Don’t Get a Dog

Don’t get a dog, especially a big dog like a German Shepherd. And extra-especially an already 3-year-old one from an animal shelter. Why not? I’ll give you a whole list of reasons why not.

He’ll be weird when you first bring him home. He won’t trust you. Everything about his new home will stress him out and it’ll take months before he’s even brave enough to step into the room where you and your family are watching TV at night. When he does muster up the courage to join you, he’s in and out before you even have time to say, “Good boy!” It’ll take another month or so before he’ll come into that room and lie down near you. It’ll take far longer before he actually looks comfortable resting near you. It’ll be so frustrating waiting for that moment to happen.

Photo by Tonya's Captured Inspirations LLC
Photo by Tonya’s Captured Inspirations LLC

He’ll lick you with a tongue that’s been in unmentionable places. It’ll just be a little lick. You might even call it surreptitious, but it’ll happen. You won’t want him to lick you, because it’ll mean he’s grown fond of you, and who needs that kind of pressure?

He’ll shake every time he stands or moves from one location to another, launching dog fur to the four corners of every room. This action, performed countless times each day, will increase your workload tremendously. You’ll have to sweep or vacuum at least once a week. And when you get out the dog brush and he flops on the floor at the sight of it and lifts his rear leg to expose his belly to you, you’ll have to spend quite some time grooming his big, shedding, shiny coat while he groans contentedly and gives your hand a little lick when it gets close. And then he’ll seem to shed even more. What a mess.

Sometimes he’ll whimper in the dark of night, just when you’re in the middle of a good dream. This will force you to look over at him because you’ll want him to stop whimpering and you’ll see his feet twitching spasmodically and hear his breathing fast and shallow. You can only guess he’s trying to get away from a previous owner, someone who may have abused him or found some lame reason to throw him away, or maybe he’s running from other angry dogs who’ve never known a gentle hand. In any case, he’ll interrupt your sleep, and who needs that?

yogurtHe’ll almost always watch you while you’re eating with a look that says, “I’d like a salami and cheese cracker too, please,” even though you’ve just fed him. You won’t give him your salami and cheese cracker, of course, but he’ll make you feel as though you should. It’ll take you a long time to train him to understand that “Uh-uh” means “This is my salami and cheese cracker, I just fed you, go lie down.” He’ll flop on his bed in the corner of the room, but he’ll still sneak a look at you. What a nag.

He’ll have “accidents” in the house. This might happen because he’s decided to eat his own poop while you were away for the day and left him outside. This is a disgusting habit, even if he felt compelled to do this out of necessity because he wasn’t fed well in his pre-rescue years. And some dogs just like the taste of their own poop. Whatever the case, this will always be revolting. If you’re home and asleep when he has an accident, you’ll know right away because he’s a big dog, and big dogs have big, smelly accidents. If you’re not home, you’ll know as soon as you walk into the house because big dogs have big, smelly accidents. You will eventually get smart and install a dog door, and that will be a pain in the you-know-what for your husband and son to complete. Your dog will wonder why you didn’t do this earlier because he knows he’s not supposed to poop on the dining room carpet, but it really is an inconvenience to have to modify your home to suit your dog.

He’ll poke his cold nose in your face early in the morning while you’re still in your warm bed. It’ll startle you awake, and then you’ll be face-to-face with his mischievous brown eyes and those ears sticking straight up and you’ll see his long tail wagging tentatively at first, then faster when he sees the grin you’re trying to stifle. And then he’ll poke his nose in your face again, and you’ll be forced to get out of bed, or at least stick your hand out from under those warm covers so he can flip it up on top of his head for a good-morning ear scratch. What a drag.

snow-noseHe’ll expect you to take him for walks regardless of the weather. You’ve installed the dog door so he can come and go as he pleases, but as soon as you open a closet door, he expects a “doubleyou, ae, el, kay.” He’ll turn circles and whine until you attach his leash and he’ll be so happy once you get going. If it’s sunny out, he’ll walk for as long as you’d like. If it’s snowy out, he’ll walk even longer, leaping like a goofball through the snow and flipping piles of it into the air with his nose. When you get home, he’ll be wet and sometimes quite dirty and you’ll have to keep a towel near the door to dry him off and work the snowballs out from between his toes. He can’t do it by himself, and while you’re holding his cold paw in your hands, he’ll probably try to lick you. He’ll be like a 3-year-old his whole life. So needy.

He’ll demand your attention. Oftentimes this will happen when you’re enjoying a glass of red wine with friends. He’ll find the hand holding the wine with his big ol’ nose and flip it vigorously in hopes of having the hand land on his head for a petting. When his invitation to pet him is greeted by sounds of consternation when you see the contents of your glass splattered on your white shirt, he won’t understand. He’ll tuck his tail between his legs and look up at you cautiously, timidly, wistfully, until you finally do pet him on the head and tell him it’s okay, you were the guilty one for holding wine in a hand clearly meant for petting.

