Saturday, April 14, 2018

Listen, This Is a Bummer. Read It Anyway.

Every once in a while, Brewster reminds me that he used to live with people who hit him. This morning he couldn't wait for me to let him outside and he had an "accident." He has a mild bladder infection right now, and he's only had two doses of antibiotics so far, so it's completely understandable—and he hit the pee pad, so it's really no big deal. But even if he had peed on my new living room rug, I would've cleaned it up and given him a hug. Little Dude is sick and he can't help it.

But I couldn't pick him up for a hug because he had left the room. Because in his previous life when he did something "wrong," someone hit him.

Brewster's so much better than he used to be. I remember the first time he threw up. I went to get cleaning supplies and when I walked back in the room with a roll of paper towels in my hand, his tail dropped and he charged under my desk, to the very back, where he sat visibly shaking. He wouldn't come out until I had cleaned up the mess and put the paper towel roll out of sight.

One day, only a couple of months after I adopted him, I came into the house with junk mail in my hand. We were having "Yay! You're Home!" Happy-Dance-Celebration-Wrestle Time (as much as you can wrestle with a 7-pound dog), and I bopped him on the butt with some junk mail. I didn't know him very well yet, and I thought he might spin around and bite it and we'd play tug. Brewster thought I was hitting him. His tail dropped and he leapt off the couch and into his crate at top speed.

Another day when I walked in with mail in my hand, I went straight to the bedroom to change. Brewster jumped up on the bed to supervise and I thoughtlessly dropped the stack of mail right next to him. It made a "thwack" sound. Can you guess what happened next? He jumped off the bed (straight to the floor, a long jump for a Little Dude, because I had dropped the mail in front of the footstool he uses to get up and down) and fled to his crate in the next room.

Can you imagine the fear Brewster must've felt the day he developed pancreatitis? The day I came home from work and found vomit and diarrhea in every room? I imagine it was so spread out because every time he'd get sick, he'd try to get away from it. And then he'd get sick again and again until there were no rooms left without a mess, no rooms left where he could hide from the punishment he believed was coming.

Over the years, I've learned to be careful about how I gesture when I have something in my hand. I try to remember not to raise my voice in certain contexts. And I never, ever, ever handle Brewster roughly for any reason. And he has slowly learned to be less afraid. I won't say he's learned to trust me, not 100%. This morning, instead of hiding in his crate, he went just around the corner, out of sight, and waited to see if it was safe. I had to call him a couple of times in my softest, happiest voice, and even then he wouldn't come close to me. I led him outside. I threw away the pee pad and he got another chance to potty the way he's supposed to, and then he let me pick him up and snuzzle. (Not a typo. It's a thing.)

Here's what I wish the people who used to own Brewster had known:

  • When a dog has an "accident," it's your fault. It's your job as the human to teach the dog in "language" he can understand where he's allowed to urinate. It's your job to watch your dog for signs when it's time to go outside. There are lots of resources online about potty training dogs. Look them up. You'll find that none of them require pain or fear. 
  • When a dog chews up your shoe, it's your fault. It's your job as the human to put away the things the dog is not allowed to chew and to provide appropriate alternatives. It's not enough just to say "no." You have to provide another outlet. Simply hurting or scaring your dog won't solve your problem.
  • Dogs are messy. They have accidents sometimes. They get sick and barf. Sometimes they eat something they shouldn't in the yard and then barf it up inside and then you are stuck cleaning up fully formed cat poops covered in dog barf all while said dog is trying to eat the poops again because poops are delicious and should not be allowed to go to waste. If you can't stand mess inside your house, if you can't have a sense of humor about cleaning up barfy poops, you should not get a dog. 
  • Dogs are dogs, not humans. They can't understand when you scream at them in English. And that misbehavior? Being "bad"? That behavior is filling a need. Figure out what the need is and find an appropriate way for them to fill it. Again, there are thousands of resources online for any problem you can imagine. If all you know how to do is hit, you should not have a dog. Or probably children. 
  • Brewster is okay now. I don't know what you thought when he turned up missing. Maybe you even dumped him because you were tired of him. That's okay. You were never his family. You were just the people who owned him. He's okay now. I hope you decided not to get another dog. 
Listen, I'm sorry to bum you all out on a Saturday, but this story does have a happy ending. Brewster really is okay now. It's exactly 7:30 and that means it's breakfast time, so he and Bert are both pacing behind me, trying to urge me to get up and get to it. So I'm going to do that. Brewster and Bertie Sue and I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of snuzzles and walks and good things to eat.