Top Reasons (Not) to Get a Dog

As I was walking out of the pool complex this afternoon, I overheard a mom talking to her child about all the reasons not to get a dog. “First of all, they are messy. They pee and poop alot. They bark and make alot of noise. And we have to walk them every day….”  I smiled to myself as I walked away. This certainly brought back memories of when my own kids tried go convince me we should get a dog.
Should I have interrupted this mom’s lecture and told her how ridiculous those excuses sound to a  child? I should know. I probably used the same rationale way back when. First of all, does she seriously think a child is going to consider cleaning up messes his or her duty? Obviously, that is more on the shoulders of the parent. Even when you think your children are old enough to assume responsibility,  don’t believe for an instant that they will do it.
What about the barking and such? Why would a  child care? As long as there is a dog to snuggle with, why does it matter if it barks at others? Again, it is up to the parent to train the dog.
Lastly, there are the economics of dog ownership: medications, check ups, food, kennels- all these add up but, again,  are not of concern to the kids so I am glad the mom did not bring those up.
I can picture this mom a year or so from now, having been unable to  convince the  children that dogs are not good pets, and being worn down by constant pleas to get a dog- feeling guilted into agreeing because the kids know how to manipulate her emotions. At the same time, I am sure she will  come to appreciate how wonderful it is to have a dog who follows her around the house, is excited when  she walks in the door, relies on her for walks or treats and gives her unconditional love. Sometimes that is just what a busy mom needs to remind her that she is the center of the world to someone, maybe just not her kids.

While composing this post, I had fun exploring old family photos of our new pets. The excitement and joy that each one brought to the family, made all the other hassles of pet ownership worth it.

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How could I say no to this face? Look how happy it made her. No more mommy guilt.

 

Welcoming a new member to the family…  familydog0951

guinea3469  Of course, I didn’t agree to get a dog for years. I thought guinea pigs would be easier to deal with (see Guinea Pig Years) .

 

 

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After a few years, one dog was no longer enough and we agreed to adopt a second one. Again, notice the smiles and happy faces.

mom3017    This is where the unconditional love part comes in , and how I envision the mom at the pool in a few years.

As a final word of advice to her, I would warn her that once you let pets into your home, you never know how many more you will get. Fortunately, by this age, my kids are fully able and willing to assume the responsibilities.

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Daughterly Advice

Last week I got a phone call from my father. He had recently installed an electric fence to keep his dog from running out onto the golf course. Even though they had followed the training protocol by posting flags around the property for a time before turning on the power, Buster had already been shocked twice when chasing squirrels. Dad was very distressed because now the dog did not like to go outside. We would never dream of shocking our children to teach them lessons (maybe we would like to, but we know it would be wrong) so why do we train our dogs this way?

The main reason is because children can understand concepts of danger- getting lost, or hit by a car if they stray into the road. Dogs need to learn about danger differently. It may sound cruel to let them get shocked for crossing a boundary, but it is better than letting them get injured. Most dogs will learn quickly from this experience and then will be perfectly fine staying in their yard. My father is one of the kindest people I know.  I could tell from his voice that he really felt terrible that Buster had gotten shocked, as if it was a horrible life-altering experience.  I knew Dad needed coaxing more than his dog did.

I tried to give him calm support and reassurance. My own dogs have been trained, with only a few corrections. They still love chasing squirrels in the yard, but they know when to stop. I have peace of mind in knowing I don’t have to walk outside with them in the rain or snow. I told my father to stick with the training, persuading him that it probably wouldn’t happen more than a couple of times; Buster is very intelligent. I also suggested that my father bring out treats for his dog and feed them to him in the yard. This could erase his negative association of being outside and Dad could use the treats to call his dog back from the flagged area as part of the training.

At the end of our phone call, I could tell that Dad was still worried but was at least more optimistic about the outcome. I am happy to report that within a week, Buster is a well-trained dog and is quite happy to search for bones in his yard, rather than pursue squirrels onto the golf course.  As for Dad, he is much happier too, knowing his dog is not going to run down the fairway chasing golfers. And for me, when I think back to all the times I have turned to Dad for advice and support, I am glad that I was able to return the favor.

“Me” Time

These days it is rare to get much time to myself, other than working on this blog. The rest of my days are spent attending to my house  (including errands), my dogs or my family. Someone or something always seems to need my attention. But this is not a whinefest, I am happy to do all those things. Instead, this is a reminder to us all to take time for ourselves. As they say, put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. And that is what I did last week…

Let me say, my husband was very supportive and I could never have given myself this break without his help, knowing he would do his best to take care of things in my absence. So with his blessing, I boarded a plane a week ago, to fly from the Northeast US to the Northwest CA. It was a long trip, but I was going out to spend time with my sister. Even though we had been together for the cruise last summer, it was not the same intimate time that we both wanted. This was going to be a special visit for us to really catch up.

At first it was a big adjustment for me… not having to think about what everyone else needed, only being responsible for myself. When we went out, I only had to bring what I needed- not organizing a group.  Often all I went out with was a water bottle and my camera. How enlightening! (mentally and physically)

I actually had time to stroll along the beaches   with Sis and Dog  .

I had time to take some glorious hikes over the hills and through the woods which lined the shore, coming out to rocky overlooks and beautiful panoramic views.

           

I even had time to take photos of the algae or wildlife that caught my eye…

                

Over the weekend, we took a ferry to one of the islands, checking out the cormorants on the way…

We stopped at the local farmers market, where I bought thoughtful gifts to take home. But that was really the last thing on my mind. I was in no rush to return. The wares everyone was selling were so colorful and creative. My sister and brother-in-law bought cheeses and fresh vegetables so they could continue feeding me well. I focused on taking in the sights, such as these chili peppers…

 Then we headed to the Grape Stomp at one of the local wineries. BIL and I took off our shoes, rolled up our pants and gave it a go. The green grapes were cold and slippery. We hung on to each other for balance while we squished the juicy fruit between our toes and under our heels.

                                     

After that excitement, we deserved some wine. We went to the wine tasting bar and sampled several varieties. They were offering oysters to go along with it, but the line was too long so we bought a few bottles to bring home.   

It was liberating  to not have a schedule to follow, these spontaneous activities were so much fun. However, we did have Dog in the car and we all wanted to take a hike, so we headed out to the trailhead. We were able to get a great view from one of the beaches, and Dog had a long swim- her favorite activity, even in the frigid waters!

We returned home on the ferry at sunset and caught the lingering sunlight as it reflected off the snow-capped mountains!

During the week, Sis and I took the time to sit and talk over meals. Time to connect with where we are at in our lives, to share concerns or offer support to each other. We enjoyed our meditations together during our walks or in an evening yoga session on her deck. And most of all, we were able to drop everything and rush down to the point at the end of her street to observe the beautiful sunsets (we were never up early enough to catch the sunrise- but that is a good thing). On the last night I was there, we watched the best sunset of the whole week.

                  

It was a spectacular celebration of our connection to nature, and to each other, and a good reminder that we all need to have a “pause” button on our busy lives. It is important to take some time to free ourselves up from our daily routines and responsibilities. If we don’t refresh our minds and bodies every now and then, we only become clogged with stress and desensitized to the joys of life. I know it is hard to do; I was very fortunate and I don’t expect this to happen again any time soon. But what I will do, is try to carve out an hour or two of “me” time every week- whether it is for a facial or a trip to a local museum or art gallery. I will make time where I can relax or think about something other than what my next task will be. And if I need inspiration, all I have to do is look at these photos to remind me of how great that time with my sister was! Thanks, Sis.