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Speaking of dogs

September 21, 2010

I finished my stint as a pet sitter this weekend without veterinary aid, in case you’ve been wondering. My anxiety got worse before it got better, thanks to some doggie medicine and a bottle of petroleum jelly that were left without warning next to the number for the animal hospital. But in the end it was great – Jack was so taken with the dogs and cats that I’d almost bring home a puppy tomorrow.


Also over the weekend my husband handed me an article from The Week – Marriage Advice: Treat Your Partner Like a Dog? Essentially, the idea is this: You love your dog (or cat, or ferret or chinchilla) unconditionally and shower him with affection even though he is a tremendous pain in the ass. Why not extend the same generosity of spirit to your spouse?

Well, that already sounds like marriage to me, though I see the point. But I consider one’s love for a pet, which transcends unwelcome howling, soiling and chewing, as a parental exercise, too – potty training as much as partnership.

It goes all sorts of ways. And as a kid, I confided in Bob, my cat and occasional BFF, when the whole world (i.e. my parents or siblings) was against me. Years later we got a puppy whose needs and demands made him seem like a human toddler. I’ve met sheep dogs and hunting dogs and guide dogs. Some pets are like children, some are loyal companions, and others are around to work. (Same goes for spouses, but I think we’re meant to assume the companion model.) And whether you want to use the owner-pet relationship as a model for love sort of depends on the arrangement, right? After all, lots of dogs wear shock collars, sleep in the cold, and hear mostly stern commands – and others have their own car seats and go to day care.

The model pet owners are happy to see their animals at the end of the day, ready to rub their bellies or scratch them behind the ears, laugh at their quirks and cute tricks, and shake off their messes and accidents. They are patient and giving and kind.

I’m only warming up to the idea of committing to a pet, but I think I’ve been rocking the analogy. My husband likes back scratches and Frisbee, and I’m always glad to see him. I was proud when Jack tried to pee standing up last night and didn’t worry about the mess. And when he howls for no reason, I let him stay in the house.

(As we get closer to considering pet adoption, maybe I should take the advice in reverse – treat the dog with the same consideration I offer my husband and child?)

So, how would you like to be treated like a dog? Are you more patient with your pet than with your spouse?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 21, 2010 8:50 pm

    Leslie, I’m so glad that the summer has given you back! 🙂 I have been woefully absent from the blogosphere, but soon I’ll be back to my usual long-windedness.

    Anyway, my comment is this: A couple of years ago our friends Blair and Laurie had their first son. I ran into Blair when their son was about a month old and I asked him how it was going. He smiled and said that he was thinking of writing a parenting book called, “Just Like Puppies”. This has always cracked me up. And I’m not going to lie, there are definitely moments that I find myself parenting my dog and exercising my child, and vice versa.

    As for my husband, the only thing that comes to mind is that I have really made an effort over our five years of marriage to not be the kind of partner that rubs his nose in his you-know-what should he have an accident (so to speak…I don’t think he would take kindly to this metaphor) and I think that I am more in love with him now than I have ever been because having a child really is an awesome daily lesson in unconditional love. If I can extend it to Grace, the wundermutt, and Asher, I can most certainly offer to Drew, the best friend. I hope that makes some sense! 🙂

    • September 23, 2010 3:38 am

      Amelia, I think you made more sense than I did! One of these days, I’ll be asking for your advice re: the wundermutt.

  2. September 22, 2010 1:30 pm

    I’m the same person who plays “fetch” with my child to tire her out, so yes, this post speaks to me quite a bit.

    It’s an interesting point to compare pets and partners. Mine drive me crazy sometimes when they wake me in the middle of the night scratching at something random, throwing up on the rug or barking when the doorbell rings – when the baby’s napping!! Yet I adore them and can’t imagine my life without them. So yes, I definitely see the parallelism there, since our partners are far from perfect themselves and we have to put up with their idiosyncrasies to enjoy the parts that make us happy.

    • September 23, 2010 3:50 am

      Justine, I play fetch with Jack to distract him and buy myself 10 seconds for x, y or z. But when it comes to other specifics, I still find it easier to think of reasons to treat your spouse not at all like a dog (Amelia came up with a great example of pet vs. spouse training!), but overall I think any lessons in unconditional love, intense responsibility and commitment are good ones to remember as a partner and/or a parent.

  3. September 22, 2010 3:51 pm

    Personally, I would love a good ear rub every day. But these days, it’s no fun to be our dogs. There’s just not enough time in the day for all the attention they need and deserve. If I treated my husband like that, with minimal hugs and treats, I’d be sleeping in the backyard for sure! =>

    PS: Glad your pet-sitting adventure was a success! I won’t even ask what the petroleum jelly was for.

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