He is 47 pounds of love and insanity. After many cats, and a couple of hamsters, we decided to adopt a dog. Totally won over by his happy, affectionate personality we brought him home, naively thinking he would fit right in, and life would continue on it's merry little way. Um, no, not exactly. The first time I left him alone I came home to a living room that was almost unrecognizable. His sweet personality totally belied the damage he was capable of; a chair was destroyed and moved (!) across the room, every coat and handbag on the back of the door was shredded beyond repair, all the curtains were torn down, and several pot plants were smashed on the floor....
It wasn't what we expected. He gets upset when we leave. Months later, he is better; the damage is minimal, and on a good day he will just "relocate" a few items when we are out. Fortunately for him, my house is not a palace, and I really do believe that the good far outweighs the bad. So, as odd as it seems, I thought I would write about him this week.
Growing up, I had dogs and cats (and a goat) that were kept mainly outside. They came in at night (not the goat) to sleep, so their impact on our home was far less than their impact on our lives. Living in New Jersey, the climate is different, and pets spend a lot more time inside, which means that we have to be prepared to share our house with our animals.
As someone who got their dog on impulse, I have absolutely no authority on the subject, but I do know that I did run a few thoughts through my head before I brought him home. I knew that I would have the time to care for him most of the day, and that he wouldn't be left alone for long periods of time. I knew that we had a fenced in area (so that my inherent laziness could thrive if needed) and I knew that I really wanted my daughter to grow up with a dog.
What I knew, did not prepare me for the reality. Standing outside in the rain, with an umbrella, in my pajamas, pleading with my dog to pee against the tree. I admit, I even tried to demonstrate it for him, just in case he didn't get the memo in doggy boot-camp. Muddy paws, tearing through the house, scratching the floor and skidding to a stop. Tail wagging. Wet-dog-smell was nothing compared to broken lamps and random bites out of my sofa. I started to wonder if he would hurt himself, confining him only seemed to make it worse.
I always had to think before I left the house; doors were locked and plastic bags were hidden, it was all about damage control with a heavy dose of denial thrown in. Returning home every day to a happy, affectionate dog that seemed disconnected from the mess around him. It became about creativity, how could I ease his fears while keeping my home from looking like "America's Least Wanted".
What the heck was I doing? Were my things more important than the dog who was destroying them? No, not really. Yes, we had to try and control the chaos (isn't that the name of a book?) but I could not give him up when the rest of him was so good.
My home has always been important to me, and although I found it very jarring to see papers strewn around and coats torn from their hangers, I found, over time, that my definition of home adjusted. A home is defined by the family that lives in it, and I was eternally hopeful that we would be alright. I stubbornly tried to understand him while I repaired what I could.
It has been six months now, and we leave him alone quite often. Assuring him that we will always come back, I think he is finally starting to believe us. We take him in the car whenever possible, and on a nice day will leave him outside to play. He has a special basket of toys and treats that I give him when I leave the house, "hiding" things in it for him to find. His anxiety (and mine) has lessened, any damage now is minimal at best.
We love him, and he adores us, but we also know that bringing a pet into your life is far more than just opening the door....