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How To Live in the Gray: According to My Puppy

July 27, 2016
Hillary Clinton Andrew Shepard

Yesterday was my puppy Louie’s 2nd birthday and I can say with absolute certainty that I still don’t know if I like having a dog.

 

I know  but give me a second.

I love Louie with all my heart and soul. I love his little bear face and his little Chewbacca legs and his stubby lamb tail and the way he rubs his eyes when he’s tired like a tiny hairy human and how he jumps into my lap to chew on his bones because that is his preferred chewing-on-bones spot. I take extremely good care of him, make sure he has three walks a day and cook plain chicken for him as treats and meal mixers because plain chicken is his favorite thing in the world, next to R and me, I hope.

But sometimes I think – do I like this having a dog thing? Hmm, not sure. It’s very time consuming and very frustrating sometimes and I lose a lot of work time on dog time and sometimes he makes me uncomfortable when he barks a lot or doesn’t like another dog or won’t walk.

And then I think you are a monster. How could you not love having this dog? 

 

To be very clear, Louie isn’t going anywhere and I would adopt him all over again. He is incredibly fun to have around and watching him run at the beach is what I imagine heaven to be, if it exists.

Does that complete and utter contradiction make sense?

It does to Louie.

Never has a living thing existed with such comfort living in the gray – that place between one thought or comfort or certainty and another. He is both terrified of cats and obsessed with cats. He loves camp at Posh Petcare but sometimes he tries to run away when I walk him up to their door. A lot of the time he is dying to play with R or me; other times he looks at us like how did I get stuck with these two bozos? Every third day he just doesn’t eat a single meal. He is a study in contrasts – a complicated individual animal. I am a study in contrasts as well – a complicated individual individual.

The only difference between my dog and me is that he’s lacking whatever gene makes people judge the crap out of themselves for being complicated. At least I think he does. I rarely hear him say, “uugghh I’m the worst.

 

And really that’s what this post is about. The fact that – for the past two years I have been judging the shit out of myself for struggling with having a dog.

But you love your dog. You post so many pictures of him. You take him to the park once a week. You trained him well. You seem so totally natural with him. 

All of those things are true as is the fact that raising/having a dog was and is not totally natural to me. I’m still working on the stuff that it does to your life, specifically when you are me. The when you are me part being the operative thing. I want to be this kumbaya hippie chill dog mom who’s just living her hippie chill life with a perfectly behaved dog hanging around. I am not. I am anxious. I am nervous. I feel bad if/when he barks at people because I want all people to like me always. One time I had friends over so I plied Louie with treats so he’d be silent and occupied the entire time. He threw up that night. I have maybe never felt worse about anything in my life.

And so I live in this I don’t know about dog ownership. Sometimes it’s amazing. Sometimes it’s terrible. Why is that so hard to admit?

Because I decided that good people have a total ease with dogs – raising them, having them, taking them to cafes – and bad people don’t.

 

Oof that was hard to say.

Do you do that sometimes too? Make the world black and white so you can know what to love about yourself and what to hate? For me I think it’s all about that fear of the gray. Because in the gray you have to say I don’t know a lot, and that’s not our strong suit in this day in age.

I was nervous to write this post and even more nervous to post it. Have you noticed that I have a thing for knowing and defining things, specifically when it comes to myself? I like the world black and white because that makes it easier to judge. I like myself black and white because that makes me easier to judge, especially by myself.

But the world is not an neither am I. Inconvenient: yes. Changeable by sheer force: apparently not.

So I don’t have a nice, packaged conclusion to this post. I’m going to end it without giving you a two-sentence, feel-good message about how I intend to become a kumbaya dog owner slash human in X-months flat thanks to a meditation app and some mint tea. I don’t have an answer. I don’t entirely know what to make of my situation. I think you can handle it, but I don’t even know that.

All I know is that my dog Louie can, and I’m trying really hard.

Good day.

 

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