My New Dog Hates Me

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Anyone who’s read my blog for the past couple of months knows how I feel about dogs.  It’s not that I don’t like them.  As a species I think they’re generally fine and great to have around as long as they’re across the street, next door, or tearing their way through someone else’s underground sprinkler system (in case you didn’t know, dogs love to dig up anything that’s supposed to be firmly embedded beneath the earth…especially if it costs about $1,000 to repair).

Image from squidoo.com.

We all have our personal boundaries, and I like to maintain a huge wake when a Canis lupis familiaris comes sniffing around my brand new knee-high, chocolate brown, super-soft suede boots that I siphoned unmarked bills from our vacation fund to buy.  I just love expensive footwear, so in other words?  Back the hell off.

Français : escarpins ouverts en Élaphe de marq...

All things considered, when it comes to canines, I’m a “smile and wave” kind of girl.  The smile serves as a decoy.  It says “Hey!  You’re cool.  I’m cool.  Now please don’t attack me and dig your cuspate, frothing, serrated mandibles into my left calf as I sprint past your driveway on my morning run because your awesome owner never turns on the electric fence anymore due to your deceivingly docile nature when you’re laying at his feet eating nasty dog biscuits.”  The wave is meant to establish authority, so you know that when I’m bounding by your house, I’m the one in charge.  Alternately, if you happen to be a two hundred pound Bullmastiff and I’m on the ground pinned underneath you?  It becomes a fairly effective cry for help.

I don't like this dog. Image via topnews.in.

I don’t know about you, but I process pretty much everything through my pseudo-bionic senses, and I don’t particularly care for dog smell.  Or dog breath.  Or copious amounts of dog saliva.  Or wearing a dog hair fleece when I run to the grocery store to pick up a $6.99 rotisserie chicken to feed my family for dinner (everyone is so over the new Taco Bell located inside the gas station where you can get a twelve-pack of chalupas, Captain and Tennille CD, ginormous can of WD-40, and a bag of pork rinds all at once).

Super-masculine man stare. Image from 991.com.

All the people sleeping under our roof understand that Man’s Best Friend is not mine, and as the primary dog chaser, puke cleaner, hair remover, and everything disgusting scooper in the house, my vote far outweighs yours.  If you know me, you’ll begrudgingly acknowledges that the most direct route to my heart is straight through the front door, on two feet and upright, shoes off at the entry, and please pick your coat up off the floor while you hang your backpack on that cute little hook I installed in the laundry room.  My fuse is pretty freaking short at the moment and I’m not your maid.

My fuse. Image via thepave.net

But as I’ve learned, a carefully plotted life often has plans of its own.

As I mentioned on Monday, my husband’s grandfather/best friend/coolest person on the planet passed away last weekend at the age of eighty-nine.  In addition to amazing memories and enough love from all of us who knew him to fill an ocean, Gumps left another very important thing behind.  Brandy.

Brandy is a rescue dog, physically abused by her original owner and adopted by Gumps when she was just a pup.  Understandably skittish and now thirteen years old, she’s bonded with nobody.  No one, that is, except the person she searches for every day and can no longer find.

Against her every wish, she’s been with our family since Sunday, pacing back and forth while she explores each room with her cataract-clouded eyes.  Restless, she spins in circles trying to find a place in our house that feels like home.  First one spot.  Then another.  Switching rooms.  In the middle of the floor.  Back in a corner.  Out of sight.  On her blanket.  In everyone’s way.  She tests countless options, but nothing feels right.

As of the past couple of days, she’s shifted from a state of mild annoyance to outright resignation.  When I walk into the room she lifts her head, cocks it to the left, looks me in the eye, and immediately turns away.  I’m not anywhere close to someone she wants to see.  Grief-stricken, she lays listlessly on the floor, refusing to eat unless I bribe her with bacon, bologna, or sausage; a desperate attempt on my part to communicate in a language that every dog speaks.

Brandy perks up a little when it’s time to go outside, but her arthritic hind legs make it hard for her to go up and down stairs.  Our youngest, Essa, wants nothing more than to wrap her up in a huge cloak of love, but the kids have to keep their distance.  She’s already snipped at me, our neighbor, and even my husband, Scot, who’s a natural magnet to any mammal with four legs and my absolute opposite when it comes to short words containing the letters d-o-g.

She’s a mess, so much so, that some well-intentioned people have recommended giving her to a no kill shelter or putting her down.

But I can’t bring myself to seriously consider those options.  Unless the vet tells me she’s in unbearable physical pain, I’m not letting her go.  I can’t.  If I do, I’ll be giving up on myself.  And that’s not how I roll.

Before the unspeakable spoke last weekend, we hadn’t planned to adopt a dog, much less one that on a surface level appears broken past the point of repair.

