Monday, September 7, 2009

Going to the Dogs

This one simply screams for audience participation, which makes me a bit sad that I don't have a larger audience. But that's my own fault for not working harder on it.

As Arwyn's Birthday was rapidly approaching, and I had an idea that something would be blog-worthy out of the deal. And so it was.

It seems that Arwyn uses her birthday to shoot for the moon, as far as presents go. The last few years her requests have left me gasping in either astonishment or laughter. She often asks for things like digital cameras or a computer printer, which has a lot of appeal for a nerd like me. The problem is that she does her research and asks for the most expensive item in that particular category. Like an $800 digital camera, or the $900 laser printer or a $1500 laptop. We're doing okay financially, but not THAT well! We simply don't have C-notes stashed all over the house. She knows this, but really has a way of turning the thing into an embarrassment. It's not that she isn't worth a thousand bucks. She might even be worth 3 or 4 thousands. So perhaps I need to start stashing some away and saving up a year in advance. Then she could just get what she wanted.
This year, her request was the most audacious yet. She said she wanted a Golden Doodle puppy. She wrote down a few web sites that had some for sale and she was totally serious. The price tag on these things is about $1100. Each. Holy crap! There is absolutely no way in hell I am dropping that much money on an animal that you can't eat, milk or ride.

But there is the larger debate on getting a dog. I have some very fundamental issues about the whole idea that need some working through. I've shared a few of these with Arwyn, but I'm not sure if she is hearing me. So I'll share with y'all and you can talk back at me.

First off, I do like animals, contrary to what anyone else in my household thinks. I grew up on a farm around them, and it was okay except for all the bother and responsibility of raising them. But animals on the farm all have some sort of job to do and if they are nice and friendly that's just a bonus. The dogs we had were pets that lived outside and guarded the place from various varmints. We didn't have to worry about raccoons in the sweet corn or deer in the garden when we had dogs running around. But they lived outside. There was no potty training involved or worrying about them chewing on stuff. We also didn't have them leashed or fenced and they had the full run of the farm plus whatever other territory they could claim from neighboring dogs. But they were pretty free animals that were nice companions whenever we walked to the river to go fishing or when I was trapping gophers or whenever I went for a hike. But in the city or in suburbia, it is a lot different. The space simply isn't there as far as yards, and my wife and the kids are keen to have the dog in the house. I see trouble all along the way there. That's not to say the dog couldn't be properly trained, but the fact is that it would fall on me to do it, being the behaviorist in the family.

And that's a second point. I think keeping animals like dogs cooped up is kind of inhumane. Dogs need to be out exploring and running around, but while we are all at school or work, the dog would have to be cooped up somewhere like a crate or cage. This does not sound like a good life to me. I know I wouldn't like it! Our lifestyle is not geared very well at all towards dogs. Arwyn likes to go to places like the aquarium, the zoo, museums and these are all places where dogs are not allowed. The dog would be sitting at home. Arwyn dislikes staying at home while I rather like it, so again, this makes me the dog sitter.

And then there is Arwyn's history with pets. When we met, she had 2 cats. One was a crabby tabby and the other was a whiny wimp. Neither of them paid any attention to her when she scolded them for getting on the table or doing something they weren't supposed to. She now thinks it would be different with a dog, but I know better. the kids don't even listen to her half the time! She thinks cats are different than dogs, but in the fundamentals of behavioral training, dogs, cats and kids are identical. They all respond to contingencies of reinforcement, i won't get into all that here. Aside from the training issues, there is the responsibility issue. Her cats were absolute and total pigs who pissed and shit all over the house. To her credit, Arwyn did try to keep up and keep things clean but once our first child was born she simply couldn't do it. And then came the day that she decided that she could no longer keep up with the worst offender, which was Crabby.

When it came time to turn him into the humane society, I'M the one who had to do it because Arwyn was too gutless. Three years later, she decided it was time to get rid of Whiny, and guess who had to do THAT? Okay, so as the man of the house, I'm expected to be able to kill things or have them put to death easier than a woman, and I'm fine with that. But that does not mean I took pleasure in it. And so I am not very much in favor of putting another animal on death row.

