My Damn Dog

Frank is an eleven year old cockapoo. Actually he’s a mix of cockapoo and cocker spaniel, so a more apt title would be cocka-cockapoo. His full name is Franklin Dogdog Roosevelt and his favourite thing in the world is his rubber blue bear. He’s my dog and I hate him.

Here is our story:

Five years ago, Frank moved in with Leigh. He had been living with her mum whose migratory life no longer suited a dog. The move was seamless. He got along with all of Leigh’s roommates and they loved dressing him up. One night Leigh came home to find them all celebrating an evening of cross dressing. Hari and Tyler wore skirts and blouses, Melinda wore slacks and suspenders, and Frank wore a string of pearls and a floral head scarf.

Frank gave Leigh something to chat about and introduced her to a community of dog owners who, if you asked Leigh, are strange and obsessive but very nice. They went for walks in Montreal’s beautiful city parks, sat on terraces in the hot sun, and curl up on the couch to watch Deep Space Nine. For a few years they were inseparable. They were best friends. They even shared cloths on occasion. Yes, it was weird, but Leigh had left her roommates, been living by herself, and there’s only so much Star Trek a girl can watch.

Things were going well for the best friends; that is until the falling out. It happened after the birth of Joanie, Leigh’s daughter, who entered into their lives and took up all the love.

When the pair first moved in together, Frank was an exceptionally well behaved dog. He’d been to puppy academy and graduated top of his puppy class. He could sit, stay, play dead, and roll over. He even pranced when he walked, each paw springing up from the pavement like a small child’s feet in hot sand. Leigh’s mum had worked hard to make him a good dog, but Leigh didn’t have the same patience. She figured he didn’t need to roll over or play dead, and prancing, while adorable, was unnecessary. She let him go unpracticed.

As the tricks waned so too did all the other discipline. Soon he was barking at the door and pulling so hard on the leash his breathing became wheezy pants. It wasn’t long before Leigh had to keep the garbage pale on the counter to stop Frank from spreading carrot peels and coffee grinds all over the apartment. Finally when Joanie was born, and the last remnants of attention Frank received disappeared, he started leaving surprises on the living room floor in front of the television.

One night, when Joanie was a week shy of six months and Eric was on business in Germany, Frank pushed Leigh’s patience until it fell over the anger cliff and disappeared in the ocean of fury. She had picked up her daughter from daycare, walked home in the pouring rain and lugged the buggy up three flights of stairs. She wanted nothing more than to collapse on the couch and zone out to an episode of Sesame Street. In the half an hour she was gone, Frank tipped the garbage can, strew its contents down the hall, vomited whatever he had eaten onto her bathrobe, and pissed a big astringent puddle on Joanie’s foam play mat. After putting her baby down to nap, cleaning up the mess, shedding her soiled socks and crying all the while, Leigh called her mum.

“It’s too much. I don’t trust myself. I’m going to take him to the park and leave him there,” she cried.

“No you’re not,” her mother assured her, knowing all she needed were comforting words, “you’re not a monster.” Leigh was calmed, but her relationship with Frank remained tense. She ignored him when he looked up for scratches and pushed him back to the ground when he tried to snuggle with her on the couch.

That was recent and I’m still having difficulties feeling close to Frank, though I have a new resolve to be a better dog owner. When that dog moved in with me I made a commitment. For a while I would say my life is so vastly far way from that which I had imagined when I got a dog, that if I had known I was going to have a baby I would have remained pet-less. But that’s just an excuse. If at any point in my life I could see the future I would have made different decisions. If I had that power I would never do anything, paralyzed by the fear of what could happen. I make choices that I have to live with for better or for worse and Frank was a choice that I made, a responsibility I am committed to. So I try hard to visit the dog park, and I take him to the groomers, albeit not often enough, and I introduce him gently to Joanie in an effort to make him part of the family. It’s tough and I’m lazy but as I write this I am reminded of all the companionship Frank has given me, and I figure I owe the little guy some love.

He’s a good dog. I’m a bad owner.

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