Colloquial Zen & The Mediocre Dog Owner

This dog.

This dog is testing my patience, compassion, adaptability, and inner peace, and I am failing miserably.

Let me tell you something about Honeydew. Cute as she is to look at, she's always been a pain in the ass. She needs you like a dog and uses you like a cat.

I take care of her needs and wants on demand (feed me, bathe me, deal with my fleas, let me out, let me in, cover me with this blanket even though I'm a burrowing breed, feed me, feed me, feed me, feed me, feed me, feed me, feed me, feeeeeeeed meeeeeee, <nonstop whines and whimpers>...), and I get none of that Man's Best Friend behavior in return. She doesn't come to comfort me in my sadness or sickness. She doesn't protect or care for my human children. She just wants what she wants when she wants it and retreats to somewhere comfy and cozy as soon as she's gotten it from you. That's no exaggeration, and it's been the truth as long as I've known her. She exhibits none of the unconditionally loving loyalty and empathy that dog lovers are always talking about when they say their dogs are like family.

Well, on second thought, Honeydew is like family. Family you wouldn't choose if you had the choice. Not every dog lover can understand not adoring your dog, but every dog lover can understand being stuck with human family you neither like nor have the option of banishing.

I love Honeydew like my mother loved her mother-in-law. Well maybe just a little bit more...

But when I used to joke that I was her bitch, I wasn't kidding. Admittedly it was easier to laugh about before I had a new human baby to care for and old age and senility exacerbated and added to Honeydew's already unreciprocating needy and demanding personality. It's been challenging to an entire household of people of average patience and stamina.

If you're a dog lover who conveniently anthropomorphizes dogs with only the best and/or quirkily endearing traits of humans, please keep your opinions about how dogs can't exhibit negative personality traits to yourself. You will not convince me. I've had enough experience with animals in my life to know they run the gamut of temperaments, as do humans, as long as we're anthropomorphizing them...

But now that I've shared how unlucky I am to be Honeydew's bitch, let me tell you how unlucky this bitch is to be mine.

I am not that dog owner. I know lots of people who are, and you put me to shame with the lengths to which you are willing to go for your dogs.

Long before Honeydew came as a package deal with Dean, and after many experiences with pet ownership of all kinds of animals throughout my life from early childhood on, I had finally determined once and for all that I am not a person who should have pets of any kind, but specially not particularly needy ones.

I learned that neither my strengths nor weaknesses lent themselves to good pet ownership and that domesticated animals were a thing I would best appreciate from a removed perspective, no matter how adorable, sweet, interesting, and/or fascinating I might find them in moments.

I don't find anything inherently gratifying in pet ownership in and of itself, I'm not the kind of person who gets a lot of gratification from being needed, I don't have the depth of emotional generosity and compassion to love animals as I do the humans I choose to love, and truth be told, at the moment, I'm not trying to find it.

Some people believe that die-hard animal lovers are necessarily more loving and compassionate beings all around than the rest of us. Sometimes this is true, and it is truly admirable when it is; but sometimes it isn't. Sometimes people pour themselves into animals because they're ill-equipped to live among humans. And sometimes people can't pour themselves into animals because they're still learning to make the most of their human relationships.

Unfortunately for Honeydew, I'm one of those people.

I realize that makes me sound like a real dick to some.

At the risk of sounding like an even bigger dick, my takeaway from this learning experience is not how to like, adore or treat Honeydew any better than I do now. I have no qualms of conscience about the realistic light in which I see her, and I love her well enough that she is exceptionally well and healthfully fed and quite very comfortable every day of her life, thanks to my care.

For me, the test I am failing, the test for which I need more study and practice, is how to better abide the exhaustion, fatigue and frustration of the almost daily 2 to 3 AM wakeups from which I can't return to sleep, the incessant whining and whimpering for food that are worse than nails on chalkboards to my ear, the constant interruptions to work and trains of thought to let her out so she can pretend potty and have a treat, and then the further whimpering and whining to be tucked in, out of which this old dog will not be trained, that often make me want to punch myself in the face, for as indefinitely long as they will persist until she reaches her end, which no heroic measures will be taken to delay.

I believe that when I learn to peacefully accept this experience with Honeydew that I did not choose, and from which I can't conscionably opt out, and see it to its end, the Universe will at the very least release me from any more inadvertent dog ownership, and maybe even let me sleep in from time to time.

In the meantime, I leave you to let the dog out so she can trick me into treating her yet again. Only this time, I'll try not to grumble about it.




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