back and request to be carried (yes, conjure up that image of me being dragged down the lane with my arm yanked off by Harley's leash and the littlest guy hanging about my neck).

Others offer up bits of helpful advice. "Have you ever watched that show that has some sort of dog nanny on it??" "You should try a choke chain." "You should shake a can of coins at the dog whenever he is demonstrating unwanted behavior." "You need to let the dog know who the Alpha Dog is." "Pay someone money to train the dog for you."

It is fairly obvious that I haven't got a clue on how to train this dog (perhaps any more than a clue for how to reign in my boys). What is obvious to me, is that I am to the point of loathing this dog and fully regretting getting myself into this situation. I'm sorry, I just don't have it in me to be a dog lover.

If he attacks anyone in this family again, I can guarantee that I will personally drive him to the pound. I am done with this dog. However, I still am hoping and praying that some family will pick up the phone and give us a call. He could make another family very happy. Just not me! So why is it, that somehow makes me feel like a bad person?


Elizabeth A. said...

I'm pretty sure I've given you my dog experiences, but I'll share again. This totally sucks.

I had trouble potty training my dogs. And then they spent 10 days at the kennel around 6 months of age(vacation and a funeral) and their accidents immediately got better. No training, just leaving them with people who knew how to "communicate" with these stupid, small dogs. (They still are kind of dumb.) They still pee when they're excited. But never in our every day, almost never deviated routine. They hear me get out of bed and are at the ready, but pay no attention to my husband when he leaves for work.

I can tell you putting them in their crate for punishment does nothing. They know I'm upset and time in the kennel just makes the problem worse because that's where I want them to be comfortable so I don't feel bad when I leave them in there for 12+ hours. I think of them as two year olds. They can remember their infraction for about 10 minutes.

I am shocked he bit one of your sons after so much time with your family.

But if the money/time for Petco training or leaving him at the kennel( always a nice break. I take them the night before we fly just so I can focus.)isn't possible, then I'd talk to your sons about it. Let them decide. I still remember my mother getting rid of a dog when we were little. I was heartbroken. Another time, I was much older and we took in a stray. He was just so possessive, he bit/misbehaved around any person that came in our home that was made him or especially us uncomfortable. The electric fence man even told us there no way anything but a chain link fence could control this poor dog. So the pound came and got him. And the dog handler put his hand out and the dog went straight into the van and we all knew he was unadoptable and we all bawled our eyes out.

You're in a crap of a situation. But if the whole family can agree, it's worth the hour of bawling.

Final suggestion: You and the dog are mutually stressing each other out. I have a family member that is basically a dog whisperer. He's trained hunting dogs all his life and all dogs listen to his instructions. He's better with my dogs than I am. So I don't know the hunting situation here in Indiana, but perhaps someone selling "coon dogs" in the paper would be willing to help you and Harley find some middle ground.

Oh, and I do know the one handed pooper scoopers are just handy if Harley can't learn to poop in one spot. I haven't tried those potty sticks that attract dogs to poo in one spot.

Wendy said...

Sorry Liz - I only just now noticed your comment - for some reason it didn't come through my e-mail.

Thanks so much for your empathy and suggestions. We are really growing quite weary of the dog. I think personally, I look at it too much as a "failure." Somehow, if I were more ... whatever, I would be able to be the mom who provides her sons with the experience of a dog. This particular day, we discovered that Harley had clawed gouges in an antique table in his attempt to bark at the boys playing outside. It was, of course, our mistake for leaving an antique table anywhere near our destructive sons or our puppyish dog, but it still added to my overwhelming feelings of disgust with the dog.

Even my husband, who loves dogs, feels frustrated. Harley is so darn needy. He follows John everywhere and wants to play all the time. Once during play, Harley bit John, through his shirt. He is really not a HORRIBLE DOG. He's no Marley. But, I feel like my hands are so full already, that the dog only compounds my exhaustion.