It started with my “first” dog, Stanley. I call him my first, because he was MY first dog – owned and cared for by me as an adult. We got Stanley before we had kids. So he was my first “baby”. A very smart, adorable black lab puppy. We lived in Colorado at the time, and I had friends who lived way out in the middle of nowhere with several acres. Because I visited these friends often, because I couldn’t just leave my puppy at home for extended hours at a time (especially after working long hours and leaving him alone all week long), and because they had several acres, they allowed me to bring him out to their ranch to run and play with their dogs – actually I think it was their idea first. It was great for socializing and exercise for my beloved Stanley. When he got older, and much much bigger, he started to wear out his welcome when he developed a digging habit. So I understood when I was asked not to bring him to visit any longer – sort of. They had several of their own dogs tearing up the yard, as well as horses. Did one more small dog hole really matter? In the end, I valued my friends enough to stop taking my Stanley to visit them. After all, he was a dog, and not a child.
Over time, we moved back “home” to Ohio, My parents also had several acres. Because poor Stanley was a big dog, living in a small apartment with us (until we purchased a home that is), I took him whenever I visited my parents so he could run free and enjoy life as a dog should. My parents loved Stanley too. As my kids came along, Stanley started getting treated more and more like a dog, and not my baby. But he still got around, as we moved through several states during his life – the last being Tennessee. Each time we visited family back in Ohio, he would go with us. When we moved here, we were once again in an apartment until we were able to find a house. An injustice to a big dog, if you ask me. So, I was logical about it and asked my parents to care for him until we purchased another house. They did so. He was happy, and they were happy with him. My mom even said she hated to give him back to me when we purchased our house. 😉
A few years later, we got Obi. Obi is way more rambunctious than Stanley ever was. A very intelligent, strong, huge Doberman puppy. Don’t be confused with the Doberman stereotype – they are great protectors, but also extremely goofy and loveable dogs for their family; not the vicious animals that are portrayed in many movies. When we got Obi, Stanley was already 12 years old. While still loving, he had the temperament of a grumpy old man with a toddler towards Obi. Another injustice to Stanley. So we decided to let Stanley “retire” to my parents’ place where he could live out his final days in peace, with lots of room to run (if he could).
So now for the past four years, Obi has taken up a big part of our family life. He is very much a member of our family, and my biggest “baby” yet. He is still very rambunctious (especially around company), but oh so super loveable. He is more loveable than any other animal I have had in my life. He is definitely a “pack” animal, and I feel guilty every time I leave him home alone. I know he hates it, but the joy I am greeted with each day when I return home cannot be compared. My kids don’t even greet me like that any longer. Again, I love to take him with me to visit my parents, because they have acreage. A big dog needs acreage. We have a small, yet sufficient, yard. A visit to Ohio is a superb vacation for Obi. He can run and play with my parents’ dogs. He can get plenty of much needed exercise. And most importantly, my little family-loving, pack animal doesn’t feel as if I am ripping his heart out and abandoning him permanently by my leaving him behind at home or in a cold teeny tiny kennel in a boarding shelter where an unfounded, uneducated fear of his breed will keep him from getting any love and attention during my departure. Sadly, I am once again faced with the turmoil of a giant puppy, who has worn out his welcome. You see, my parents are very much dog-loving animals. So much, that when my father had a dog (Blue) that managed to bite almost everyone of his grandchildren, he sided with the dog and not with the child. Yes, it was wrong, but I do understand his love for “his dog”. A dog is very much a part of the family, and a dog parent can’t help but be protective of their pooch as if they are one of the kids. Still, it made me angry each time another incident took place and another child was bitten. That dog eventually had to be put down, but was quickly replaced with another….five dogs. Yes, I said five. One was my beloved Stanley, one (Cleo) was the dog of a friend who was going through chemotherapy and couldn’t care for her, two (Midnight and Murphy) were old ones from a shelter, and one was a puppy (Rusty) that was found in a park. Several of these dogs overlapped and were around while Blue was still around. My parents actually had four dogs at the same time, but little by little, they all passed away due old age – except the Rusty. So where did my Obi manage to go wrong in a house that catered to dogs? Well, last year, when my parents were down to just Cleo and Rusty, they watched Obi while I went on vacation for a week. Obi has not been neutered. He is a pure-bred dog, and my husband always had hopes of breeding him. We never have, but not we just can’t bring ourselves to doing “the deed”. As Obi has matured, he has had a tendency to do the doggly deed of checking people out by smelling them. Sometimes with a little more enthusiasm than they like – especially my dad. On top of that, he was at the ripe age of three during this vacation, and around a female dog. He gave Cleo way more attention than she wanted. This would upset Cleo, which in turn upset Rusty, and that ultimately upset my dad. Rusty and Obi had it out. Obi won, but ultimately he lost. He was no longer welcome in their home. I had only been on vacation a day, and my parents already didn’t want my dog there any longer. Not news you want to hear from another country. My kids were staying with my parents as well, and they were upset. The whole incident had been blown to proportions greater than necessary. Tempers flared. Feelings were hurt.
Fast forward a year. Things have long calmed down (maybe out of absence). Cleo is gone. Obi is still maturing, but has calmed down some, and now I want to visit my family for Easter this year. Once again, I would like it to be a family venture….Obi included. Unfortunately, due to my husband’s job, he is not able to join us. He will remain home so he can continue to work 14-15 hour days. Yuck!! Another reason I would like to take Obi with me. This would be a much-needed vacation for him to run and burn off excess energy, instead of him being locked up extra long hours all weekend. But I have been asked not to bring him.
Now if this same issue were happening to someone else, I would say, “What’s the big deal?” or “Have a friend watch him.” But it’s happening to me. My baby is being banned. I am being asked to leave my dog locked up extra long hours all weekend. My initial response was denial; wait until closer to the date to even worry about it; things will change. Now we are a week out. My instant reaction is pain. First I think, “then I won’t go.” But that’s stupidly irrational, isn’t it? I know it is. I love my family dearly. I miss my parents so much. Why would I let a stupid dog interfere with that? Why? Because he’s my baby. He needs me and relies on me. He loves me unconditionally. Hell, I believe he loves me more than my kids most days. But I love my parents, and ultimately, he’s just a dog. A goofy,faithful and lovable part of my family, but still just a Dog.