Saturday, June 30, 2007

There Will Be Hair...

Well, the dreaded time has come. I really thought I would have to have the beagle euthanized, due to her back problems, but instead, I shall have to have my precious Barney put to sleep soon. Oh, my heart is broken. I can't tell you how much I hurt.

But Barney nipped a kid today. The reasons why don't matter. The fact remains that he is now a liability. Where he has nipped one kid, he could nip another. Fortunately this is a very minor injury, but people are more important than animals, even animals we love, so I cannot risk that this is some kind of fluke, or even provoked. How can I assume that? I can't. People, especially kids cannot be expected to know the proper way to deal with strange animals.

This has me thinking about the responsibilities of dog ownership. I want to tell you what to expect if you get a dog.

1. Vet visits. Shots, worming, kennel cough, the occasional injury, sometimes long-term treatment for an ailment. Well, that is a philosophical and practical issue deserving a full-article, but my personal opinion is that you should determine how much is too much to spend preserving a dog's life. It sounds crass, but think about it. Children are starving in other countries for the lack of a few dollars a day, and some of us may spend hundreds or even thousands on keeping an ailing pet around for a few years of ill health. I don't mean don't take care of your dog, but you need to determine in your own heart and mind what YOU believe is the line. For me, when the dog reaches at or close to their expected life span, it is not my wish to spend a great deal of money doing things that will only delay the inevitable. That's my choice.

2. Food. Another area of some debate, there are designer labels and custom blends, as well as your basic generic and all things in between. At any rate it'll cost money.

3. Grooming. If you are fortunate, you can do this task yourself for a long time, but you will still need canine shampoo, the appropriate brushes, perhaps electric clippers, nail clippers, etc. There may come a time when you physically cannot do the task yourself and the groomer is expensive! A good grooming can help cut down on shedding and mean less housework for you, though, so...

4. Smells. Dogs smell. Some simply have their own odor that you may find slightly unpleasant (my beagle has a "hound dog" scent that some find offensive, even when she has just been bathed.) Wet dogs smell. Period. Flatulence. There's nothing better than turning to your spouse and asking "Was that you?" to find that the source is your very best canine companion asleep at the foot of your bed.

5. Things you won't want to see. Dogs eat gross things. Dogs are keen on hunting down small critters. Well fed dogs will only mangle said critters, not devour them, and you may have to deal with that. I recommend you have lots of jangling tags or bells around their necks to scare the critters away.

6. Sounds. Dogs bark. Even my barkless Basenji/Akita mix is not truly barkless (because of the Akita), but instead barks only rarely. He will always bark at the next-door neighbor, however. The beagle barks at flies.

7. Hair. There will be hair. Everywhere. You will own multiple tape rollers, and you can remove all the hair at the front door, checking this way and that, but by the time you arrive at your office, your pooch will somehow have managed to have his hair all over your black pants. Dog hair will be wrapped around the felt pads of your chairs, it will wind up on top of the ceiling fan, it may wind up in the punch you serve for your parent's 50th anniversary party. That hair will be a reminder of your dog long, long after he is gone. You may go in to your dry cleaner and get scolded for having pet hair on your clothes.

8. Chewing. Mind don't chew much any more, and in fact never did--much. But My dog, Barney is a discriminating chewer. He may not chew anything but empty pop bottles for 5 years, but should your son get you a baseball cap from his college, and should said hat fall off the hook, it will be in many small pieces. Should you kick your red leather boots off next to the bed and should you fail to immediately pick them up and put them in the closet, Your pooch will ignore the tennis shoes under the table, the sandles by the dresser, the clogs peeking out from the closet for the past week and will dig out one of your boots and chew the toes out. Count on it.

9. Separation anxiety. Don't kid yourself, your dog will have this if you have a busy week at work, or have too many after school activities for your kid. Your dog may have this just with you being away at work.

10. Exercise. Dogs need it. You need it. You hate it. They love it.

11. Training. Cesar Millan may be able to control a dog within minutes, it will take you longer, and you will have to keep at it.

12. Kids love dogs. For few weeks they will want to take care of feeding, but then they will stop. The dogs want to eat anyway.

13. No one wants to clean up dog poop. It still has to be picked up.

14. Dogs break things. Their tales are longer than they think, they don't watch where they are going, and let's face it, they don't understand how important Aunt Delia's precious bell collection is to her. Aunt Delia will be suitably angry that you brought your ill-mannered pooch to visit and break her things.

15. You are going to get tired of caring for the dog. it may only be occassionally or when life is particularly stressful, but you still get to feed and walk and play with your dogs even when you don't feel like it. It's kind of like parenting without the back talk and body piercing.

16. If you can tolerate the mess, the dumped trash, the smells, the chewed boots, the occasional peeing in the house, the sick dog who pukes on your rug, and the expense, you will receive far more than you ever give.

17. Somebody will always be excited to see you.

18. Somebody won't remember that you were grumpy yesterday, or even five minutes ago.

19. Dogs are eternal optimists. You have to work pretty hard for them to expect bad stuff from you.

20. Dogs will forgive you your dumb mistakes.

21. Dogs try to please you.

22. Let me state #17 in a different way. Your dog will always be happy to see you, and the sight of those perky little ears peering out the window to catch a glimpse of you, or that tail wagging like crazy when you walk in the door will make you feel better than you could imagine after a crappy day at work.

But, there will be hair.....