But maybe, if I can find a way to open my heart to her, she’ll return the favor.  Just a little.  I don’t expect a miracle, but if we can walk together, if she’ll let someone stroke her back, whisper in her ear or at least lie next to her and be still, our family will be able to give her something worth holding onto until the end.

Our love can’t fill her void, but it can serve as a buffer.  Her presence can’t bring Gumps back, but she can remind us, every day, of someone we never want to forget.

Perhaps, in some inexplicable twist of fate, we were all meant for each other in ways I don’t yet understand.  I have got to get her teeth cleaned before Brandy and I release a flock of doves in the back yard, sing Kumbaya, and intertwine our souls, though.  I can smell her breath from across the room and her halitosis majoritis seriously bums me out.

At the end of the day, maybe life’s not about getting what you want after all, but getting what you need instead.

Me and Gumps

39 responses »

  1. Very good of you to take her, as I’m sure she’s changed your routine a bit. It’s easy to say, “Oh, you got a dog, how wonderful.” But what isn’t said in those few words is how much work pets can be. Usually, of course, they’re worth it, but it still demands sacrifice to care for them properly. Hopefully, she’ll come around for you, and the two of you will find your groove. 🙂

  2. I was laughing at your perspective until I got to the really beautiful well-placed but and instantly felt it was meant to be and good for you for not giving up on you or her. I used to have a cat that my ex and I rescued (as in I was there first) and she loved my ex but HATED me. When we were in bed she’d like on his chest glaring at me like “He’s mine, not yours!” I used to swear she was a wife of his from another life. But eventually she tolerated and even loved me, and at least willingly let me live there.

  3. Very nice story, you were describing me to a “T” for awhile. People ask why I don’t like dogs or want a dog, and I explain that I have a husband to feed, care for and pick up after….. Why would I make more work for myself?

    I admire your commitment, though, to give Brandy a good home in her doggie-dotage. Your Gumps would approve.

    I do enjoy your stories, you tell them well.

    • Thanks for the compliment, Debi. You know, I was walking Brandy last night….snow falling, ice covering the ground, freezing wind. And I thought “What the hell am I doing out here?” Not weather I’d normally embrace. But it was really beautiful once we got going, Brandy was happy, and it felt….good. Baby steps, right?

      • Snow? Ice? I must look to see where you are…..i’m in Texas and it’s balmy and warm, springtime is upon us, and everything is blooming!

        Not to brag, but, much better dog-walking weather!

  4. Damnit. Made me cry.
    Little Lady died last year. She was 19 years old, blind, arthritic, incontinent. A tiny little seal point Siamese, but really of kitty-mongrel ancestry, Little Lady was a gift to my oldest, Essa, when she was just 5, from my mom. The mom who died 13 years ago this year. The mom who adored her first grandchild, Essa. The mom who Essa saw reflected in Little Lady’s cloudy eyes, and heard in Little Lady’s weak little squeaks. When Little Lady quietly faded away while Essa held her last year, cradling her on the laundry-room floor, it was like losing my mom all over again. But then we remembered that for 11 years, we had a living reminder of mom after she was gone, and we were happy again. I’m glad to know Gump’s dog is helping keep him alive for you, too. And making you have a dog, because everyone should have one. Or two or three, like me. And a cat. Thanks for this; good writing is the best catharsis.

    • Oh, now you’re making me cry. And I thought I was all cried out! Thanks for such a beautiful, poignant note, Barry. Two Essas in the family, two writers…what will we uncover next? Maybe we should stop while we’re ahead? =)

  5. Like you, I am not much of a dog person. And like you we are now the proud owners of Rocky (named in honor of our trip to the Rocky Mountains), a rescued yellow lab. Based on my love-hate relationship with my own dog, I know this: Brandy loved Gumps the same way you did – unconditionally.

  6. Well daughter….you have done it again. This is my favorite, not because of YOUR love or NOT for dogs….but because you saw a deeper meaning for what Gumps had and needed in his wonderful life. Things happen. Things change. Life does move on. We learn!
    Love,
    Mom

      • Honest to Heaven, the whole thing is making me cry and joyous! I too am a d-o-g respecter….I do not like the smell, the mud, the breath, the slobber, the jumping up on me, You stay in your space, I’ll stay in mine….as if we are twins!
        And what you are doing as the family ‘alpha’ in showing that sometimes our personal preferences really SHOULD be set aside. This leaves us open to learn and grow. Our heads can trick us into missing out on some good stuff in life.
        I think of you daily and would suggest getting a large piece of amethyst to put in the Brandi’s drinking water. Charge in sunlight once per week or when possible. you can also put a small piece in a spray bottle and spritz her with it. Around her ears and tail area. I would also try (if it was me and I was trying to make her feel the love) getting an orange blanket of some kind for her to lay on. If she does nto take to it at first, try just laying it over her when she is resting. and the color orange would be good for all of you, as you are all going through the grief process. Orange helps us to keeping moving through the process and uplifts our emotions.
        I have amethyst and some other stone that helps with grief. If you’d like, just e-mail me. Much love and Ditto what your Mom said!

