Like most things I do (or try to do), I take dog ownership to what some people might consider the extreme. I think it’s mostly me trying to repent for my dog ownership sins of the past, but I also think we, as humans with large brains and opposable thumbs, owe it to our four-legged friends for the unconditional love and companionship they give us no matter how bad our day was or how we treat them.
Pretend Dog Owner
This weekend I helped out Beth from 3UpAdventures by taking care of internet famous dog Sprocket while she attended a wedding in Connecticut. Being that I am a huge dog-lover and don’t have one of my own, this was almost more to my benefit than hers.
I got to play with a dog. I got to go hiking with a dog. I got doggy kisses. I got to laugh at him being a dummy. For four days, I got to pretend like I was a dog owner. I got to experience all the good things everyone remembers about owning a dog.
Real Dog Ownership
Not only did I experience all the good things, I also experienced the things everyone forgets.
I’ve always had the benefit of living in the country when I owned my dogs. Picking up dog poop entailed walking around the yard with a shovel and a bucket and picking up the piles here and there well after a winter freeze. But this time? This time it was picking up freshly laid, steaming, stinking piles of Sprocket dung with a thin layer of plastic between it and my hand. It was my first through seventh time throughout the weekend.
I definitely didn’t forget about the constant shedding of dog hair, but I did forget how much I don’t like it. If Jay-Z has all black everything, dog owners have all dog hair everything – clothes, carpets, vehicles, furniture, bedding, food….everything. While I never actually cooked Sprocket (to my knowledge), I was picking his hair out of my food more than a couple times.
Exercise and Potty Breaks
I’ve written on more than 63 occasions that I am a generally lazy person other than when I’m not being lazy. And in which case, if I don’t feel like going for 4 mile hikes, I don’t really want to go on 4 mile hikes. But dogs need exercise and it’s not like they can let themselves out and go to the gym. Don’t get me wrong, I’m way out of shape and needed the exercise myself, but I would have much preferred to not leave the condo and work on other things on my day off. (Related: hiking with a dog is still hiking – read: boring – but it’s infinitely better than hiking alone.)
Likewise, their lack of thumbs and inability to open a door or flush a toilet (in 100% of the dogs I know or have seen) means that I have to get dressed and take him out. Even at 11pm when I’ve been sleeping but he has to go. Did I mention picking up dog poop?
Poor Sprocket is having jaw problems and dry skin that has caused him to try new food. I have no idea how much those things will cost, but I can remember two (2) scenarios of owning Guinness that cost me near $900 each time. The first time was when he got smashed in the face by a metal bat because he couldn’t wait for the ball to be hit for him to chase after, and the second was when he somehow got some form of canine sepsis and needed to be rushed to the emergency vet clinic.
Sure, it’s very easy to train a dog to not lick. Some people even think it’s gross. But observationally speaking, it seems to me dogs lick you as a form of affection. Either they think they’re grooming you and caring for you, or they’re just really excited and showing how much they love you in that way. That’s how they show it to other dogs so I wouldn’t try to take that part of their animal instinct away from them. It’s their way of showing you’re one of the pack.
In terms of grossness, I’m damn near the opposite of a germaphobe. I don’t care about the bacteria they do or don’t have in their saliva so the ickiness comes from having dried dog slobber on my skin. And it’s the same reaction I’d have about having dried swamp water or sweat on my skin too. I just don’t like it.
Lots of Attention
This is where the sins of my past come into play the most. I had a dog from the age of 7 to the age of 23. As in, the same dog. Jake. He grew up on 6 acres of land, got to run around and play with the 7 neighborhood children, and was never on a leash. Then we moved when I got to Junior High. Not only was a typical snotty brat that only cared about himself and ignored the dog, he was now on a leash. He sat in the same 10 ft. radius day in and day out for a majority of his life, and other than walking past him to get to the garage, the only time we paid attention was when we’d yell at him for barking too much. Which of course, was just his way of saying, “GUYS! PLEASE LOVE ME!!”
So now, any dog that I own or take responsibility of, gets all the love and attention that they want from me. And that takes up a lot of my time.
Being a Pretty Princess
Any one of those things individually, other than maybe the vet bills, are not a deal-breaker. But when you add them all up, it’s a lot to consider. I wouldn’t fault anyone for not getting a dog if they cited even one of those excuses. Because if you’re not ready to take it all on, you’re not ready for a dog.
Next we add the special circumstance of living in a van. If I were in a stationary living situation with a vacuum cleaner, washer and dryer, shower, and a yard, the only thing preventing me from owning a dog at that point would be my willingness to give up a lot of time and the potential vet bills. But the fact is, I’m going to be stinky and gross enough on my own. I don’t need to be covered in dried dog slobber with dog hair all over the place. If I don’t have daily access to a garbage can, hauling around or saving bags of dog poop doesn’t interest me. And I won’t have a washer and dryer to clean my clothes very often.
I’m well aware there are ways around each and every one of these things, but my perception is my reality. What I can and cannot tolerate, as rational or irrational as it may be, is up to me to decide. At this point, I’m still not willing to sacrifice these things in my life in return for the unconditional love and entertainment of a dog.
But gosh, I sure do like when they get to come and visit!
Don’t Miss Your Chance
I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.
Then I took control.
You can too, and it starts right here.