I spend a lot of time around kids, but I don’t have any of my own. Instead, I have Dwight. Full name: Dwight K. Schrute (Adam named him. It was a vast improvement over the cat. Her name is Star Trek). I think people might be right when they say if you want kids, you should start with a plant. Keep that alive, get a puppy. Keep that alive, you might be ready for kids. The thing is, I’ve had some plants. None of them have survived. Now I have a dog, and sometimes I don’t think I will survive. This does not bode well for ever having children.
Despite that, Dwight is alive and mostly well. We’ve both survived the past four years, though sometimes barely. I do think having Dwight has taught me a variety of life lessons that make me a better caretaker of small children. These lessons have also made me a better runner, a better wife, a better sleeper, and a better human. Let me explain:
Lessons I Have Learned From Dwight the Dog (Part Brittany Spaniel, Part Australian Shepherd, Full Obnoxious):
- Child proof does not mean foolproof. Dwight really likes playing with things that make fun noises. This includes pill bottles. We learned early on that he likes to gnaw on the plastic lid of the Tylenol, and shake the bottle around. It was frustrating, but not disastrous. Until he got the lid off. And decided Tylenol is delicious. Which leads to lesson number two:
- Poison control is friendly and helpful. Even when you call about a dog instead of a human. As it turns out, Tylenol overdoses are serious in humans and dogs. Handy tip: hydrogen peroxide will induce vomiting in a dog. Part B of handy tip: hydrogen peroxide will induce IMMEDIATE vomiting in a dog. Don’t give the dog the hydrogen peroxide until they are in the precise spot you would like them to vomit in. You’re going to thank me for that tip someday.
- Karma is a bitch. No one likes to be shut up in a house all day alone against their will. If, by necessity, you must do this to your dog one day because you and your spouse have to work double shifts, there is no amount of treats that will save you from your comeuppance. Karma may manifest in the form of the kitchen garbage spread all over the apartment, or a special surprise left in the corner, or every wooden spoon you own being chewed to pieces, leaving you to put all the splinters back together, frantically, as you try to decide if a piece of wood is working its way through your dog’s intestinal tract.
- People are weird. If you have children, or you have friends who have children, you have witnessed the insane interaction between parents as their children play. That bizarre competitiveness that has them bragging about how their child is the best at crawling or speaking or using the potty. When people get competitive over their pets, it’s a million times weirder. Especially when your own pet is a social misfit that humps old people and harasses small breeds.
- It’s not fitness, it’s life. There are so many reasons to be in good shape physically, not the least of which is that sometimes dogs run away. They think it’s a fun game, and the world is their playground. As grown humans, we realize the world is not a fun playground, so much as a dangerous place filled with cars and death. When the dog runs away, you have to be ready to give chase. For a good 45 minutes to an hour. You can’t afford to get a stitch in your side. The dog never gets a stitch. By the way, many thanks to the catering crew in that wedding in Greenville, SC in 2008 for cornering my dog near the buffet table. I apologize for the disruption.
- Puppies aren’t puppies for long. They get bigger. And then bigger, and then bigger. If you feed them too many scraps from the table, they get even bigger. Those things you thought were adorable when they were tiny, like the way Dwight used to curl up on the pillow at night, become absurd, like having a 50-pound dog sleeping on your face. Every day when I get home, Dwight wants to sit on my lap for a bit. Which is adorable, and makes me feel needed, but also uncomfortable, because he’s not exactly small. His bark, which used to be yippy and playful, now sounds kind of menacing. This is helpful for keeping away burglars and the FedEx man, but unnecessarily terrifies our neighbors. I tell you this because these are things you can fix when the dog is a puppy. Clearly, we have completely screwed up and must live with our large, misbehaved, ridiculous mess. Learn from our mistakes.
- In for a penny, in for a pound. Just like marriage, or parenthood, having a dog is making a commitment that you have no real understanding of until you’re right in the thick of it. At the point of no return. That puppy turns into a dog, and that dog needs medicine, and shots, and food, and exercise. And the longer you have that dog, the more you love that dog, until you’re spending hours researching the health benefits of various dog food brands, and wondering if your dog is suffering from seasonal depression. You find yourself googling how to remove a tick, and looking up doggie daycares for when your work schedule is a little full. You realize that at some point you’ll be carrying that dog down the stairs when arthritis makes it hard for him to walk, and mixing gravy in with his canned food so that he’ll eat. None of this was in the adorable puppy pamphlet, but if you had it to do over, you wouldn’t change a thing.
I love my dog. I don’t bother to get into any of the competitive bragging at the dog park. In fact, I’m usually pretending I don’t know him while giving him the evil eye. This is the dog that ate all the stocking stuffers one year (Handy tip: charcoal also induces vomiting in dogs. Also immediately). This is the dog that humps my grandmother every time he sees her. This is the dog that knocks over small children, and eats Kleenex, and used to chew up furniture legs. The same dog that begs you to take him out, then makes you chase him around the apartment to get a leash on him. He’s a hot mess. But he’s our hot mess. And there’s nothing like having a slobbering idiot around, that relies on you for every little thing, to give you a big kick in the pants toward adulthood.