Please let me share my tale of woe. My life has forever (or at least for the next 10-12 years) been altered. My days are no longer my own. I am now slave to a stinky 12-week old hound named Joanna. Yes, she is adorable. Yes, her eyes are so gentle and sweet. Yes, her paws are big and she is clumsy cute. Those are the reasons why she is still alive (or not living with my sister). The dog is ruining my life.
First I must make clear: I am an animal lover. I have three cats and I cannot say enough about them. They are loving, sweet, funny, clean, easy, and a joy to live with. If I go away for a weekend, I can leave them food and water and they are perfectly fine. I come home, they are happy to see me and snuggle up on the couch next to me with no barking. I would recommend a cat to anyone.
Now I will get to the dog part of my story.
My husband and son really wanted a dog. As usual, my first response was NO. Then, I thought about it, felt guilty, and came back with a yes. (I need to work on that guilt thing in 2013.) My 11-year old son Christopher then proceeded to research all dogs to find the perfect breed for our family. He presented pages and pages of information on each one we were interested in. We watched every dog show on TV and studied episode after episode of The Dog Whisperer. We asked for advice from people who own dogs. I then spoke with a friend at work who recommended the Lab and had these fateful words that changed my destiny, “If you get a Lab, you must go through my breeder. He has exceptional dogs.” We then spoke to Lab owners and read every book and magazine on this wildly popular breed.
Everyone said the same thing: Labs are the best dogs ever. Labs are the number one family dog. Labs are rambunctious and rowdy puppies, but great with kids. You will fall in love.
Nowhere anywhere or from anyone did I read or hear that Labs are the worst puppies ever. Those words were not in print or spoken by anyone.
They did not tell me the dog would bite and gnaw and think I was a chew toy. Yes, they say they chew – but they don’t say they bite, shake, and hold on. Like Cujo. I had a professional dog trainer come to the house to evaluate the dog because I thought perhaps this was not a normal pooch. I thought that maybe, somehow I ended up with the crazy of the litter. For a month the dog charged and jumped on me every time I went in the yard – she wanted my sweater, bathrobe, pants, anything. She wanted ME – probably in little bits. At first, I took it personally. I would actually cry and think over and over, “why, why, why did I get this dog??” She was obnoxious and hurting me — and I had the bruises to prove it. One morning I told Christopher “Don’t go in the yard with her, she’s nuts.” He replied, “Why would I? She’s a savage.” The dog will eat drywall, action figures, wicker, electric wires, candles, plastic, dirt, fuzz, cardboard, tissues, and she turned on my gas stove. She chewed the metal knobs and all the corners off my coffee table. Chewed my big comfy chair in the living room. Chewed the wires in half for my I-pod speaker tower (no more music). She even ate an important work document of mine – the classic dog ate my homework scenario. I told my husband I need my own apartment.
Joanna is also a major klutz. She has huge feet and long legs and doesn’t know how to use them. Yes, it is very cute and endearing, but this means you have to remove anything breakable from everywhere she will be. One day, we opened the back door to let her in. She sprinted toward the living room, jumped up on my coffee table, skidded across onto the couch and came in for a landing on top of the back pillows.
So scratch the Pottery Barn look. You can’t have anything nice like maybe some shells or candles, or even some books, on the coffee table. She will eat it all and then it will cost you $2,500 at the vets.
Oh and scratch sleeping in. Every morning at 6:20am, including Saturday and Sunday (she doesn’t take off, she’s a hard worker and very committed to her job), Joanna is barking at the top of her lungs to be let out of her crate. I cover my ears, but the barking grates on my nerves. I pull the covers over my head. My husband Michael and I try to ignore her because we want to train her to wait until 7am. But inevitably at 6:40am, Michael jumps out of bed to attend to this demanding creature. That’s when I say, “Did you ever think owning a dog would be this much fun?”
Demanding is the perfect word for her. She wants our attention. She wants to chew on us. She wants to eat my sofa. She wants all my shoes. She wants to sit on me and make me smell like a dog. She wants to go for a walk and drag us down the block dislocating our shoulders. She wants to go outside. She wants to come inside right away. She wants to EAT. All the time. You can’t leave anything out on a counter or table – it will be eaten in 2 seconds flat. We cannot eat in peace. She wants what we have, anytime we have it. We have to “sneak eat.” I silently sneak a piece of fruit or cookie because I don’t want to open the cabinet or refrigerator. If she hears crinkling or silverware, we’re doomed. Dinner is rushed and spent listening to barking.
