The Goddess Speaks
Puppy owner learns love and patience
It's been 18 years since I hauled my first kitten home. My fifth-grade classmate had a box full of tabbies she had to get rid of by the end of the week, and I had a backpack with a zipper. What more -- besides an alibi to tell my mother, loyal to our sweet and aging pit bull -- did I need?
My childhood cat is still with us, many pets later. Through the years, I've found out exactly what more, besides that alibi, I needed in order to successfully raise an animal. But it wasn't until my boyfriend and I acquired a Jack Russell/pug puppy a few months ago that my "parenting" skills were put to an arduous test.
The bills can do you in -- immunization, $45 a pop; vitamins, $7; squeaky toy so the "kids" don't destroy the apartment in your absence, $10 -- but the priceless rewards trump the pain of the credit card bills every time. No, money isn't the test.
The true test, I've found, is parenting the best I can and without apology when it comes to tough decisions. I had no idea, for instance, that I'd soon have to decide whether to outfit my puppy with a device banned by law in several countries. But when warned that a dog's excessive barking could lead to condominium sanctions (i.e., eviction of the dog), I sought ways to immediately curb the noise. Ironically, he was deemed too young for a citronella spray collar, so we resorted to the type of anti-bark collar that delivers "static corrections" -- in other words, electric shocks -- each time the dog barks.
A mere month ago, I would have stood in a picket line against such a device. In fact, I picked our puppy Sirius' obedience school because it's known for a gentle approach. Last week our instructor gently reminded us that our dog should be wearing a buckle collar, not a choke chain, because choke chains hurt. "This isn't even the worst collar he has," I later lamented to a friend. "I know," she replied. "But at least he still has you."
Like most dog owners, I can't imagine life without my baby. Even on days he truly earns his nickname, Brattius Maximus, he brings us too much joy to consider an easier, cleaner, quieter existence -- one without a pet.
As you might have guessed, we don't have the most tractable dog in the world, but his wide puppy grin as he watches the world go by from the car window makes it worth every mess, every penny and every baleful look from shock-collar critics who have never been in our situation.
Parents of pets and children alike do what they have to in order to get by, and to give their kids -- furry or not -- the best upbringing possible.
It's not necessary to walk a mile in a person's shoes before judging; a simple conversation between two dog owners, who, despite differences in training philosophies, unquestionably love their canine friends, might well suffice.
Christy Wong is a fifth-grade teacher at Aliiolani Elementary School, who says raising a dog has given her newfound respect for parents of every ilk.
The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and about women. If you have something to say, write "The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210,
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