Pet Therapy For Troubled Times

I recently thought I might need some pet therapy. My dogs and cat are just fine, thank you and I don’t need a licensed emotional support animal because according to the quickest of Google searches I can get a “certified support canine” I.D. card for both my dogs for a mere $29.99.

Granted the I.D. cards look about as official as a fake I.D. a college student would attempt to use to get into a bar but still to the less than discerning eye the canine support I.D. might fool you and bonus having you oohing and aahing.

This is because the I.D. has a picture of your dog on it. Thus, rendering it adorable and then there’s the “full access required by law” red, white and blue banner on the card that does give it a dash of official government document gravitas.

But faux support canine I.D.’s aside my pet therapy issue stems from the fact that I think I’ve been enjoying my dogs company far too much. I realize being an almost empty nester (and by “almost” I mean I don’t consider my nest empty until my children have vacated my home and my wallet) I could be projecting the affection I used to lavish on my children onto my pets.

But I fear my affliction goes way beyond that. If given the option of going out or staying home with my dogs, it’s almost always advantage dogs.

I was really worried about myself until I did some research and came up with a theory totally not supported by voluminous scientific data because, well, let’s just say that sounded like a lot of work. My non peer reviewed hypothesis is that the reason more people are favoring animal companionship over human interaction is due to the hostile political climate. (Note: I am referencing all politics – no matter what party you may align yourself with.)

To support this statement, I tracked the increase in pet ownership since the divisive 2016 presidential election. This also turned out to be divisive because the American Pet Products Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association stats don’t match up – at all.

I’m clueless about what the methodology was for each organizations numbers but I think maybe one group must have gone full Dr. Doolittle and talked to the pets and the other group polled humans. This madness forced me to use math (my least favorite thing) and average the numbers that showed pet ownership has, indeed, increased every year since 2016.

I then conducted my own survey and interviewed friends and acquaintances about their social interaction choices. The question I asked was if given a choice would they rather go out or stay home with their pets?

Pets was the top choice more than 70 percent of the time. And because I consider myself a social scientist with about the same level of authenticity as those “certified support canine” I.D.’s I organized a focus group.

The group backed up my hypothesis. The most overwhelming sentiment was that people would rather enjoy the company of their pet than venture out to a social gathering where someone will invariably turn the topic to politics. One woman shared that after attending a black-tie event where a man she didn’t know told her that her political beliefs were “based on false memories” she pretty much swore off voluntarily leaving her house or her dogs.

All my research made me feel not only much better but superior even. Why would anyone choose to leave the unconditional love of their pets  to venture out into the politically charged conversational chaos if you didn’t have too? Maybe by staying home with my canine companions I’m living my best life in an angry world.


Do You Suffer From Dog Delusional Disorder?

8a09bafd74eecc86c058a3f649c0ba9bThere are three kinds of dog lovers. You have dog owners, pet parents or the canine obsessed. The pooch community refers to this last breed of human as suffering from DDD – Dog Delusional Disorder. If you’re wondering if you might be afflicted with DDD (Or Triple D) here’s a few questions that will help define a diagnosis.

*Have you ever not taken a vacation or even cancelled plans because you were sure your absence would upset or worse disappoint your dog?

*Do you spend more time talking to your dog than to your family? (This one is gimme because even the most lackadaisical of pet owners know that dogs surpass humans in all areas of empathic listening.)

*Do you make excuses for your dog’s bad behavior even more than you do for your children?

*Have you ever bought new furniture for your family room or a bigger bed because you wanted your large dog to have more room to stretch out?

*Have you ever made your child ride in the backseat of the car because your dog prefers the front?

*When making any major life decisions is one of the first questions you ask yourself  “what will the dog think?”

*Has your spouse or any other immediate family member ever accused you of loving your dog more than them?

*Have you ever wondered why your children aren’t as awesome as your dogs?

*Do you feel like your dog understands you better than anyone else?

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions than you consider yourself Triple D. Not that that is anything to be ashamed of.

I, as a DDD sufferer, have zero remorse that my affection for my four-legged babies might be considered obsessive. I’m not the least bit embarrassed when people hear me talking to my dogs and mistakenly assume all my lovey dovey cooing is meant for my husband. Nor will I allow myself to feel guilty for all the times I have chosen my pet’s comfort and happiness over that of my family’s.

