Raising the perfect dog

Ursula Muppet the Cantankerous

This is Ursula. She joined our family a year ago when she was just 8 weeks old. We wanted to add another dog to the family because what could possibly be more fun than ONE dog, but TWO dogs? Also, we adopted the resident dog Dusky from a bad situation years ago, and she’s always been our “special animal,” with a menu of fears and a terrific memory about every single one of them. We thought it would be a great idea for her to have a canine buddy to bring her out of her shell, and for us to have a dog we could train from the beginning to be exactly the dog we wanted her to be.

I suspect that parents might also have this idea in mind when they decide to have children…

So we researched breeds, with the criteria that the dog should be wickedly smart with good physical stamina, and the compromise that if we were going to add another dog to the house, we at least wouldn’t add any extra fur tumbleweeds. We settled on an Australian Shepherd Poodle mix–an Aussiepoo. (Josh says we became card-carrying yuppies when we got a dog with a “poo” in the name.)

We did due diligence and met the dame and sire, visited the breeder often and made sure the pups were being socialized, and in the meantime  we read the seminal book on puppy training, The Art of Raising a Puppy. We called trainers in the area to find a puppy kindergarten with the right “philosophy,” and when she finally joined the family we started training immediately, followed the schedule for vaccinations, spaying, socialization…I’m trying to impress upon you both how much EFFORT we’ve put into this dog, and how hard we’ve tried to do things right.

But you see, she’s kind of a shit. As someone who firmly believes that badly behaved dogs are a reflection of their owner (see another parenting similarity here?), it pains me to admit this. She’s just not very likable. She barks and growls at every person who walks past our house; she bites and bullies our gentle older dog (who suddenly seems pretty normal…); she has a leash phobia and runs away before her daily walk every day; when good-mannered large dogs try to initiate play with her she yelps like she’s being murdered. Not quite the dog we bargained for.

And that brings me back around to children. I said in the beginning this blog was a place to explore living child free, and thus far I’ve mostly focused on all the stuff I do because I don’t have kids, without wading into the controversial and emotion-charged space of “to have or not to have.”

The fact about kids (and dogs, I now see) is that they are their own. There’s something more than nature and nurture that goes into the final product. Josh and I researched Ursula’s lineage and met her parents; we  read books, go to dog-training classes, devote at least an hour a day to her exercise, and consult with numerous professionals. According to the equation, she should be the perfect dog. But she’s not.

I believe that many people choose to have children because they want the feeling of support that comes from a close and dependable family, people that you can “count on” above all else, and ultimately they want someone to take care of them when they’re old. But there’s no guarantee that your kids will grow up to be responsible people who can be counted on, nor that you’ll have a good relationship when they’re adults, and it’s pretty unlikely that they’ll live within driving distance when you’re old. If you’re someone who has rolled that dice, then I admire the risk you’ve taken. But I don’t want it for myself.

Ursula’s enough of a handful. Despite my previous comments, I actually do love my dog. She’s a very good frisbee partner, and she’s a snugbug who loves to cuddle on my lap. She’s fiercely devoted to us (to a fault, that’s part of the growling problem), and her desire to please us is heart melting. So is her fuzzy face. So we’ll keep working with her, trying to coax the best out of her, because she’s part of the family now and that’s the commitment we made. But when she’s being a jerk and we’re fed up, we can put her in her crate and leave the house. And you cannot do that with kids.

a sweet moment


2 thoughts on “Raising the perfect dog

  1. I just found your blog and love it! My kids are 21, 18, and 16. When my oldest was a baby, my cousin and her husband decided not to have children. At that time, I thought that was the most selfish thing I had ever heard of, and I felt sorry them. Boy would they regret it someday I thought. And who would carry on the family name, or take care of them when they were old.

    Fast forward to now, and I think that was the smartest decision they could have made. I wouldn’t give up my children for anything, but it scares me to think of what’s in store for them. What will the world be like then? We aren’t leaving them a very nice place to live. And I know that overpopulation is very controversial, but I believe we already have too many people on this earth. We can’t keep going the way we are.

    But back to the subject of children. I love mine very much, but they are far from perfect. I’ve had many sleepless nights worrying about choices they make. They are messy, they aren’t very nice at times, They’ve broken my heart, and the next minute made it swell with pride and love. I lost who I was in those early years, and had to find myself again. I never understood how much work they would be- emotionally and physically. And with a daughter going into college this year, they are tremendously expensive! I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but…… before I had them, if I would have known how truly difficult it would be to raise them right in this world today, I probably would have made other decisions. I understand my cousin’s decision now, and I have tremendous respect for other’s who come to the same conclusion.

  2. Thank you Vicki, that’s so nice to hear. I’m also concerned about the planet’s capacity to provide for 7 billion+ people, and the Earth is a worrisome place to live these days. I try not to make decisions out of fear, as a rule, but it’s a contributing factor to our child-free decision. What you said about losing yourself for a few years rings true; I envy my friends whose identity is so strongly developed that it can be put on hold for a few years while they focus all of their energy on raising their children, but that’s not me. I’m still figuring myself out, learning what I want to contribute and experience in this narrow window of time I have here. I still have so much to learn.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, and I hope to hear from you again.

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