  7. You are officially nominated for the Most Generous Blogger of The Year Award. This award requires the following: 1) you must get a mani-pedi; 2) everyone in your family must draw a lovely picture of you and post them on the fridge and 3) you must be patted on the back – either verbally or physically – for taking on this challenge by at least 10 people. Brandy is grieving and some animals are truly one-person people. She may never like you. She may get used to you and tolerate you. She may fall in love with you once she realizes that Gump isn’t returning and you are the source of all things FOOD! Quick question: have you brought Brandy a bunch of Gump’s clothing to lay on? I know this sounds gross, but dirty clothes are best and underwear are better. You wouldn’t believe how many times I find Dinsworth sleeping on Matt’s tighty whities. Unwashed sheets and towels are good. I’ve also heard that it’s good to give an animal their space – literally. Is there a room that can belong to just Brandy for the next few months – even if it’s just a huge crate? She heeds a place to feel secure and it needs to smell like home. Right now, she feels kidnapped and has no idea that Gump is gone and not returning, so she’s going to lash out at the people who she feels are responsible for separating her from her beloved Gump. So for now, reunite them in any way that you can..Give her that security and introduce yourselves into her life gradually. I’m proud of you for not giving in to those who told you to put her down. She’ll tell you when she’s ready for that and I think she’ll come around to you. Soon you’ll have a grateful partner. Don’t be suprised if she latches on to just one of you. But she likely will – and whoever it is will be lucky..

    • You have NO idea how much I need a pedicure right now so I’m so psyched to accept your award. Now you just have to fly on out to Denver, stop by the liquor store, and come with me. =)

      Everything you say is true. She’s coming around a little, tail is wagging from time to time, but I don’t think she’ll ever be that “family dog” you see in all the alpo commercials. One day at a time, right?

      Thanks for the love.

  8. I didn’t realize is was your Gumps who died, Stacie, I’m sorry for your loss. I love the picture of you and him the very most. As for Brandy… just give her time. Aggression (nipping, biting, etc) is 97% of the time a result of defending owner or territory. Brandy might be in that other small percentage that’s just plain fear. My dog was that way when we brought her home from the pound, and my sister’s “empty nest Chihuahua” was also. They both stopped after a short period of adjustment and a bond was formed. Let Brandy come to you when she’s ready.

    • Thanks for the sound advice, Laura. I’m taking her to the vet tomorrow to try to figure out what’s going on health-wise with her and to GET HER TEETH CLEANED. She’s coming around, but I think she’s carrying some longstanding baggage from her life before Gumps that might be impossible to overcome. Either way, she’s easy and we’ll give her all the love we can. =)

  9. I have tears. Not just from your blog, but from some of the comments, too. Somebody hand me a tissue. *sniffle* Oh my. I…don’t even know what to say, other than beautiful post.

  10. you know, like yourself, i wasn’t much of a dog person before wifesy. and now my french bulldog and i are virtually inseperable, but i’m lucky. she’s already trained and has a great temperment. what i would say is over time she will bond with you and your kids. she will. we used to leave our frenchie with friends for a month when we’d come back to the states (when we were living in the uk) – when we returned to our frenchie, she would cower. cower. it was the saddest thing i’ve ever seen. she knew we had left her and it messed her up. but, she is a dog and we knew that ultimately dogs adjust. your will too. keep the faith. you’re doing a tremendously great thing. not to mention what it will give your kids…

  11. THis is a beautiful post and I applaud you for taking Brandy in despite not being a “dog person”. Hopefully she’s settling in by now. If you haven’t already, you should read The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s a great story, told by the dog.

  12. Stacie,
    I know this is an older post, but I’m stalking your blog. Deal with it. This was a fucking fantastic post. Funny and sad, very well written. I feel for the dog, they definitely feel the loss of a loved one. I have cats. But I’m not like one of those “crazy cat people”. Like my wife. But my cats won’t give a shit about me when I’m gone. If I don’t kill them first.

    • Yeah, cats pretty much suck compared to dogs when it comes to attachment. I know you won’t take that personally, just like I don’t take it personally that my dog has his nose up my ass any chance he gets.

      Thank you for the blog stalk, Bill. It’s flattering considering you could have chosen to clean out litter boxes instead. =p

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