I remember the first time I saw those giant blue eyes. It was January 2009. And we knew the second we met that adorable, clumsy Chocolate Labrador retriever… we’d found the one.
So began the potty, crate and leash training. We taught her to give high fives, speak on command and bark at strange noises outside or a knock on the door. She became our friend and a sense of security. We quickly fell in love with that cuddly brown fur ball named Rammy.
She was soon house broken enough to get full run of all 800 square feet of the first floor of our first home. Of course, I came home to the occasional potty accident, leg half chewed off the kitchen table or the bathroom trash spread throughout the house. Growing pains. She’d get in a little trouble but then would look at me with those adorable (now deep brown) eyes and all would be forgiven.
When Rammy was about 6 months old, we noticed her begin to limp and her left paw start to turn out a bit. A trip to the vet and some x-rays revealed an issue with her growth plate and a veterinarian at Purdue University told us (GULP) $2,500 could repair it. The surgery would improve her quality of life, we were told. So we did it. She was our BABY and we had to do whatever it took to protect her.
For the next two years it was just the three of us. She loved car rides, trips to Illinois to see my parents, the beach and visits to my work and my husband’s work. She was friendly, good with kids and had so much energy. Such a good girl!
Then in November 2011, the first tiny human arrived.
voices or the wind and wake up the baby.
"Rammy! Shhhh! Stop it!" I would hiss at her.
She would cower and lay down, then I’d feel guilty and call her over and pet her.
“Good girl,” I would say. “You’re a good lady.”
At that point she could still fit in our car for road trips and beach trips. It was a little extra work but we liked taking her. The baby liked looking at her. Our cute family of 4.
In the blink of an eye we moved into a bigger house, had another baby and then another (3 babies in 3 ½ years, to be exact.... that's another blog post for another day). Somewhere in the blur of diapers, late night feedings and busy work schedules, the walks slowed down. She put on a little extra weight. The beach trips stopped. We didn’t take her on car trips as often because, quite frankly, we just didn’t have the energy or the room.
And if I got annoyed when her ferocious guard dog bark woke up ONE kid, multiply that by THREE.
I now put a note on the front door during nap time that says something to the effect of, If you knock on my door, ring my doorbell or do any other stupid crap that makes my dog bark, I will rip your face off.
Not that exactly, but you get the point.
I AM IN SURVIVAL MODE. Naptime is everything.
When the kids are awake, I have this crazy circus of two toddlers and an infant needing my full attention. The LAST thing I want is click clacking nails on my hard wood floors and a whine (then a bark) from a dog who wants to go outside even though she was just out 5 minutes ago.
Or she and the boys love chasing each other through our kitchen and family room. They giggle, bark and run laps. Literally, laps.
Just when I feel like I have the kids under control, the dog acts like an idiot. I’m yelling at her to stop barking or to calm down. I can’t even leave my front door open because she BARKS AT EVERY FLIPPING PERSON OR CAR THAT PASSES BY OUR HOUSE.
Or I realize I forgot to feed her and I have to climb out of bed at the end of a super long day to take care of that.
Then there are the bike rides and walks.
Picture that for a second. My husband at work. Me wearing baby in a carrier, using a broom stick to push the 2-year-old’s tricycle (because he refuses to pedal), constantly reminding the 3-year-old on training wheels to stay on the side of the road, yelling at the dog to get out of the road and then stopping everyone so I can pick up her poop.
I just keep reminding myself I’m burning calories. Releasing endorphins. Or something. Right?
But I’ve cut back on taking her with us because I just don’t have enough hands or sanity to keep everyone under control.
At 6 years old, Rammy is still so much work. A fourth child.
Two weeks ago, I woke up to feed the baby and opened my bedroom door to that horrible, horrible smell. I couldn’t even search for it right away because I had to make a bottle and get the baby back to sleep. But I knew what had happened.
The dog pooped. Diarrhea on my white rug. Four days before we were scheduled to rent out our house for the Notre Dame/Texas game. I was MAD.
And then in a sleep-deprived, angry stupor I said the meanest thing ever to her.
“I don’t even like you anymore, Rammy.”
I immediately felt horrible.
How could I do that? I would never say that to one of my children. I would never even think something like that about them. But I said it to her.
The dog had an accident. She might have even whined at my bedroom door but I didn’t hear her or wake up to help her. We’ve yelled at her so many times NOT to bark that she probably didn’t want to then either, for fear of being yelled at more.
It’s always “Rammy stop!” or “Rammy don’t do that!” or “Damn it, Rammy!”
I occasionally hear my boys yell at her too (they don't say damn it or any other bad words, for the record).
Monkey see, monkey do, right?
Then it hit me. Somewhere in the craziness of kids and life, I forgot to tell my dog how important she is.
How amazing she is when she lets the kids poke her, chase her and tease her with their dinner. How secure I feel when I look in the back yard and she’s lying next to them as they play in their sandbox or trampoline. How I love the way she greets me (just as excited as the kids) when I walk in the door from work. How she does what we taught her to do when she barks at something outside the house that she’s not used to. How I love the fact that she sleeps between our bedroom and our kids’ bedrooms… and she would tell me if an intruder ever got in.
She’s one of my biggest fans. And I said those awful words to her.
So a couple days ago I apologized. I told her I take out my stress and anger by yelling at her because she’s there and it’s easy. I take her eagerness and protective instinct for granted because she’s never failed me (or anyone else in our family).
I also told her I’ll try harder to be more patient with her and the kids. I’ll try to take her on more walks, pet her more and scold her less (even when she vomits grass inside my house, gets her fur on EVERYTHING and destroys every damn ball my kids try to play with).
Yes, I know there will be more times when I simply don’t like my dog and the things she does. But I need to make a point of showing her I still love her. Because I do. And who am I to teach my kids about respecting and loving others if I can’t even show them how to love and respect to our dog?
I'm a mom to 3 beautiful, spirited, elementary school-aged humans, I'm addicted to running + strength training, I have no filter & I work full time in the corporate world. But behind the scenes of all that is where it really gets interesting...