Ask Dog Lady—Spring 2015
Dear Dog Lady,
I have a Maltese/Pomeranian mix. I brought her home at five-weeks-old and had her in a playpen. She weighed one and one-third pounds. I took her out every 15 minutes when I brought her home and I kept increasing the time. She learned to ring the bell to go out from the cat who does this to go out. The problem is the dog does not always go out. She has ruined my white carpet by choosing on occasion to go in the house. She is now four years old and I am ready to give her away if she does not stop soiling indoors. Help.—Shirley, Peoria, IL
A: After four years, you should love your dog enough to train her properly and to understand the mistakes that are yours and the ones to blame on the dog. When you got your dear little Malti-Pom at five weeks, the pup was too young to leave the birth nest. No puppy should leave its dog-mother and littermates until eight or, optimally, ten weeks. Why? Because puppies absorb much learning and socialization the longer they stay. For example, they learn the fundamentals of keeping their living area, such as a crate or fenced enclosure, clean. If trained properly, no dog likes to soil its home.
Your dog is a dog, not a cat. The cat does not have the job of teaching your dog how to ring a bell to go outside. You have that responsibility. You are the one who should have trained your dog properly. You are the one who should take your dog outside. You are the one who should have bonded with your dog. You should know her schedule and when she is going to have an accident on your white carpet. Your dog has no malice; her mistakes are your mistakes.
Your dog is your responsibility and you should rededicate yourself to her care and feeding. It is never too late to train if you invest the time, attention, and patience.
Dear Dog Lady,
My husband and I just adopted Bishop, a one-year-old Cocker Spaniel, from a local animal shelter. This is my first pet and I did a lot of thinking before we made this commitment. He’s a very good dog—housebroken, loving, smart—and I have no reason to complain.
But I thought I’d bond immediately with this dog. Instead, I’ve been feeling depressed. It’s not a constant thing. Sometimes I’m really happy about having him and I always feel love and concern for him. But I have trouble sleeping and eating and whenever we leave the house, all I can think about is how he’s behaving while I’m away. Is this normal? Will I adjust the longer we have the dog or should my ease with him be more instant? Please help.
—Holly, New York, NY
A: Any new relationship comes with the inevitable strain of adjustment. Your dreams of a dog can clash with the reality of having a dependent creature under your roof. You are torn between taking care of the dog and yearning for the good old days when you were footloose and fancy free. In the struggle to bond, resentment arises—along with guilt and concern that you’re “doing it right” because the dog is so innocent, loving, smart, and entirely your responsibility.
Dazed Dog Lady remembers staring at the puppy crated and corralled in her study and thinking: “What have I done?” Keep going and stay strong. There will be an “Aha!” moment when you and Bishop finally connect in a way that seals the deal. The queasiness you’re feeling now is completely normal. Bonding with another person can be difficult enough; bonding with another species can be near impossible at first. Stick it out. When you finally feel that joyful tie to your dog, you will have a reached a new level of human patience—and canine love.
Dear Dog Lady,
I’m at a dicey time in my life. At 44, I’ve been “downsized” from my high tech job and been out of work for six months. To make ends meet, I’ve had to move in with a roommate who is another laid-off worker—from the financial services field. She rents half of a house, which I’m sharing and paying half the rent. Because she lived there first, she’s spread her stuff all over the place. I’m quarantined to a small room.
Not only must I contend with her, but also I have to live with her dog, a large Poodle named Jim (by the way, I’ve always thought it odd when people give their dogs real human names). She lets Jim wander freely around the house and the other day I came home to find Jim lounging on my bed. My roommate was home at the time but hadn’t bothered to check up on the dog’s whereabouts.
Initially, I was appalled when I saw Jim on my bed and I shooed him away. But after he wandered off, I had the strangest feeling of desolation. I realized I was touched because the dog had chosen my bed for a catnap. Now I leave my door open for Jim and am disappointed when he doesn’t come in for a visit. I never much cared for dogs before. What’s happening to me?
—Royce, Chicago, IL.
A: You’re realizing that, at a time in your life when you feel very disheartened, there are unexpected beacons to light your way. Dog Lady imagines your deflation at currently having no job and no home of your own. Jim has somehow shown you in his own unprejudiced doggish way that you have a glimmer of possibilities for change. How sweet the dog has a human name.
Continue to leave your door open for Jim. You might want to keep a stash of healthy dog treats in your room (freeze dried liver chunks are ideal because you can break them into tiny pieces) so he learns you’re not going to shoo him away but reward him for his incursions. Enjoy the attention as you get back on your feet. Feeling those first stirrings of healing—as you’ve felt toward Jim—might be the start of something bigger to come.
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