It just makes sense right? I mean my family, high functioning bipedal mammals, can take care of themselves, but my precious dogs, well they need all my attention and TLC. Plus my dogs don’t talk back, flip their hair, use the phrase “whatever” as a pejorative (yep teenage daughter I’m talking to you) or tell me to quit using my debit card (hello husband).

Although, I feel I would be dishonest to the Triple D community if I didn’t confess that I’ve had one dog that tested the limits of my devotion. Last year, my husband went rogue and surprised the family with a new dog. It was a disaster. First, I was still in mourning after losing my soul mate Oreo. The sweetest, most adorable, basset hound mix ever to amble the earth on four little, stout legs. Oreo and I even had matching cankles. It was a grand romance and I will be eternally besotted.

Next up on the “Oh no you didn’t list” is that my husband dared to select our new BFF from the shelter without the assistance of our daughter, Isabella, the dog whisper. From the age of two Isabella has had an uncanny ability to find the mellowest dog in any shelter. I’m not overstating it when I call it a gift. It’s not like she goes into a trance or anything (but seriously, how cool would that be?). The girl just walks through a labyrinth of kennels and as if the spirit of Snoopy and Scooby Doo are guiding her she always finds the one dog that is the supreme master of chill. I’ve even outsourced her talent to friends.

The biggest mistake though my husband might have made is bringing home a male dog. We have always been a female dog family. A whole chicks rule kind of thing. Plus, and this is important, the head of our household is a girl. Her name is Gracie and she’s a super fluffy, 13-pound benevolent ruler who likes long walks on the sidewalk (not a huge fan of grass or any off roading activity) and sweet potatoes. To say Gracie was not amused by the presence of a high energy, arrogant (mainly I’m sure because he’s gorgeous. The dog is totally working a Johnny Depp Pirates of the Caribbean vibe), male beagle would be one of the great understatements of this decade.

It was as if our house was under siege. Plus, the beagle, named Tahoe, was a kind of a jerk. He constantly dissed me. What was up with that? I’m pretty sure he even rolled his eyes at me and he would toss his head, with a big ear swish, when I was talking to him. Oh my God, my husband had brought home my daughter in beagle form. This was not good.

The worst was when I attempted to walk him. He acted like he was embarrassed to be seen in public with me pulling away as much as his leash would allow. (It was like my prom date my junior year in high school except without the leash because that just would have been all kinds of creepy.) He was one of those handsome guys always searching for something better and in Tahoe’s case that meant rabbits, squirrels and on a good day foxes.

Nothing gets your morning blood flowing like your dog discovering a den of foxes. I think I hit my Fitbit goal by 8 a.m. One day a guy stopped his car to tell me that seeing me walk my dog was his morning comic relief. Well, I’m glad someone was laughing because I was seething and my feelings were also hurt. I had a dog that didn’t like me.

This was a first. I’m very well acquainted with people not being enamored with me (I’m just going to quote my mom here and say “their loss.”) But to have a dog that seemed indifferent to my many charms well, just wow. This was a blow. I decided I had two choices. Get over it and just love on Gracie more or woo Tahoe.

I went with wooing. I was going make this dog not just love me, but be obsessed with the wonder that is me. I tried everything. Homemade food, hikes, hugs. I even let him sleep in my spot on the bed and moved over to the middle and I hate the middle of the bed. (Is there anything more claustrophobic?) But it was all for naught, nothing seemed to impress him.

I was about to give up when one day I noticed Tahoe staring at my ponytail. He did that a lot. Hmm, perhaps his previous owner had a ponytail and because when we got Tahoe he was in rough shape maybe she hadn’t been kind to him. I called him over to the couch and we settled in for a talk. I told him I was one ponytailed lady that wasn’t going to disappoint him. I know I’m not as exciting as say finding foxes, but I would always love him. All he had to do was let me.

I’d like to think he heard me because after that things improved on a grand scale. We are now devoted to each other. Just ask my kids. Tahoe’s riding shotgun in the front while they have to sit in the back of the car because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with putting your dog’s happiness first.