Tag Archives: Dogs

On raising dogs…and boys

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like dogs and those who don’t. Some would claim that they are indifferent, or ambivalent, but that is not true. They just haven’t bothered to really sort through their feelings on the subject yet. I used to think that I was indifferent to dogs until I had my own—not too different from my boys actually–and then I realized that I liked them. I like them a lot.

Then there is a small splinter group: those who say they like dogs in general, just not my dog. My dog, apparently, is too boisterous, too big, too brown, too friendly, too intrusive, too jumpy and too talkative. They would rather, they claim, that my dog kept a safe distance from them, better yet, ignore them.

I had even had the occasional claim that I let my dog, a female chocolate Labrador, get away with things I would never let my kids get away with. That is true. Naturally, I would rather my boys not chew bones, eat dead rats, rub themselves against slugs or sniff other people’s butts in greeting.

My point is this: a person is a person and a dog is a dog. It would be better and easier for both species if hey were not equated. Yet if you were to read Karen Pryor’s excellent book Reaching the Animal Mind, you would understand that there are many similarities when it comes to communicating with animals and people.

And yet so many people still do not know how to communicate or interact with dogs. They either fear them, causing their heart rates to rise and the dog to run to them in aid, which further raises their heart rate, or they run away from them, prompting the dog into a much-loved game of tag. Or they keep looking at the dog and telling it to go away, engaging the dog in conversation—dogs, as you know, cannot talk. They bark.

One thing that people, in my environment at least, do not seem to understand is that you simply have to ignore the dog—not engage with it in any way. Keep going about your business and it will understand. Believe me.

Because when dogs are communicated to properly, they understand. They understand faster than people do. They certainly understand faster than my kids do! For over ten years now I have been trying to teach my boys to say please when they want something, to eat properly and to raise the toilet seat when they need to pee and lower it back down again of course. Ten years and they still have not learned these basic skills. My dog, on the other hand, who is only three, knew from the age of six months to sit for her food. She slurps her whole plate clean without making a mess and knows not to pee except in certain places!

But there is another secret to dogs. Dogs have no shame, no pride and no ego. That makes dealing with then a lot easier than dealing with people. And most of the time they are more fun.

The problem my dog seems to have is that she is too friendly. She believes that everyone she meets either wants to be her friend or they need rescuing because they are in distress. Her only fault, it seems, is that she is being herself. An ideal that, according, to Caroline McHugh, founder and CEO of IDology, a movement dedicated to helping individuals and organizations be fully deployed, original versions of themselves, we should all be striving for. You can watch Caroline’s excellent TED talk here.

My dog, it seems, is not as well trained as my kids. Therefore she has not yet learned to think, and judge, and be critical and cynical. She is still primitive, asking for, and giving in return, love, companionship and comfort. My dog lets me be (except when I’m on my home trainer, in which case she runs to help!), accepts me for who I am and I, indeed, plan on returning the favor.

Although I will concede that her habit of snatching scarves and jackets is very annoying. We are working on that.

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On living with boys…and a dog

Farts, fights, burps, hours in the toilet and clothes on the floor, what’s not to like?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the mother or the resident dog but my husband says he wants that role. So I am the head culinary director, chief transportation manager, headmistress, chief hygiene officer, personal shopper and party planner. In my spare time I work.

I think my husband’s right, better to be the dog.

This is now of course. ‘Tis was not always thus. I remember once having a fight with my husband when our kids were still babies and toddlers, during which he expressed his displeasure at feeling as if he were not a husband and a father but “sometimes I feel like I’m just the dog in this house.”

That was before we got the dog.

In February 2014, Molly Gru (as in Despicable Me-best movie ever made) landed in our midst. Well, more like arrived in a box. I was immediately smitten. Here was the girl I never had! so what if she stood on four legs? MG was cute, small, furry and adored me. And I adored her back, much to everyone’s consternation. Plus she barked at anyone who upset me. What more could a girl ask for? Finally the attention I craved in a house of navel-gazers.

Two and a half years post Molly Gru entering our lives and still in mutual adoration, I reminded my husband of that conversation some years back.

“Now that you see how I treat the dog,” I said, “don’t you wish you had actually been the dog?” He was quiet. He was sad. With a wistful smile I saw him turn around and grab a tissue. I’m pretty sure he was shedding a tear or two.