A dog lover’s guide to managing guilt

Posted on Posted in Heart

It is bred into me to love dogs. It can’t be helped, or changed. And so years ago, when my parents lost their dog Spencer and I was living on my own with no responsibilities or commitments, I naturally decided a dog had a place in my life. That dog was Finn, I knew it from the second I met her. We spent a couple of years together in my town home. This forced a minimum two long walks a day, many trips to the dog park, jogs together, the infamous rollerblade runs on the smooth pavement of our new street that I truly missed when we moved. Although she didn’t have a yard, she was living a dog’s dream. Add to that doggie Grandparents who were never short on dog-sitting time, and they do not skimp, to this day, on walks!

 

 

We moved in with Dev, and a new–and frankly much better–dog’s dream came to be. Walks were now down to the pier, sometimes even with a little swim at the beach. She had a massive backyard that she carved a track into. Whenever we opened  the door she would run the route down 150 feet of backyard and back again, a few times at least. Finn essentially lived out there, begging at the door to go out if she were inside for more than a few seconds. She slept at our master bedroom’s sliding glass door so she could watch for any animals in the backyard and plan her attack once she was outside again.

We had our first baby, and to be honest things didn’t change much; we hired a dog walker for the first bit and then as a mom of one on maternity leave it didn’t take much convincing to make me want to go for a walk. Holding a leash while pushing a stroller is no big deal.

Then came our second. It complicated things to say the least, and I know a few moms who made it work and made it look easy. A carrier, a stroller, a leash. I don’t know if I am lazier or less coordinated but that frustrated me at times. The combination car seat attachment/double stroller (I had a Sit-to-Stand) wanted to make me throw bombs, and add a dog to that??? I could barely get that thing to turn a corner with two functioning hands, so that was out of the question. Walks became less frequent. But our summers were still spent at the cottages, both in Bracebridge and Prince Edward County where she is able to run free and be in the water as she chooses.

 

We moved again, thankfully to another massive yard with a massive running path, and this time she has our neighbour’s dog to finagle into barking/running fits. I actually don’t question whether or not she gets enough exercise, it’s more the bonding and time spent. But being pregnant with two other minis, I was frequently coming up with excuses not to go for walks–around the block was no big deal but beyond that was tough for me. I know I could have gone after the kids were asleep; Dev and I have a system of freedom, where some nights during week I am free to leave the house and the other nights he is (by the way, the dog came with me, he accepted that and picks up the poo from 6 months pregnant to 6 weeks postpartum but he is not adding dog walking to his routine)…so I could take her walking then, right? But what about yoga class? Winealates (yes, for those of you who don’t know, that is pilates followed by food and wine) with my friends? Selfishly I often see my social life as part of my survival.

Then comes just the everyday nuances of having a dog in your home. Like when they roll in something dead, or get hit by a skunk. Or a tick. Or my nemeses: night barking. Our sliding doors now face the road, and it matters not what time of night, if there is a car, a noise, a bird, it comes with barking. So after dealing with the standard night wakings of three children, I finally get back to sleep, and–Finn. It usually starts with a faint under-her-breath growl, but eventually grows. My heart enters my chest as I try to not either freak out or cry. And who is getting into trouble here, the feeding newborn, or the barking dog?  Enter dog ownership-guilt. Enter it hard.

So how do I manage this? For one, I think of how lovely a life she really does have. She may not walk 5km on a daily, but she has two sisters who climb all over her, hug her, throw her toys (albeit three feet) for her, laugh and run and play in the yard with her. Yell at her when she steals their toys. She watches her tiniest sister sleep, and licks that baby’s ears and face. She has a roll and a true sense of purpose in keeping our family safe (and those of you who have seen her ferociousness know she is REALLY good at that)…she literally, I truly believe, lives to protect us. I have never felt uncomfortable in our home with her around. And I truly believe that keeps her happy. She still has the cottages, the lakes, she still ‘nurtures’ baby bunnies in our backyard. She still jumps up on our bed in the morning to get a snuggle in before breakfast. And she still is spoilt beyond words by her grandparents who would do anything for her.

I am not the best dog owner. I was, once, but not anymore. But I love my dog. I am thankful for her everyday, even when I complain or think I can’t manage one more dependent. I am sooo thankful my girls are experiencing life with a dog. If nothing else, “Finny Doggy” is loved. I am hoping that might be a dog’s most cherished dream.