I have a confession: I’ve raised a bad dog. I’m talking Marley and Me bad. Can’t be trusted in the house alone bad. And I’m terrified my kids will turn out just as bad.
I’m not sure where we went wrong with Bailey. I’m friends with his littermate’s mom and June is a wonderful dog so it’s not genetic. I’ve lived in hope that he will outgrow his bad dog ways, but I’m afraid eight years is too long to be just a phase.
Before I get lectures on owning a dog, let me provide some background. Bailey does not lack attention. I stay home so he isn’t alone much, and when we leave the house we take him with us whenever possible. He doesn’t lack exercise. The kids go to the park and hiking more times a week than they care to count just so we can bring Bailey. He has a big, fenced yard and sleeps in our bed. He has a good life.
There is one major problem, Bailey is addicted to food. He literally has no self control, his appetite is insatiable. And he is so big that no food is out of reach. He has stolen cookies from small children and sandwiches while I’m making them. He’s snatched lunches in the time it takes to get a drink. He’s eaten so much dog food that he’s gotten sick. We’ve spent hundreds of dollars on sippy cups because apparently he likes milk. No food is safe. In fact, as I’m writing this, Bailey ate half of my 2-year old’s Cheez-its.
The stories I can share are almost comical and I’m sure we will laugh one day. There was that time he ate an entire chocolate cake. I was so nervous that I contacted a friend whose wife is a vet and she advised me to induce vomiting with peroxide. It worked, but I didn’t clean up the mess fast enough so he enjoyed a second helping. I decided we’d take our chances rather than fork over $1,200 to the emergency vet. He was fine.
I can’t even count the amount of times Bailey has removed a heavy Pyrex dish from the kitchen counter and eaten the contents. He has an iron stomach and jaws of steel. You’d think after so many incidents I’d learn my lesson and stop leaving food out. For the most part I have, but seriously, whose dog takes bananas off the hanger and de-peels them before enjoying a healthy snack? And if food isn’t readily available, he will search high and low. He is a pro at opening backpacks and purses.
I have to wonder if my poor dog-parenting will carry over to parenting my children. Will they steal toys from other kids just because they desire them? Will they ignore authority figures when they are told no? Will they do things out of spite when left alone? Will they lick my furniture for no good reason?
Of course they will do those things, they already have. Yes, I’ve even seen them lick the furniture. But for all of Bailey’s faults, he also has endearing qualities I would love my boys to learn. You won’t meet a sweeter dog. He is a gem with the kids. They can do anything to the poor animal and he isn’t fazed, he’s just happy to be part of the gang. Bailey has the patience of a saint. He plays gently, even tailoring how hard he pulls a toy based on which child is on the other end. I’m not sure there is a greater joy than seeing my kids play as nicely with each other and other children. Watching them share or help someone else makes me want to give them a million kisses (I refrain myself and simply praise them . . . most of the time).
Bailey is always up for a new adventure. I’m working hard to cultivate tiny explorers. Having a dog is actually a huge help. Sitting around and watching TV isn’t an option when there is a hyper lab that needs a walk. I wouldn’t know about half of the hiking trails and dog-friendly parks or restaurants in Birmingham if it wasn’t for Bailey. The kids need just as much exercise as the dog. What better way to exert their energy than being outside and exploring Birmingham and beyond as a family.
Best of all, Bailey loves unconditionally. He doesn’t discriminate, you have a kind hand and he will accept a pet. With all the hate in the world today, I can only hope my kids will be as empathetic as their dog. Just like dogs, kids aren’t born with hate in their hearts. It is a learned behavior. It may sound silly, but watching Bailey greet everyone as a potential friend rather than enemy is a great reminder to me that there is good in this world and a kind smile (or wag of the tail) goes further than you may think.
Kind, Gentle Men
So while Bailey may be a “bad” dog, he is also the best. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but he is ours and we love him. Our kids won’t be liked by everyone, but we will love them nonetheless. I will have 18 years to teach them to be respectful and not act on every desire. I have to believe that if I can keep my kids from stealing food, then they will grow into kind, gentle men with big hearts. Just like their dog, Bailey.