Today on my run with Scout, I had to pick poop off my dog’s butt with a very small leaf.
Yes, I washed the shit out of my hands (literally and metaphorically) when I got home.
It takes a special breed of people to be dog owners. And I mean good, honest, let the dog lick your face, live with permanent dog hair everywhere, dog owners. They’re really no different than children. They need constant attention, exercise, food, water. They need to be let outside, and then let back in. In the snow, rain, blazing heat. They need their paws wiped, they go to the doctor, they take medications – and sometimes expensive ones. Some have allergies, some require special diets, and some – like my dog – deal with urinary incontinence issues their entire lives. Dogs are real. They’re not accessories, and they can’t be left for days on end like cats. Quite frankly, dogs can be a pain in the ass.
The first month after adopting Scout, I was convinced we were not a good match. I imagined adopting a dog to be something similar to having a baby. They say that pushing seven pounds out of your vagina will turn even the least motherly people into instinctual nurturers. That parents instantly fall in love with their baby, and that from that moment forward, they can’t imagine anything other than protecting and raising that child (quite frankly, I still don’t understand how you love something that you have to push out in the most inhumane, painful way imaginable). So imagine my surprise when I brought Scout home and was convinced she hated me for the first month.
I learned that my dog is not excessively cuddly. She hates fetch. She has this condescending way of staring at me when I do something totally idiotic. And for as invasive and relentless as she can be, she likes her space. I assumed we were not a match. I couldn’t get myself to love her in this unconditional automatic way I had hoped for, and I knew she could sense my anxiety. In my fantasy world where dogs and people are equal, I was shocked to find that adopting a dog and having a child are actually NOT the same thing (who knew).
I don’t know what happened. I can’t pinpoint the moment when I realized that my dog was the best thing to ever happen to me. Perhaps it was the warm body that laid in my bed as I suffered through the post-college “what am I doing with my life” depression. Maybe it was the desperate-to-get-out-of-her-cage puppy who couldn’t wait to greet me when I got home. As any dog owner can vouch for – there is very rarely one particular moment that defines a relationship with a dog and its owner. It seems more appropriate to say that you wake up a day, a week, a month, or a year after having a dog in your life and realize that you have no idea how you made it this far without them.
My dog isn’t perfect. God. People who know me, know that my dog is arguably the next star of the sequel to Marley & Me. She has the listening capabilities of Helen Keller. She has, quite possibly, the shortest retention of any dog I’ve ever known. She has no idea that her 70 pound frame is not conducive for fitting through small spaces, on the laps of my friends or underneath tables. She doesn’t know how to drink water from her bowl, and as a result, there is constantly water on my kitchen floor that people slip in on a regular basis. She has single-handedly destroyed an entire arm chair and its matching ottoman. There are homemade arm covers to my sofa to cover up the hole she chewed into it. She sheds year round more than thirty Saint Bernard dogs during August in Ohio. Her head rests perfectly along the dining room table, and she takes full advantage when you’re eating there. Oh, and according to my boyfriend, she has the worst farts of all time.
However, despite all that, here is what she is: She’s funny as hell. She plays independently – because who needs a human to throw a kong around with her when she does it herself and has more fun? She is as lazy as I am, making her the perfect couch companion and an even better weekend sleep-in partner. She senses feelings – and she reacts appropriately. If there’s yelling in this house, she won’t be seen. She’s off in the other room waiting for the noise to be over, understanding that it’s not the right time to puke on the carpet or knock a glass of water off the coffee table with her weapon-sized tail. She’s a picture whore. I’m convinced she’s posing when I’m in the backyard pretending to be a photographer with Instagram on my iPhone.
She’s a fierce walker, and dedicated to seeing me succeed in my training. For as horribly behaved as she is in other areas of life, she’s the best dog on a leash I’ve ever seen. She’ll trot for miles alongside me, never slowing, never yanking me down in pursuit of a squirrel. She sits at intersections, and ever since I faceplanted on a sidewalk last year, she looks back at me every minute or so just to make sure I’m not yards behind her in the dust. She’s loyal as hell, and while loyal to her may not actually mean listening to me, it does mean that every time my boyfriend jokingly tells her to attack me, she inevitably jumps on him and tries to knock him down. She knows the sound of my car from down the street. She puts her ears back and sits in front of me, trying to shake my hand when I’m crying.
She’s the best. And there’s no question about that. And it’s this confidence in her faith in me that makes me able to love her unconditionally, and do things for her that I never thought I’d do in a million years. So today, on our run, after Scout was finished politely pooping in someone else’s yard, she realized she still had a piece of um… well, poop, still hanging from her butt. And there I was, on the middle of a main road, with her looking at me like “what do I do, mom? this doesn’t feel good.” And there I was, on the middle of a main road, with a leaf in my hand, trying to help her out. “Trying to help her out” is obviously code for “picking poop off my dog’s butt with a leaf.”
I don’t know a single human on this planet that I’d do that for.