This post’s alternate title is, “Remember that time my 12-pound dog ate a pound and a half of cat food?”
I remember it. Vividly. Because it happened today.
It all began sometime yesterday.
You see, my dog is a compulsive eater. Her “need” to eat is stronger than any I’ve dealt with, and I’ve jokingly said in the past that my dog’s eating disorder was worse than mine ever was. (Off-color? Maybe. Joking about my own issues is a coping mechanism for me.) Lately, my cat has found great joy in a few things:
- Splashing his paw in the toilet.
- Knocking over the pet gate that keeps Rory out of the bathroom, where her two favorite snacks are: Ferocious Fred’s food, and Ferocious Fred’s litter box.
Rory didn’t get any “litter box candy” — but she did raid Fred’s gravity feeder. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a food bowl with a storage bin on it that holds two pounds of cat food. While it wasn’t completely full, it DID have a pound and a half of some cheap off-brand Kitty Delite or something. Fred is picky, he only eats cheap, colorful, mixed-flavor foods.
Don’t be trying to give him none of that Hills Science Diet. He’d rather starve.
So, 5:30 rolls around. I had dinner plans at 6 with Nightwolf and some friends, and was so far in my own head about work and the upcoming trip back to Illinois that it took a moment to realize that the gate was down…and Fred’s gravity feeder was sitting in the bathroom doorway, empty. And that cute dog that was doing Happy Laps when I arrived? She was suddenly on her back, submitting and looking guilty and showing off a canteloup-sized bulge of cat food in her tummy.
We made a quick, fruitless potty break, and I put her in her kennel until I got home from my evening plans.
I was annoyed, but forgiving. Rory is a dog — I can’t explain why that was bad. I can’t rationalize with her, or guilt her into cleaning up her act. I can’t put her through counseling. I just need to work with her anxieties and understand that, for all the reasons I love her, she DOES have shortcomings. And every now and then, she’ll have a moment of weakness where she eats 1/8 of her body weight in cat food.
I opted into this relationship with her, as her caretaker. She trusts me to be that.
If 23 years of off-and-on exposure to livestock has taught me anything, it’s this: God has placed these animals in our care, and it is our utmost responsibility to do right by them. Owning animals, whether they’re pet or livestock, is both an honor and a duty. I have the utmost respect for the farmers, ranchers, breeders, and pet owners that do it right. And honestly, I can’t imagine my life without some animals to keep me grounded.
WELL, this morning, I had grandiose plans to arrive to work early. As I was packing my lunch and finalizing prep to leave, my apartment was eerie-silent. I turn around. My Rory girl had been silently getting sick on the living room rug, two feet behind me, and looked guilty beyond measure.
I put her in her kennel, cleaned up the mess, and brought her to work. My office has tile floors, my apartment has carpet. So, we got in the car, where she proceeded to make more messes. And I cleaned them up, because as her caretaker, it’s my job to tend to her needs even when I can’t verbalize to her why this happened. She doesn’t see the connection between her misery now and the cat food she ate yesterday. As intelligent and empathetic as she is, that sort of long-term logic just isn’t something her brain is wired for.
So, here we are at work. She’s obviously not happy, although is notably improved since our arrival. And while I like to say I’m cranky about all of this, really, it’s a dose of reality. I get the distinct joy of having this affectionate, adoring, weird little creature in my life, every day. I get to watch her learn new joys, make new friends (animal and human alike) and conquer her fears. And she does it all without being able to talk through her feelings or fully understand how the world works.
If I have to clean up some of the fallout now and then, as my payment for the blessing she is, I reckon I can deal with that.
And really, this applies to a lot of relationships. Our lives are full of people (and animals) which bless us with so much. And you know what? Those relationships will never be perfect all the time. We are human, we screw up, and we have to make compromises. We have to face fears about those relationships (like, taking your boyfriend to your hometown for the first time). Just because you have to clean up the occasional metaphorical dog barf doesn’t mean those relationships aren’t wonderful. If anything, you learn from the dog barf.
Have a lovely Thursday, everyone.