Dogma (No, Not That Kind!) Dog-Ma (As In Dog Mom)
My husband Kevin is amazing. Simply put, he wakes up with a smile every day, has a quick, quirky wit, and loves me for me. Life is good and we’re happy. We are in sync on most of the big issues that plague couples: raising kids, money, discipline, etc.
Arguments are few and far between, so when we do disagree, we are pretty inept in the way we handle them. Neither of us is inherently mean or vindictive, leaving any yelling match a feeble display of stammering insults and failed expletives. It’s embarrassing really. We just can’t fight dirty. We’ve actually been told by friends and family that we’re too nice to each other. Really? How can you be too nice to the people you love?
So, imagine the shock we experienced that fateful day we had it OUT in the living room. Over what, you ask? Something huge, right? Money? Grounding our teenager? Being a closet smoker? Noooo.
Yes, our downfall was dog rearing. Dog rearing! Raising Zoey, our sweet, loving rescue dog, proved to be the demise of 10 years of marital bliss devoid of a single disrespectful encounter. Here’s how it went (and how we solved it!)
Some context is important to understand how the ensuing drama unfolded.
We adopted Zoey when she was two years old. She is 75 pounds of love and smooches. She is spoiled rotten, as all dogs should be, and loves everyone. But she kind of loves me most. I am her person. I admit, we have a somewhat unhealthy, enmeshed relationship, but it’s good. I indulge her every whim and she doesn’t abuse the privilege. She is calm, happy and good with kids and other animals, too.
One day, returning from a walk with Zoey, Kevin opened the door and Zoey started to bound inside. He stopped her, jumped in front of her and firmly stated, “My door, Zoey.” Huh? He proceeded to walk through the door in front of her then let her in. Ok, score one for Kevin; you beat the dog through the door. By the way, she doesn’t care who goes in first but whatever. I stayed silent.
This routine went for on for several days and I finally asked what was going on. Kevin said he’d been watching Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, and this was a tactic used let the dog know you were the Alpha, not her. I chuckled because Zoey is submissive, rarely even barks, and is happy to let anyone else be the alpha. But okay, I rolled with it.
As days and weeks went on Kevin incorporated more of Cesar’s tactics. Like making a hissing sound while lightly touching Zoey’s back. That one was to mimic how the dominant animal engages his/her inferiors. Okay, this is a good practice for dogs who are misbehaving. Only Zoey wasn’t misbehaving. She was being hissed at just because. She didn’t even respond to the hissing, just kept smiling at Kevin like she always does.
I started laughing more with each new tactic Kevin employed. Only the laughing went from in my head to out loud. That’s when the problem started.
I had refused to watch Cesar’s show. I was uninterested and, after all, we were the proud parents of a very well behaved dog. We didn’t need Cesar. Then one day, over a picnic dinner in the living room, Kevin turned it on. Ugh. I guess I started making sarcastic comments about the show that escalated into making fun of the Kevin-Zoey show of which I was an unwilling participant. That did NOT go over well.
Kevin blew his stack and screamed, “You are undermining me with the dog!” Rather than eliciting an empathetic response from me, I thought he was kidding and started roaring with laughter. I responded with, “Hahahah, that’s hilarious. I’m undermining you with our very compliant, wonderful dog???”
Not good. He WAS serious and I WAS in the proverbial dog house.
“Thank G-d we are in sync on the kids. I can’t imagine if you did this to me with them!” Wow, Kevin was indeed pissed off. We had a 60 minute discussion and I apologized. I was sincere, I really didn’t mean to be insensitive or hurt him. (I did still find the dog training beyond ridiculous, but that wasn’t the issue here. My husband thought I was disrespecting him and that is not okay at all.)
As always, we found compromise and he agreed to back off on the hissing. I, in turn, agreed to watch his buddy Cesar. The Levy house was back in harmony. It was actually better than before the incident. Know why? I’ll tell you.
The “clients” in the first episode we watched together, back in love and curled up under a blanket on our over sized couch, were a dog and cat who simply couldn’t live together. The family was at its wits end trying to remedy the cat’s bad behavior- swiping at the dog, shredding furniture and incessant meowing when Dad left the house to walk the dog.
Cesar, in stellar dog whisperer fashion, quickly determined that the cat was feeling neglected, not part of “the pack.” The answer was simple: take the cat on the walks with the dog. Let him know he is not being punished or omitted from family outings. Sounded logical to me but the vision of a cat on a leash was not so easy to muster. We have a 22 pound kitty, also a rescue. Cats don’t typically enjoy being confined (in cute sweaters, reindeer antlers at Christmas or on a leash.)
Don’t panic. Cesar had it covered. The answer was one of these- a cat stroller.
Fast forward to said family happily walking down a suburban sidewalk. Mom, Dad, Johnny, Spot and Mr. Bubbles, the cat.
I love happy endings. You’ll be pleased to know that our ending was equally as happy. Following that episode I announced that I was running out to the local pet store to purchase a cat stroller for Samson. I now understood the loneliness and despair he surely feels every time we take Zoey out without him. Kevin balked. I asked him nicely not to undermine me with the cat. Touche. He complied.
Samson does in fact love his stroller. We take frequent walks and sometimes he just likes to be parked in the garden to bask in the sun. Everyone wins. Oh, and while Samson basks in the sun, I bask in the small, but sweet, victory I secured from my husband. Who I love. A lot.