I Am Tired of Apologizing for My Dogs

Golden Retriever mixes

It’s true that I do not have the most well-behaved dogs on the planet. In the state. On the mountain. Okay, okay, on my street of eight or so full-time mountain people houses.

They — our two nearly 100-pound golden retriever mixes — are notoriously bad dogs.

We thought they wouldn’t be.

We believed in the golden myth. That myth that plays out in every dog commercial and on every dog food bag and in every Cabela’s catalog. The myth that says, “Get a golden! They are always calm and cute … and the perfect dog to have by your side at all times.”

That myth is not just a myth. It’s a bold-faced lie, people.

Ours bark loudly when I let them out in the mornings and multiple times during the day.

They jump on visitors, and on us, when we come in the front door.

They steal socks and then shred them. (See also: Stuffed Animals)

skylobsterphotoThey are ace counter-surfers and have eaten, among other things, an entire, freshly baked cherry pie, a stick of butter, a loaf of bread, fresh trout, a stocking full of Christmas candy as well as the stocking, grilled hamburgers that were ready for our guests, a bouquet of tulips, and at least one filet mignon while it was actually cooking on the stove. Doggie Poison Control is on speed dial.

They tend to forget who’s in charge on our walks and hikes and have been known to pull me down the trail. God forbid we stumble upon a wild animal that’s in need of being chased. Or we stumble upon a wild animal that’s in need of being chased and we are walking on several layers of ice. In that event, life becomes a full-on sitcom moment.

One of them enjoys poop appetizers before dinner. The other scratches on the back glass door when she has been put outside and needs, needs, needs to be inside. One is notoriously grumpy past 6 p.m. The other sees nothing wrong with jumping all 100-pounds of his beast-self right onto your lap while you’re watching TV, as if he’s the size of a Chihuahua and you don’t have internal organs that can be easily smushed. Both of them retrieve laundry items and books from various parts of the house and then make you chase them to get them back. They both, when relaxed, can release a smell that the U.S. military should look into for use in warfare.

Oh, and they eat their dog beds. Every one of them.

It’s no coincidence that we call them hoodlums. (And, also, for the record, I have had dogs my entire life. Lots of them. I know how to train them to behave. These dogs are untrainable.)

But here’s the thing. I’m not going to apologize for them any longer. Why? Because they make me laugh. They make me happy. They make good, fluffy, hilarious pillows.

photoAnd I know that they have a reason for every bad thing they do.

When they bark, it’s because there is moose scent everywhere and a squirrel is usually taunting them from a tall pine tree above. They are programmed to tell us that these very acute dangers are present at all times. Who else is going to sound the alarm, really?

When they jump, it’s because they simply cannot contain their excitement that there are People Available. Right Now. To love. It’s so completely and totally unbelievable to have such good luck!

When they steal socks and shred them, it’s because they think it’s their job to do this. And they want to be good at their jobs. They’re overachievers, when you think about it.

When they grab food off the counter, it’s because it smells soooo good. As I tell my husband: Could you resist the world’s most awesome, decadent chocolate cake with homemade whipped icing just sitting there, inviting you to take a bite? Because every single ounce of food, I’m convinced, seems like the most wonderful thick, juicy T-bone steak to these pups. It’s kind of like how I would never, ever be able to refuse a perfectly ice-cold, fizzy Dr Pepper on a hot summer day.

They pull us on walks because they are confined to a backyard and a small home most of the day, every day. And confinement isn’t a great idea when you have more energy than a toddler on a six-pack of Red Bull. And they are dogs. They are meant to run free. To smell all of those smells. To check out every rock and tree, just in case something needs to be addressed. I understand that, I do. Some might say I’ve been known to pull those around me along for miles, too, when I get an idea in my head.

You see, as naughty as they are, I get these dogs. They march to their own beat. They won’t be tamed.

Of course, they can learn manners, like sit, but who really wants to be told what to do unless there is a bacon treat involved? I don’t.

And another thing. These furballs truly love — like with all their little hoodlum hearts — their people. I feel that way about my people, too.

They are Explorers. Clowns. Always-looking-for-trouble hounds. Cold-winter-night foot warmers with a zest for life.

So, I’m thinking maybe we could all learn a little something from my hoodlums. Sure, good behavior is nice and all. And they will likely be the best dogs ever when they are 15 years old and content to lie in the sun all day.

But isn’t there also something to be said for saying no to arbitrary rules?

Isn’t there something to be said for living exactly the kind of life you were meant to live? For doing things that make you happy every single day?

Life doesn’t guarantee you hours of great belly rubs and weeks of adventure in a mountain forest. You gotta seize that shit for yourself.

Our Dogs Are Going to Get Us Kicked out of the Neighborhood

Observation #2 of living like normal people: People down here are way more up into my business.

Let me explain.

Hoodlum One: Trouble. Offense: Eating stuffed animals that are not his.

We have two golden retriever mixes, Trouble and Sky. And I will admit it to the world: They are hoodlums! They believe it is their job to destroy socks, pillows, t-shirts, towels, and the occasional pine tree. They also believe they must protect us from the very dangerous white-tail deer that lurk around this new house. And they are fully committed to their jobs.

That means they bark when there are deer around. And unlike at 10,500 ft., where the deer are still very much wild and don’t stick around if a dog barks at them, the deer down here look at our dogs, like, “Yeah. Whatever. Bark at me all you want. I can’t hear you. You’re invisible to me. And this tall grass is really good, by the way. You should try it.”

This infuriates the hoodlums. First, they don’t like grass anyway unless they are sick. And second, the message they send back to the deer is this: “Fine. I will bark my head off and foam at the mouth like I have rabies if you continue to just stand there.”

Further complicating things (for me), is that, unlike in the mountains, the houses here are right on top of one another (literally, since we live on a hill.)

So, it was only a matter of time before a neighbor decided he must talk to us about our barking dogs, on behalf of another neighbor. (So he says. I can’t hear you ….)

Hoodlum Two: Sky. Offense: Never sharing chewbones and being quite vocal about it.

This neighbor also told us he has observed our dogs and he does not believe that we walk them enough. And that he feels sorry for the dogs when they bark like that. Ummmm. We do walk our dogs, and we play with them for at least two hours a day in the backyard, and they are actually treated pretty much like humans …. which is better than this dude treats his girlfriend, from what we’ve heard of their conversations. (Maybe they’re not getting in enough walks together.)

So there you go. When you decide to leave the mountains and live like normal people, it seems you have to actually DEAL with people. And that’s just not something I’m good at.

P.S. Observation #1 – it’s damn hot down here. I have Al the Swamp Cooler blowing on me and the hoodlums right now, in fact. Yes, the hoodlums are so mistreated, lounging on my bed, chewing on massive chewbones with cool air blowing in their faces. But hey, at least they’re not annoying nosy neighbors.