Sometimes he’ll even demand your attention when you’ve spent several hours at the computer doing work you think is more important than spending five minutes with him. He’ll be so unreasonable. Who needs that?

And he’ll get in your way and possibly even topple you over if you’re not paying attention. This is another way he expresses his neediness. For whatever reason, he’ll want to be near you always. You’ll have to anticipate this, and you might even have to work on your own agility skills around him. You’ll have to be far more aware of your surroundings, and this requires constant attention to detail. You’ll want to just chill and relax or do whatever you want to do, and a dog will expect to be included. That’s a lot of pressure.

He’ll stress out when you change his environment. Once he’s figured out he just might be safe with you and in your home, if you decide to move around the furniture or change his bed from one wall to another, he’ll act as if his world has been turned upside-down. Maybe he’s thinking if you got rid of that chair that’s been here all this time, he could be the next to go. Anyway, he’ll look at the change and then look at you and then look at the change and then look at you again. It’s almost like he’s wondering if you’re still going to be there after he blinks. You’ll sense his stress, and who needs that?

He’ll destroy your house every time the mailperson or UPS delivery person comes to your door. It won’t matter that you’ve tried a training collar and have thunder-hugged him until his heartbeat returns to normal and have lectured him on your theory that the delivery person is good and that this happens every, single, day, and that he should be used to it by now. No. He’ll want to protect you from potential nefarious activity every, single, day.

moab-2016-ranger-wakeupHe’ll look at you. He’ll do this often, and he’ll expect you to look back at him. When this happens, you’ll be forced to feel something you don’t want to feel. You’ll be forced to feel a connection with the being behind the honey-brown eyes. You might even feel his love for you.

He’ll make you laugh, especially when you don’t want to. If he senses you’re sad, he’ll probably whine like a little baby. Then he’ll nudge you. You’ll push him away because it’s your right to wallow in your own sorrow when you want to, but he’ll come back and nudge you again. He’ll do this until you finally give in and give him what he wants—your hand on his soft fur. And you’ll have to pet him until he feels better. You’ll never be able to cry alone.

Probably the biggest reason why you shouldn’t get a dog is because he’ll die before you do. I know this because it happened with our first big ol’ German Shepherd. We’ve only had Ranger for three years now, so he’s about six, and our first dog died when he was nine, so there’s another three years at least before we can think about not having to feed him and walk him and groom him and pet him and laugh at him and snuggle with him and call him a good boy.

I could probably come up with lots more reasons why you shouldn’t get a dog, but I think I’ve covered the major ones. Hope this exposé has been helpful. Gotta sign off now. Here he comes, about to nudge my hand with his big ol’ nose because he just noticed the snow falling outside our window.winter-2015

p.s. Out of the 8 or so books on dog training I read before bringing 8-week-old Guntar into our home (our first dog), the best by far was The Art of Raising a Puppy by The Monks of New Skete. Guntar was a truly remarkable dog. Ranger is too. But don’t get a dog! ;)

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11 thoughts on “Don’t Get a Dog”

      1. Hi Laurie Carol sent me this and it made me miss my great dogs. One was a German Shepherd as well. So smart and affectionate Thanks!
        Mary Kennedy

        1. Hi Mary,
          German Shepherds are, hands down, the best breed! (Don’t tell Carol)
          Guntar was an exceptional dog, and so easy to train from a puppy. Adopting a 3-year-old has come with new challenges, but I’ve got to say the bond we have with him may be even stronger. What a personality.
          Thanks for responding, and I hope you might like some of my other pieces as well!

  1. Beautifully expressed and spot on – this has been my experience with all my dogs. You never forget them when they’re gone; and, you love the new ones in your life just as much as the ones you lost.

  2. As I read the title and then the reasons why you shouldn’t get a dog I couldn’t help thinking of Rudyard Kipling’s, The Power of the Dog:

    Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)
    “The Power of the Dog”

    THERE is sorrow enough in the natural way
    From men and women to fill our day;
    And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
    Why do we always arrange for more?
    Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

    Buy a pup and your money will buy
    Love unflinching that cannot lie—
    Perfect passion and worship fed
    By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
    Nevertheless it is hardly fair
    To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

    When the fourteen years which Nature permits
    Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
    And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
    To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
    Then you will find—it’s your own affair—
    But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

    When the body that lived at your single will,
    With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!).
    When the spirit that answered your every mood
    Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
    You will discover how much you care,
    And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

    We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
    When it comes to burying Christian clay.
    Our loves are not given, but only lent,
    At compound interest of cent per cent.
    Though it is not always the case, I believe,
    That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
    For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
    A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
    So why in—Heaven (before we are there)
    Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

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