Another problem is going out. (But that is not specific to Joanna – that’s with any dog. That’s why I’m now anti-dog.) When we were talking about getting a dog, I brought this up. We were used to being out of the house a lot. Spontaneous. But I let myself be overruled. Now I worry about the dog all the time. No more free days spent at the beach or long drives out east. The other night, I kid you not, we stopped at a restaurant for dinner, actually sat down at the table and started looking at the menu when I remembered we had Joanna in her crate in the car. I didn’t want to leave her out there, so we took the food to go – and then had to quickly “sneak eat” it at home. For a minute in that restaurant, I forgot we owned a dog. So I worry and plan and schedule. I have to make sure we’re home, take her to the dog park (let me just say, Dog People are different), come home early from parties, and hire a dog walker if out of the house too long. I knew this was going to bother me – and it does.
One last rant. The cost of a dog is unbelievable. I have had 5 cats over a 20-year period – and Joanna has already in her short time with us, cost more than all of them combined. Between the vet exams and shots, dog walker, flea and tick medicine, toys, crates, beds, leashes, collars, food, bones (that really smell bad), insurance, a fence around our yard, and dog training I am in the thousands with Joanna and she hasn’t even been fixed yet. Did you know that treats cost $18 now? Yes, I buy the all natural good-for-you kind, but really. $18 for dog treats is just plain silly.
The one good area, I must be fair, is potty training. Joanna is amazing. And if I had to choose only one thing for her to be best in, this would definitely be it. If she did all the stuff above AND peed on the floor, I would be locked up right now. She had only 2 accidents in the very beginning and that was it. She goes to her potty-spot in the yard – a nice fluffy bush that’s low to the ground. She really likes fluffy bushes to pee in, what can I say. Oh, and she also likes to lay in and play in the bush that she pees in. Nice smell. I almost forgot about that.
Now, back to my personal dog trainer (yes, a personal trainer for my dog – which by the way, I highly recommend). She assured me that Joanna is a normal, obnoxious, insensitive, joyful, adorable Lab – though her playing is a little on the rough side and her energy level is slightly on the high side. She explained that this is how Labs behave.
I could not believe it. I was astonished that this was “normal” and that people purposefully choose to have one – and actually get a second after the first dog dies. They want another Lab? Really? Are you serious?
And why doesn’t anyone tell you how bad Labs are before you get the dog? Is this a conspiracy to keep the breed alive? Or misery loves company? Now everyone is happy to share their horror stories. Now when I ask in a credulous voice, “you have two Labs??” and “does your dog act this way!?” They all say, “Oh yes, that’s how Labs behave. Don’t worry, she will grow out of it by two or three years old.” That’s when I really go to wig city. Two or three? Someone isn’t making it that long.
It’s a conspiracy. And I feel it my duty to tell the real story.
I also wanted this all down on paper. It’s puppy prevention. Just in case at two years old, she turns out to be the best dog ever…. and I get any irrational ideas on getting another.
Follow up Note: Joanna is now 17 weeks. She is not biting, but the chewing continues. She likes the Phooey Spray that you spray on items you don’t want dogs to chew. Dogs are supposed to hate the taste, but of course Joanna doesn’t mind it at all. She is still waking us up early (but my darling husband gets up with her every morning, not me). She remains klutzy and obsessed with food. She still loves to lay in her potty bush. I have probably spent $500 in bones so far – and she likes to chew the stinkiest bones on my lap. She is dying to play with the cats, but they avoid her like the plague. She loves stuffed animals and is hilarious with empty plastic bottles. She is super smart and already knows the following commands - sit, stay, leave it, come, drop it, and down. She is sometimes naughty, but also very, very sweet. She is now making me laugh instead of cry, a very good turn of events. If it wasn’t for dog trainer Joanne Barrett, I think either Joanna or I would have had to move out. All in all, Joanna is making great progress – and so am I. I still complain and say I hate her, but truth be told I like her a lot more than I let on. Joanna’s eyes are so expressive and gentle… and when she rests her chin on my knee and looks up at me, I do love that crazy girl. And of course she loves me best of all.
Written by Dawn Nagle