Monday, March 22, 2010

Forgetting About My Dog

I love my dog, Dexter. He is the cutest thing you ever saw and he is sweet and loves me. But, he is stubborn and manipulative and I think just plain lazy. He also has separation anxiety which is one of the reasons I work from home. Dexter pees in the house. When we adopted him from The Humane Society they told us, "Correct him when you see him pee in front of you inside. Praise him when you see him pee outside and he will learn to be housebroken. It does no good to discipline a dog unless you catch him in the act." So, we did as they said. And, Dexter learned three things: Inside in front of us -- VERY BAD. Outside -- VERY GOOD. Inside when we are not around: NO BIG DEAL.

About 2 months ago we gave up on having rugs in the house. At this point we had thrown away about 8,000 dollars worth of rugs because Dexter's "accidents" were so tiny you couldn't find them and properly clean them. This was when we realized that Dexter had "accidents" as many as 5 times a day. We took Dexter to the vet for a complete workup and the vet's diagnosis: "You just have a bad dog." I started asking my friends who had housebroken dogs how they trained their dogs and almost every one of them said, "You rub their nose in the pee, yell at them and put them outside." So, this is what I started doing. It felt awful. But Dexter went from having multiple accidents a day to having 4 accidents in the last 3 weeks. The last accident was yesterday and when I went to grab his collar to discipline him he actually bit me. My companion of the last 9.5 years who I love with all my heart and have knitted seven sweaters for bit me. I was devastated and didn't know what to do. "Stick to your guns," my friend Paul said. "It's working, just put on your gardening gloves if you have to discipline him and stay with it."

I didn't go for a ride yesterday for fear of leaving Dexter alone at home and coming home to an accident. But, today I had a different approach. Dexter would never pee in front of me so all day I kept him by my side, either tethered to me or with the door to a room closed. And, I went for two rides and left him outside both times in our well-enclosed back yard. And, it's funny because last week I was on a mission for a perfect ride and did everything I could to create it (special jersey, special socks, special water bottle). But, today on my ride when all I wanted to do was forget about my dog I had another perfect moment.

It didn't seem like it was going to be a perfect ride. For one thing, I put my water bottle on the wrong bike. I decided to do three climbs. Four was what I wanted to do, but I figured two was smart without water. I split the difference and did three. I was feeling good and passing people and feeling like a real road biker. I was practicing my shifting techniques and working on my cadence. And, then on my third climb, it happened again. Two men with a labrador were walking down the left side of the street and a skateboarder was bombing down the right side of the street all crouched down. I carved a line in between them and the five of us were all in a line as I looked to the left to see the resevoir, the cherry trees all in blossom and the sun setting over the city. I knew life didn't get more perfect than that moment and I was so happy that it happened to me again.

And, I realized when I was just a few blocks away from home that I had completely forgotten about my dog. I came home and he was sitting on the back stoop waiting for me. He shook with delight at seeing me and could hardly wait for me to lock up my bicycle in the garage. And, inside we went, tethered together: An imperfect dog and his very imperfect dog owner who every once in a while experiences a perfect moment on her bicycle.

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