Monday, May 05, 2008

Window into Parenthood

When I talk to people with children, I always try not to compare raising children to raising dogs. Some parents can get really touchy when you equate their offspring with canines. On one hand, I understand, since raising children is several orders of magnitude more challenging than raising dogs. (For example, you can't just lock a child up in the bathroom when you want to go out to the movies. Not if you don't want social services involved.)

On the other hand, I think people who have children but don't have dogs are sometimes incapable of seeing the importance of dogs in the lives of those who love them. A dog is a responsibility, a trusted friend, a beloved member of the family. If you're a dog lover, there's no such thing as 'just a dog.'

Dogs and children might not be on the same planet in terms of familial importance, but they're definitely within the same universe. Some of the skills are transferable, some of the lessons are universally applicable. And sometimes, having a dog opens up a window into parenthood, allowing me to get a better idea of what having a child would be like.

Last night, I was vaguely aware of the clickity-clacketying of Toby's paws on the wood floor in our bedroom. He was pacing, but he wasn't whining or barking. Peter told him to lie down and he did.

"Do you smell something burning?" I asked, since Peter's reprimand had brought me out of groggy awareness into more alert wakefulness. Peter replied with a terse "No", but I could still swear that I smelt something. As has been amply recorded here, I have more issues than a library and more neuroses than a psych ward. One of the things I'm terrified of is fire, namely losing everything in a house fire. Once the idea was in my head, I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep until I checked it out.

I hauled myself out of bed and headed for the door, only to step right into a puddle of something. And then another little splash of something. And then a bit more something. It was as if the path to the door had been the victim of a freak spring shower that left little puddles everywhere.

I knew Peter was already annoyed with Toby for making noise, and with me for having to do my OCD checking thing, so I was trying to be as subtle as possible. Rather than turn on the bedroom light, I opened the door and turned on the hall light. From the light cast into our room, I could see little puddles and drops everywhere. The poor dog had apparently been bursting for a pee, quite literally.

Toby was lying on his bed in abject mortification, his ears down, his head low. We've had him nearly a year and a half and this was his first accident. I called him out of the room and let him outside, where he took off like a shot to finish relieving himself.

I started cleaning up the mess and Peter got up to help me. One roll of paper towels later, it was clear that I'd have to mop the floor and wash Toby's bed. When Toby came in from outside, he was slinking, still exhibiting the "oops I messed up" body language. Whether the dog knew he'd done something wrong or was just reacting to our annoyance is irrelevant. He still needed a little bit of reassurance that although he'd messed up, it wasn't catastrophic. He also needed a bath, which Peter took care of while I did the mopping up.

We'd taken Toby to the sea earlier in the day, where he'd been quite excited and distracted. He drank some fresh water (and some bottled water) at the beach. When we got home, he drank nearly an entire large bowl of water. He was exhausted and was more interested in sleeping than going outside. Before Peter went to bed, he let Toby outside, but I guess Toby didn't take the opportunity to pee. He tends to go a bit Attention-Deficit-Disorder sometimes, getting too distracted to take care of his business.

Disturbed sleep, cleaning up messes, someone who insists they didn't have to go before they went to sleep, the faint odour left behind that we've been dealing with today....I'm sure these are all to familiar to parents.


At 5 May 2008 at 17:08, Blogger Jettie said...

how true is this!!!!!! I have a bit of the same OCD!! If I think of something or somethings I miss i must check!!

At 5 May 2008 at 18:45, Anonymous Noelle said...

My cat did that once when I accidentally closed the door to the closet where I kept her litter box. She peed right on the bed, and had the saddest look of shame afterwards. She's gotten over it now, and I hope she's forgiven me for shutting the door. More likely, she forgot.

Now whenever anything is slightly amiss, my first thought is of what I forgot to do.

At 6 May 2008 at 03:18, Blogger laurie said...

ah, well said. and so familiar.

boscoe always looks quite embarrassed when he has an accident (which is rare, unless he's sick).

but i'll never forget when we first brought riley home, his very first day in our house. i was just looking around for him because i thought it was time to put him out, when he came bounding up the basement stairs.

i swear he was whistling. i knew immediately what he had done. i went down the basement, and there in the middle of the floor was a nice pile of turd.

he did not look the least bit embarrassed. i think he figured he'd found the bathroom.

(that was the only time he did that.)

At 6 May 2008 at 08:37, Blogger Babaloo said...

Ann, I just had to nod and smile all through your post. I often, at least mentally, compare dogs to children. I don't say it out loud either because I know people with children would probably take my head off. But I swear you're right.
And Honey's had her share of accidents. And every time she's had the chance to go before we went to bed. I don't know what sometimes makes her ignore these opportunities.

At 6 May 2008 at 16:32, Blogger ped crossing said...

I consider dogs training ground for children. And since I have children, I can say that.

Sorry about your pee party.

At 6 May 2008 at 20:12, Anonymous Primal Sneeze said...

"Nope. Sorry. Can't stay over. Gotta be home to feed the dog in the morning. Staying would mean going to bed late, which means getting up late. He'd be starving by then. Nah, I'm going home".

Only dog owners understand.

At 7 May 2008 at 04:58, Blogger Alison said...

very true both a parent of children and dogs I relate completely to your post. Our dogs are a huge part of our family, they are our 4 legged children!!

At 7 May 2008 at 15:15, Blogger vicster said...

I was giving a round pen demo with Jefferson Mustang, and a woman came up to me and said "do you have kids? You should, because you have to do the same thing with them and you do it so well!".

Also, my nephews wife made sure they got a dog before having kids because she wanted to see what kind of Dad he'd be. Good thing too, because he let that dog do anything it wanted, and never wanted to train it to behave. She finally got him to understand the importance, and then they had a beautiful little girl...who is the light of his life and he lets her do anything she wants. But he's getting better.

At 7 May 2008 at 17:36, Blogger Metamorphic Sweet Wood Irene said...

Poor guy, dogs get so embarrassed when they go in the house, our dog was mortified when he did.

At 8 May 2008 at 09:03, OpenID conortje said...

I would love to have a doggy but the huge responsibility of it scares me.

At 8 May 2008 at 13:01, Blogger Dave P. said...

Very well said, Ann. Even after all of these years, our friends are sometimes still surprised at how much our schedule revolves around our dogs.

At 10 May 2008 at 23:10, Blogger Kaycie said...

In my experience, dogs are a lot like toddlers; they have accidents when worn out, need lots of positive attention, will eat anything left in their reach (even when it makes them sick), and get their little feelings easily hurt when you raise your voice.

If you can handle dogs, a toddler is just a step up the ladder.

At 12 May 2008 at 06:04, Blogger -Ann said...

Jettie - It's a horrible habit that drives me crazy, but I still can't help myself.

Noelle - Yeah, that's my approach to it as well.

Laurie - I love that story about Riley - I can picture it perfectly in my head.

Babaloo - I wonder if it's any easier when you get a dog as a puppy and house-train it yourself. Maybe there's some magic word then that you can use to remind them to go.

PC - Funny enough, your stories about the pee in the closet were what I was thinking of as I was writing it.

PS - Indeed, sounds all too familiar in fact.

Vic - Hey, good to hear from you. Your nephew's wife sounds like a smart woman.

MSWI - A lot of dog experts would say we're anthropomorphising, but they really do look embarrassed.

Conortje - It is a huge responsibility, but the payoff is even bigger.

Dave - Thanks. :)

Kaycie - Great analogy, although I'm still a bit frightened of children.


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