Pet parenting

Our dog is a sweet, sweet, dumb dog. I say that with the greatest amount of affection. But I am so tired of the dog responsibilities. Not the dog; I’m not tired of the dog. I love the dog. I’m just tired of the dog responsibilities and conflict over them.

DogWe adopted our dog, Miss T, through a dog rescue organization five years ago. We’d been talking about and plotting for getting a dog for a couple of years, since we moved into our house, but hadn’t quite gotten around to it until then. The impetus for finally, actually adopting her was Alfs and a medical crisis he had. During that crisis I realized the time to find the family dog was now, not in six months or a year, but now. Well, then, but you know what I mean.

The family dog

Technically, Miss T is Alfs’ dog. He is supposed to take her out and feed her (with Woody’s help). But I’m no fool: she’s the family dog, and I am primarily responsible for her. I walk her. I buy her food. I make sure she gets taken out and fed. I take her to the vet. I think, “Is she happy?” or “Does she need more scratches?” and “Those treats look like something Miss T would like.” Most of it I really don’t mind. She’s a sweet animal and I melt a bit when I look into her big brown eyes.
Dog chores are part of Alfs and Woody’s household responsibilities, but they rarely happen easily. I’m tired of the constant, constant reminders to them to take her out and what did she do? Nothing? Then take her out again, every five minutes until she does. It’s been ten minutes, have you taken her out? It’s exhausting to be on the reminder side, just as I am sure they get tired of being on the reminder side. The solution, of course, is that they do it without asking. Well, they are kids.

I use all sorts of strategies to keep the kids on task with their pet responsibilities, from simple reminders to blatant guilt. No one strategy works consistently.

I suppose this is par for the course, really, and I’ll push through this bit of frustration soon enough. The kids are learning valuable lessons. The kids are learning what it means to be a pet parent, but with real parent backup:

  • They are learning that even when you are tired, the dog still has to do her business, rain or shine. But they know full well that I won’t risk the consequences of her relieving herself on the rug.
  • They are learning about what it means when another living thing depends on you. But they also know that they can depend on others.
  • They are learning about what it means to apply consistent discipline and why it is important. But they also know that being an occasional (and, for dogs, judicious) softie isn’t the worst thing in the world.
  • They are learning that there is nothing like unconditional love given and received. No buts about it.

What we gain with Miss T in the house far exceeds the annoyances of who is doing what and when for her. She’s the instant mood-lifter, for all of us. One look, one nuzzle, and smiles return to our faces.

New pet friends

I suppose I am especially conscious about this right now because we are close to introducing a couple of new pet friends into our world. Since our elderly cat passed away in January, we’ve been missing smaller furry friends. With the new pets will come additional responsibilities and new learning opportunities. But I’ll still be primarily responsible, at least for now.
I’m pretty sure that by the time my kids are old enough to introduce pet friends into their own homes, they will have learned these lessons in responsibility. They’ll get it. In the meantime, I’ll be back up for all the two legged and four legged members of the family.

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