And then there is the other issue that more directly relates to this little blog. And that is the concept of responsibility and attention. Back when Arwyn had cats, changing the cat litter became one of the things she thought about when the subject of sex came up. It was one of her escapes. Later, it became the kids. And whether intentional or not, I'm pretty certain that the dog would become an escape as well. I'm imagining the dog whining and pawing at the door while we're trying to get in the mood. Even as rare as sex is around here, I really hate for there to be any more obstacles than there already are.

Now there are upsides to getting a dog if I could get past the fact that I think keeping a dog alone in the house or in a crate or cage most of the day is inhumane. First off, Arwyn is considering the fact that my oldest has autism and the dog could become somewhat like a therapy dog for him. He's very much afraid of dogs right now, but getting a puppy would gradually reshape that for him so he would benefit in that way.

If I could keep the dog outside, he could keep varmints out of my garden. But I'd also have to worry about the dog digging in the garden. And the two pit bulls across the street getting the dog.

And the attention/responsibility thing does go both ways. There was a time when I considered getting a dog as a companion to somewhat offset Arwyn's neglect. But pet-owner is not a reciprocal relationship any more that parent-child.

So let's talk about dogs. While I benefited as a kid being around animals (especially dogs) it's hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of having a dog in the house and being neglected so much of the time. And I totally am not up for spending money on a dog, when there are so many free ones to be had. One point Arwyn and I both agree on is that we do not like little yippy dogs that have to be overly aggressive just to keep from being stepped on.

So talk to me about dogs.


  1. I suppose I'm the wrong one to comment first, as I've never had a dog, but sort of always wanted one.

    My daughter wants a dog, and I've always said we'd probably get one if we can just manage to move into a bigger house that has a yard for a dog (bigger and fenced-in). But I'm like you in that I don't want to end up totally taking care of the thing, and I don't necessarily want it to "rule the roost" indoors.

    The fact that Arwyn always wants $1000 presents is crazy. We rarely even spend $100 on presents for each other. Yikes.

    I think one of your key phrases is here: "She now thinks it would be different with a dog, but I know better. The kids don't even listen to her half the time!"

    Excellent point.

  2. Well something I can offer a point of view on :) 1st I am the biggest OCD need things in order freak there is and when you add Corey to my household it's intensified by 10. Cameron started asking for a dog when he was 5 and I told him when he turned 10 he could have one. 10 seemed way off when we first moved into the house and of course 10 came pretty quickly. I keep Joey outside, I do have a fenced backyard, not a huge one but a decent sized one, and we have her doghouse in the far back. More times than not she sleeps under the patio and in extreme conditions we bring her into the garage. As a single mother I just can't afford a dog ruining my things, chewing the furniture etc. I don't like the idea of cages and I do think it's pretty inhumane. But you wouldn't believe the friends and co-workers who think the same of me for leaving the dog outside. But for us it works, Cam has learned a great deal of responsibility and I have found the dog has helped Corey a great deal too. Corey pets her and plays chase with her and a lot of the time she runs to Corey before Cam. We do take her out for walks so she doesn't spend her entire life within the confines of the fence. But she does spend 85% of her time there. But I think dog and family are happy.

  3. Different breeds of dogs have different temperaments. I have no idea about golden doodles. However, there are dogs who do very well in households where they spend a good deal of time in a fenced yard and who actually enjoy laying around being lazy.

    I would never spend a lot of money on a dog for a pet. My dad spends a lot for dogs but they are well-trained hunting dogs, and he expects them to earn their keep by hunting with him. My dog, on the other hand, is definitely a companion animal. He's just a mutt, a cross between a black lab and basset hound, so he's very laid back and likes to just hang out with N and me. N plays with him a lot, and I walk him some. We all seem to be doing well with the arrangement.

