You were right; so was Pete—I am not cut out to be a dog owner.
It has taken less than a week to become aware of what I see as a flaw in my nature. Caretaking any living thing is simply not something I can do, and I have come up with a variety of convincing reasons why it is so.
Houseplants were beyond me. What made me think puppies were not?
It’s a nightmare. I see people out on the street with their children AND a puppy, and I am stunned. How do they manage? When do they eat and sleep, let alone work and clean up something other than the constant mess pups make?
Pete went back to work two days early, taking his undone laundry with him and weighing seven pounds less than he did a week ago.
Hollow-eyed, ragged and dirty, I begged him to let me take his place, or go with him.
Unwrapping my thin arms from around his knees, he gently reminded me of the nearly two years I have spent yearning for a dog. He was not unkind as he drove off. He went slowly enough for me to let go of the door handle (locked) without falling.
I crept back into the trailer, trying not to wake the pups who mercifully had slept through the night for the first time.
Well, four straight hours anyway, during which I was unable to close my eyes, so accustomed have I become to a near constant state of alertness for the sound of whimpering.
Whimpering means a variety of things, but mostly it means they need to pee. They do everything at the same time except that, which means several trips out during the night. They still have managed to do enough of their bowel and bladder emptying in the trailer to make it smell like a porta-potty at a music festival.
The state of our small yard beggars description. It’s another mystery, as I have seen yards the same size, with dogs in them, which are not turd-spotted, piss-bogged and a godawful mess of torn cloth, chewed rubber toys and shredded Styrofoam.
The latter is from the take-out food we have been eating, or attempting to eat—Mutt and Jeff get most of it.
Pete and I thought of eating their food. It certainly offers more nutritional value than what we have been getting, and they are adamant in their refusal to eat anything but fast food.
I’d made a cup of tea and was buttering some toast when they woke. Fortunately, they are not fond of tea and I got to have that while they ate the toast.
As I blearily regarded the sink piled with mugs and bowls, the rumpled clothing strewn about, the curtains pulled from the rods and lying in pleated heaps on the floor, and the bedding, playfully pulled from our bed and dragged partway down the hall, I admitted defeat. I called Cee.
Viewing the shambles of my home, her first reaction was “Should I call the cops? Is he still around?”
When she was apprised of the situation, she lost it entirely, rolling around on the filthy floor with tears pouring down her face.
Puppies did this? Are you crazy?
Monkeys couldn’t do this. What kind of dogs did you get?”
I went down the hall and let them out of their room whereupon they leaped all over Cee, licking her face and chewing her collar and dragging a sock off her foot before Mutt peed on her lap.
She sat up, saying in a loud and firm voice “Enough! Get down, both of you.”
When instant obedience was not forthcoming, she gave them each a brisk shake, holding them by the scruff of their necks, and put them out in the porch where they began to howl and sob, clawing at the door in a frenzy of what I assumed was heartbreak at such cruel behaviour.
Telling me to stay where I was, Cee drove off, returning minutes later with a thing she told me was a child’s old wooden playpen but which looked to me like puppy jail—hurrah!
“It’ll serve until you get a pen built” she told me, setting it up in the yard and putting the pups in it.
I don’t want to get a pen built, I wailed. I want someone to come and take Mutt and Jeff gently away to a lovely and loving new home and if that can’t happen I would settle for a merciful death (for them) and if that can’t be done I will throw them and myself off the Liard Bridge.
I am a failure. I cannot manage two small, long-desired animals and I am guilt-ridden by the knowledge I no longer even want to. Even to admit this is excruciating. They are cute and loving and eager and I don’t want them. I want my life back.
I want to be able to leave the house without them, or without having to consider all the logistics of what to do with them while I am gone.
I want to eat real food, sitting at the table, reading a book and I want to sleep for hours and hours.
Cee took the pups overnight, telling me to have a nice hot bath and a good night’s sleep and we’ll talk tomorrow. I had the bath and am now sipping a martini whilst e-mailing you.
Yes, I remember both you and Pete telling me what it would be like. Yes, I remember blithely ignoring the advice of the two people who know me best.
I am eating humble pie, I am prepared to devour crow—just get them out of here. And into a loving home, of course. I am not so far gone I am wishing them ill.
The embarrassment of telling local folk that I need a new home for them is giving me pause. I told anyone who was interested, and many who weren’t, that I was getting a dog. This is a dog town. I know I am about to lose some serious face over this.
Trust me, I feel worse about myself than anyone else will feel about me. It’s one thing not to want children or an ivy, but no pets? Even my childless, plantless, most urban of friends have at some point declared an interest in a pet. And, of course, all of them know I got the puppies….
The phone rang during that last sentence. It was Pete and I have been rescued from shame and disgrace by a most unlikely happening.
It may turn out to be the frying pan into the fire sort of action, but I am willing to chance it.
Pete’s youngest son apparently needs to stay with us this summer. His mother and stepfather are going to be in Italy, cheffing, and his older brother is going to be on a sailing trip.
The boy, Theo, hasn’t spent any time longer than an occasional weekend with Pete in 14 years, and I have never met him.
He is not enthusiastic about coming to us, but he is not totally against the idea either. His most rural experience has been the Hamptons, so Watson Lake will certainly be a novelty.
But the best thing, the most wonderful aspect of this boy, the quality that has predisposed me to welcome and love him is …. he is allergic to dogs.
Heather Bennett is a writer
who lives in Watson Lake.