How I Became a Dog Person

September 11, 2017

I love animals. But I don’t consider myself a *dog person*.

I don’t *not* like and appreciate dogs, I am just not one of those people who falls in love with every dog I see.  In my opinion, dogs are like children and some of them are just too annoying to want to be around.

Personally, I *prefer* cats  as pets. Because quite honestly, they don’t require constant attention and can basically fend for themselves. They don’t stare at you with sad dog eyes, making you feel criminal when you miss their morning walk because you got busy. They don’t need you to walk them, they’ll walk themselves, thank you.

My husband had a dog when I met him. I had an aquarium of hairless fish. 

Before I married my husband, I lived in a nice, clean, great smelling apartment with my fish. 

As much as I adore my husband, I mourned my beautiful clean apartment.  

I moved into my husband’s house because well, he was the one with the house and dogs weren’t allowed in my apartment.

Quite honestly, I grew to resent his dog, Laredo. Every single day was spent vacuuming dog hair, scraping it from behind appliances, getting it in my eyes and mouth and wearing it to work. Our yard smelled awful with the aroma of sun baked dog shit wafting in the air.

I wanted to throw up whenever I was outside.

I was having difficulty finding anything to like about Laredo. He is completely *untrained*, doesn’t listen at all and has zero social graces. He’s a clutz with no concept of anyone else’s space. He doesn’t look where he’s going and gets tangled around lamp posts or somehow manages to get his leash wrapped under his front legs- which used to drive me crazy. He barks at all the wrong noises and will let anyone in our house.

Motivated by a sense of obligation, I would take Laredo for walks, which was an entirely frustrating experience for me.

I observed my husband walking Laredo mostly without a leash. Laredo would run amok and shit anywhere he wanted. Most of the time we were waiting for Laredo to decide he would *come back* to wherever we were, which meant we were always stopping. I was used to walking with intention, for exercise.  I didn’t want to stand around waiting for a dog.  I began to resent my walks with Laredo because I was always waiting for him, but I took him with me anyway because he had the sad dog eyes.

I tried to walk him without his leash but would get mortified if he shit in someone’s yard and I forgot to bring something to pick it up with. I would just walk away, hoping Laredo would catch up with me.

I learned that he needed to be on his leash when we went for walks together.

For the first couple of years of our marriage, my biggest challenge was Laredo. If I didn’t want swollen, itchy eyes I needed to take an allergy pill and vacuum constantly. Which I did. I am admittedly a bit OCD with cleanliness.

Adapting to having a dog was a struggle for me. We can’t have nice furniture because he digs into furniture and everything is covered in layers of itchy hair. He sheds constantly and has terrible gas. It never ended. My nice, neat little world was turning into a stinky, hairy, maddening circus.

Many days I had to remind myself that Laredo was there before me. My husband chose Laredo from the shelter because he fell in love with something about him. It was important that I found something to love about Laredo too. I couldn’t spend my days fighting hopeless battles. And dog hair is a hopeless battle. I came to accept that things would be covered in hair unless I planned on quitting my job to control the hair situation.

One day I was extremely distraught about some things going on in my life and I sat on the couch crying in despair.

Laredo came to me with his worried dog eyes, trying to make his way onto the couch next to me, which is usually not allowed.  

But I let him do it.

He put his paw on my leg as if he were trying to comfort me.

Which he was.

He pushed his dog body into my lap, and his insistence made me laugh.

During a moment of overwhelming grief and despair, Laredo made me smile. It was then I was convinced that he sensed my pain.

That year was one of the most emotionally challenging years I can remember. I didn’t know if I would make it through with even an ounce of sanity. But Laredo was there to comfort me.

I live in an exceptionally cold, dark place during winter. Winter nearly destroys my life every year. and I can barely make it outside to do anything. But I know it’s necessary if I want to survive. I am nearly paralyzed with depression during the winter, but the one thing that forces me outside of myself in the winter is my *obligation* to take Laredo for walks. Exercise is critical for me to maintain a healthy sense of well-being.

It’s like taking my medicine.

I recall dark, cold winter days when I had not one ounce of motivation and would have preferred going to bed four hours early than dread every single minute I was awake, freezing and staring into the dark void outside my window.

But Laredo needed a walk!

I would put on my shoes and he would do acrobats in the air like a dolphin because he knew that I only put on those shoes for one reason and one reason only.

The cold was so painful that tears of frustration would freeze to my face during my walk.  I would slide all over the ice and my pants would freeze making my legs numb, adding to my frustration. But there was Laredo hopping around the snow like an oversized fat jack rabbit.

And I would laugh.

I learned to walk slower, especially in the winter when the sidewalks are slick and dangerous. I learned to open my eyes to the sights of cold winter nights. Street lights made the snow look sparkly and magical.

When we got home I felt invigorated and calmer.

During warmer months I would drag Laredo to my favorite hiking trail and let him run free. Initially I was frustrated because per usual, he wouldn’t listen and I would have to go find him sniffing every blade of grass and rock behind me.

Over time I slowed down.

I made a deal with him that we would get up the hardest part of the trail first and then we could wander our way back down and he could pee on whatever he wanted. This worked out very well for both of us-usually.

Laredo became my hiking buddy.

I would tell him everything on our walks and he let me cry without saying one word.

When we moved to the spectacular high desert of Sedona, Arizona, I would take him hiking with me.  He would run free all over the place, yet by then, he had learned that I would leash him if he didn’t at least make an attempt stay near me. I encouraged his exploration and would let him lead the way while I followed. So what if he needed to pee on everything? I would stand there and do yoga poses while he smelled every grain of sand. He found a watering hole which became his place of rest on our favorite hiking trail. Situated in the center of giant red rock slabs surrounded by trees and baby powder soft red sand, I would lay on the cool shaded rocks while he played in the water. These were some of my favorite times with Laredo.

One especially emotional day we went to our favorite trail and I had to sit down and cry-again. I sat in the sand amidst a field of desert trees crying to the red earth. Laredo nosed around contentedly for a bit then I felt warm sand spattering my back. Laredo was kicking sand on me as if to tell me it was time to stop wallowing. He wasn’t coming over trying to comfort me. He wasn’t enabling me. He was trying to tell me to get off my ass and enjoy the beautiful scenery. So of course, I laugh hysterically because it was obvious what he was doing. He wanted to go, but he wouldn’t leave me there. So, I hugged him and we went on our way.

Most of my hiking pictures are with Laredo.

Taking him hiking with me usually guaranteed I would slow down and look around me, appreciating the enormous blue skies and the splendor of a beautiful red desert.

The interior of my vehicle is covered in hair.

When I do sweep these days, I sweep up piles of hair. It just isn’t worth getting all freaked out about it anymore.

Hair won’t kill me.

 Laredo is the best winter blanket ever which means I take an allergy pill at night so I don’t wake up with swollen eyes.

He has taught me a little about life that I needed to learn.

  • Slow down and appreciate the details of my surroundings. Look at the sky, the earth, the plants and feel gratitude for the privilege of witnessing nature.
  • “Don’t sweat the small stuff”! Most of it really is small stuff. I am not dead from a hairy house.
  • Focus on love and acceptance. Laredo loves and accepts me despite my own imperfections.
  • Have treats. Seriously. Laredo eats everything and although he is a chunk, he is a happy chunk. He lives for treats.
  • Get out more. Get out in the sun, the wind, the rain, the snow and appreciate the splendor of changing seasons.
  • Rest in sacred places.

 

I can say that I love Laredo. He has the sweetest soul and he loves me too.

 

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