    It sounds like you are pretty sure you'll be the one to take on most of the responsibility of a dog so in my mind you are the one that has to be happy to get one. If you aren't comfortable with the idea then it's a bad idea. Period.

    And birthday presents? I wouldn't dream of spending more than a token amount on anybody's birthday. But that's just me. I am nothing if not frugal.

  4. I laughed out read when I read "Golden Doodle"... I'm sorry: I always see these disasters at the other end - when someone had their heart set on some cinematic Wonder Dog; after a few months, reality sets in... & of course it's not the poor unfortunate DOG'S fault, it's the owners for being unrealistic, not doing their homework, not investing the time & effort in proper training...
    Surely ya'll can work this out w/a small-to-medium sized indoor/outdoor mutt?!? (I never counsel clients about purebred dogs when there are so many on death row, as you say.)
    I was dead-set against the Chihuahua until my son wore me down 3 yrs ago (I've always had big dogs) - but she's a wonderful pet, doesn't yap but raised up properly w/good socialization...
    (I started to type "training" but we've not given her any formal training besides housetraining; we've just taken her everywhere w/us.) Good luck Digger!

  5. ** should have qualified that - of course I did not BUY the Chihuahua; a client of mine who does Chihuahua rescue let Zach take his pick o' the litter...
    [Yes I have a hangup against BUYING dogs - though I have no problems w/a generous donation to the local shelter, some of my best clients are breeders*, yadda yadda]
    *no not really; my absolute BEST clients are animal RESCUERS!

  6. Wow! I am SO sorry I missed these comments a month ago! Guess I need to work on my dashboard!

    I promise I'll make it up to you. I think I found a niche for this blog.

    Never had a dog, FTN? hmm. Maybe a cat person? From experience I know cats can be bigger pigs than ...well...pigs.

    Cat, you make good points and if my yard was fenced, I would proably go there, easily enough. Especially if the dog could keep the deer away! And for a guy like Cam (and my oldest) there can be some real benefits.

    Yeah, Trueself, a mutt is the way to go when it comes to dogs, IMO. (ditto for Val) There are circumstances where I would be more likely to consider it. A $1,000 price tag is NOT one of them!Ha! Funnily enough, MY birthday is coming up. I should have asked for a $500 chastity belt!HaHa!

    We did have a chance to get a chihuahua, but like you I favor a larger animal. And I could just see the pittbulls across the street making it a snack. I would want something in between that might scare the deer instead of just making them laugh.

    Thanks so much for commenting!

  7. Yikes, no, I'm not a cat person at all. And luckily I'm fairly allergic to most of them, so all the reason more to never have to have one.

    I like dogs, my parents just never got us one growing up. I did take my daughter to the animal shelter awhile back just to look... I'm sure if we get a dog, it'll be a cheap one that we save, not an expensive one that was bred for it.

  8. I know I've missed the window on this, but wanted to weigh in. We recently got our first dog, a puggle, a little over a year ago. He's a mutt and he was cheap. I would never pay $1000 for a mutt (which is essentially what a "golden doodle" is) and I would do more research on which type of breed is best suited to your lifestyle.

    That said, our dog does spend a good part of the day in his kennel. He does not see his kennel as a bad place. He goes there when he is tired, when he is scared, when he wants some time alone. It shouldn't be seen as a horrible thing; not all dogs take to it as well as ours did, but he really does see it as "his space" and is quite content there.

    Dogs are a lot of work, and I do most of it. They need walks, socialization, training, love, and attention. They are also very rewarding, and bring a lot of joy and fun to our home. I wouldn't trade my dog for any other mutt on the planet. I always wanted a dog growning up and was never allowed; my parents see me now, and how much I love my Joey, how much fun he is and how enriching a dog can be to your life, and they wish they hadn't been so concerned about the carpet.

  9. Never have I liked poodles; seemed too snooty. Recently I rescued one. She is the BEST. Poodles are highly intelligent, quiet, calm as can be.Don't shed but sure grow the curls.