This space exists so that we can share honestly in a digital world that often is far too glossy.
So, here goes: Some days, today being one, I don’t like Cooper.
He can be a jerk. And, when he’s a jerk, I just don’t like him.
I love him, of course. I love him to pieces at all times. I don’t like him at all times.
I don’t like him today.
I really didn’t like him yesterday.
See, we’re dog-sitting my mom’s dog Otto for a month. He’s a 24-pound floof with a happy-go-lucky demeanor, though he’s overweight and untrained. He and Coop get along great. They skitter around the yard together. They chew a toy side by side in the evenings. They snooze together on the couch.
The only problem is Otto’s outright obsession with food (hence the weight problem) combined with not knowing any commands (like, “on your bed” or whatever) ALONG WITH Cooper’s unpredictable food-resource-guarding behavior means mealtimes are heavily managed.
(I call it unpredictable because it’s inconsistent. I think that’s probably the better word because it’s hard to guess what he’ll decide to guard. Nine times out of 10, he’ll share a bite of a cookie with another dog. He shares his toys. It’s just that flukey, unknown-to-me instance when that switches…)
Cooper eats on his mat in the kitchen, and the cats eat in their corners of the kitchen.
Otto eats in the hallway behind a gate.
They finish. I pick up the bowls and load the dishwasher, then I take down the gate.
Yesterday I followed that exact routine for breakfast. After I took down the gate, I turned back to the sink to pour milk into Violet’s sippy cup and within seconds, from a few feet behind me, in the corner where Newt eats, I heard the sound… the gut-wrenching angry, snarling, yelling sound of a fight.
I whipped around, snatched Cooper by the thighs and hauled him up wheelbarrow-style. I dumped him in the bedroom, closed the door, and checked on Otto.
Otto trembled. There, just behind his right ear: a puncture.
I felt sick.
It bled like crazy, so I cleaned it up. I got Violet ready and dressed.
I drove Otto to the vet. They cleaned him up and started him on an antibiotic.
The whole while, I’m fuming at Cooper.
Here’s what we think happened: Sometimes Newt picks up mouthfuls of her canned food and spits it on the ground next to her bowl and proceeds to eat from the floor. Both John and I think she must’ve done that and left behind tiny smears of cat food that they both went for at once.
I snarled at Cooper in my head through the whole drive to the vet.
WHY does he have to do stupid shit like this?
He gets plenty of food. WHY would he guard a smear of spit-out cat food?
WHAT IS HIS PROBLEM??? This is all his fault.
I wanted to cry, but Violet actually was crying (“Otto hurt! Otto sick!”) so I kept it together. I spoke with the vet as calmly as possible. They took Otto back.
They bandaged him. They stuck him in a cone. She said to take the bandage off and see if the puncture clotted after a few hours. “It really is tiny,” she said. “It’s just that the skin underneath tore, so it bled a lot.”
I parked Violet in front of Sesame Street and cleaned the floors. I picked up all the toys and stashed them in the closet, just in case. I texted John and asked him to pick up another gate on his way home so we could arrange two separate safe spaces, one for each boy, until Otto’s fully healed. They’ll be separated when we have to leave them at home. We’re also now feeding the cats on the table in the dining room instead of on the kitchen floor.
Cooper is just SO much bigger and so much more athletic and so much stronger than Otto. We simply can’t have this happen again.
And I know, I am very aware, that resource guarding is incredibly “normal” in dog behavior. But, just because something is normal doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. (This is an awesome post, btw, if you want to read more.)
Compounding the issues, Cooper doesn’t give clear cues as a warning, though. And, Otto’s vet told me she thinks Otto isn’t great at reading cues himself.
Two idiots acting like idiots with idiotic results.
I feel like all the #doggo memes and stuff like izdog make it seem like dogs are just happy, goofy loves who grace us with their innocence. It’s not totally wrong, but it’s not right either. We’re conditioned to think that dogs just fit in with human society through anthropomorphized or aggrandized dogs: Lassie, Pluto, all 101 dalmatians, Barkley (we’re deep into Sesame Street around here lately), Rin Tin Tin, and so on. It’s not fair to dogs who are whole other species with tremendous differences from us and from each other.
Yet I get mad at Cooper: WHY CAN’T YOU BE LIKE AIR BUD?
I don’t like him when he behaves like a jerk. I love him, but he stresses me out. It’s so frustrating and why can’t you just be normal?!?!
Eventually I’ll forgive him. Probably later today. But, for now, I’m mad at him at his jerky behavior.
I think this is the reality of being responsible for another species: Sometimes you don’t like them, you don’t like their behavior, you don’t like the added stress and pressure and responsibility piled on by this other creature.
Sometimes they’re the most wonderful things in the world. But not always. So, while I’m still mad at Cooper and I just don’t like him right now, I wanted to share this story in case it helped alleviate any pressure or burden someone else might be feeling if they’re struggling with their pup. It’s not all sunshine, rainbows, and #dabubbas.
Anyone else ever feel like this???