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.