Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Furry Frustrations

It’s amazing how much you can love your dogs a ridiculous amount and yet still feel the urge to strangle them.

I imagine that parents often feel the same way towards their children. I am aware that my furry little beasts aren’t quite on the level of responsibility that having a child might be but it’s the closest I’ve ever come.

Being a pet parents is still new to me. Sure, I’ve had my dogs over a year now but as with any living creature, each day is a whole new learning experience.

Take, for example, the simple but amazingly complicated puzzle that is food. My dogs don’t to eat dog food at home. I’ve tried different brands but most of the time, they eat begrudgingly and clearly don’t like what they’re being offered. What’s annoying is that I gave one of the bags of food my girls wouldn’t touch to my parents because their dogs DO eat the brand.

Imagine my frustration when my girls went straight to the food bowl at my parents’ house and started chowing down on the very food they turned their nose up at home.

In my attempts to get them to eat on a regular schedule and eat healthy but tasty food, I’ve resorted to buying canned food. I’m not a fan of canned food. It makes their, uh, poop smell bad and, also, it’s just not that appealing. However, there are some good, holistic brands out there. We’ve tried most of them. Rory, for example, loves chicken, blueberries, sweet potato dog treats and peas. So, I found the perfect can of food- it was chicken with blueberries, sweet potato and peas.

Would she eat it? No. Of course not. Why would she? It was DOG food. My dogs don’t like dog food unless it’s not me providing it to them.

Sookie is a little less fussy and deigned to politely put some in her mouth but she glared at me the whole time she was chewing and when she finally swallowed, her stare said, “seriously? You really expect me to eat more of that?”

I imagine this was not altogether different from the way my mother would feel when she’d put a plate of dinner in front of me and I’d complain, pick at it but not eat very much because I ‘didn’t like it.’ Then, I’d go to my granny’s, have a very similar plate of food put in front of me and I’d devour the whole thing AND ask for more.

Sorry, mum. I know I can only relate on a canine level but…I’m sorry for being so picky as a child.

I have discovered that if I leave the food down long enough, they will eat it out of hunger but I do wish they had a little more enthusiasm. We did find one food that they both loved. It was another holistic brand that was for ‘high energy’ dogs. They loved it and licked the plate clean afterwards. So, excited, I went to Petsmart to buy more.

Guess what? The bloody manufacturer had discontinued that particular line of foods. Needless to say, when the pet store employee told me that, he tried to recommend other, similar brands. My girls didn’t like any of them. We’re still trying new flavours and brands. The nice thing about dog food is there are a lot of varieties to try. I just avoid ones with bad things like corn, corn products and animal by-products because, well, that just sounds bad.

In addition to our food battles, my dogs also cannot be trusted to be left alone. Last night, for example, they were happily playing outside, chasing each other and staring into the fabled sewer grate. So, silly me, I thought it might be ok to take a shower.

I’m take fairly fast showers. I didn’t think it would be a problem for the 12 minutes it takes me to disrobe, shower and get dressed again.

So, imagine my exasperation and alarm when I’m just rinsing my hair and I hear Sookie’s ‘panic’ bark.

I’ve learned to recognize this ‘panic’ bark. I’ve experienced it more than several times when Rory has pulled her Houdini act and found a way out of the back yard and is running around near the street while Sookie barks with alarm. I’ve also experienced it when Rory finds the most miniscule hole at my parents’ house and runs off to explore the great wide beyond of the soybean field next door while Sookie barks with alarm.

Thus, I can distinguish the difference between Sookie’s, “SQUIRREL! MUST EAT SQUIRREL” bark, her “you’re annoying the crap out of me, Rory,” bark, her “I’m cute so come and get me bark,” and her “PANIC! RORY’S DOING SOMETHING BAD! PANIC! PANIC!” bark.

Rory has her own series of barks too, primarily distinguished by her “I’m bored, play with me,” bark, the “why are you petting her and not me,” yip and the, “Sookie, dude, I’m outside, why aren’t you,” bark.

However, it’s Sookie’s Panic bark I’ve come to dread. When I heard it last night in the shower, my heart sunk. I immediately washed all the soap off, turned off the water, grabbed a towel and rushed to the window to see what was happening. Sookie was waiting for me with an expression I recognized on her face: Rory was Up to No Good.

Rory is often Up to No Good. It usually involves paddling in my parent’s fish pond, discovering holes in fences, digging in inappropriate places, getting covered with mud by rolling in it or doing other things she shouldn’t be doing. Sookie can be a little naughty but Rory is usually the one who is Up to No Good.

Last night was no exception. Sookie’s worried expression and Panic bark were duly merited: Rory was running around in the Dog Whisperer’s yard.

I grabbed the nearest clothes which didn’t necessarily match, threw them on, grabbed a coat and put on my wellington boots. Needless to say, I probably looked a little like a bag lady or an eccentric English woman who wanders around saying “Would you like a cup of tea dearie?” while wearing a pot of daisies on her head.

I didn’t have a pot of daisies on my head, in case you were wondering.

When I went outside, Rory wagged her tail enthusiastically. Sookie Panic barked again. In my bag-lady get up with soaking wet hair, I realized that to retrieve Rory, I would have to go all the way through the house and out the front door because I had chains and padlocks on the gates due to Rory’s last Up to No Good escape attempt.

Dog Whisperer and his family were not home. I thusly claimed Rory by cracking open his gate, catching her before she could slide by and bringing her inside. Naturally, she got told off. She knew she’d been Up to No Good because for the rest of the evening, she looked at me with flattened ears and big, sorrowful eyes.

It’s hard to stay angry at such a pathetic creature but I was quite furious. I had to spend a good 20 minutes finding creative but foolproof ways to make the fence secure because she’d found a vulnerability where the chain link didn’t quite meet the ground and she’d burrowed under it. I’ve since ordered tent stakes to make sure the fence can’t be lifted up. Hopefully, when they’re installed, I’ll feel a little more relaxed. For now, I’m going to be paranoid every time I let the dogs outside and I can’t see them immediately from the window. They will not be allowed unsupervised outside for long periods of time and I will not leave them out when I take a shower.

The sad part is that since they’re dogs, not children, they won’t completely understand their punishment. I think Rory is smart enough to have deduced that Playing in Dog Whisperer’s Yard=Mummy is very angry but I don’t know if it’s enough to stop future escape attempts. I do know that as soon as I see Rory is not in the yard, my Code Red Alert button goes off in my brain and I start to panic that something bad will happen. My anger with them is as much from fear as from frustration. It shows how much the silly little creatures mean to me, I suppose. It’s just not good for the stress level.

Being a parent is hard. Even when your ‘kids’ have fur and four legs. Kids or dogs, they can still make you so angry you want to throttle them.

Even when you’re hugging them to you in relief that they’re safe.

Happy Thursday!

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