The Trials and Tribulations of Adopting the Dog You Didn't Know You Wanted
Frankie at home (and most likely in time-out) in his own room.
As I type this, my dog, Frankie, is in time-out in his room. And by his room, I mean the bedroom where my boyfriend and I sleep. But like everything else that was once ours — since we adopted this bratty little Papillon a little over a month ago — it's now his. Our time is his; our personal space is his; our bed is his. Frankie even gets irritated when we show affection for each other and he's not a part of it. If my boyfriend and I happen to be in bed and embracing or (gasp!) kissing, Frankie tries to join in. If we're standing up and showing affection in any way, he barks fanatically. He has all but killed our sex life, something no one warned me about when we first began looking for a dog. As a first-time pet owner, I have no idea what I'm doing. Basically, I'm D'Fwan.
I know what you seasoned dog lovers are thinking: "this lady is a total amateur who's doing everything she could possibly do wrong." I know. I've already been told this. And I've been told that we need to assert our dominance, we need to get a kennel for him to sleep in, we need to not let him on the bed at all, we need to use positive reinforcement, we need to use negative reinforcement, we need to give him treats or none at all and we need to feed him after we eat so that he knows we're in charge. But I've already failed at all of that, I say as I have now let him out of time-out and am allowing the dog to eat salmon off of my fork from our human dinner. He's sitting at the table with us. Because he's Frankie Francis Frankenstein Buxton, The Eight and a Half Pound Ruler, and he gets what he wants.
Four months ago, when my partner and I first started looking for a potential dog-child, I became overwhelmed with anxiety — meeting many different animals made me realize that I just might not be ready for my own. I was prepared for the workload that comes along with having a pet, but could I bear such an emotional undertaking? I didn't know if I could be responsible for another being, especially when we weren't necessarily going to have any background information on the dog we brought into our lives.
A few weeks ago, a friend who volunteers at the Denver Dumb Friends League Buddy Center in Castle Rock posted a photo of an adorable chihuahua on Instagram. Though my boyfriend wasn't so keen on the breed, he still wanted a dog too, so we went to meet the pup. As we drove along I-25 all the way out to no-man's land beyond even shopping mall territory, I thought to myself, this isn't going to work, just like last time. We aren't going to know if it's the right dog and I'm not going to be able to make a decision and I don't want to do that to a poor dog. But we did bring our dog roommate Mister Mister with us, just in case the pup we met happened to be perfect. I mean, I wouldn't want someone moving into our communal home that I had never met, so it was only fair to take the same consideration for the other canine-being in our living space.
The chihuahua turned out to be not exactly the personality we were looking for, just as I had expected. I wasn't let down so much a relieved. It was a sign — we weren't supposed to get a dog. But then the woman helping us at the shelter said there was another small dog that hadn't been put out for adoption yet because he had just been neutered and was still heeling. He had been a stray, was underweight and had to have three teeth pulled. He was also what they thought to be a purebred Papillon, a kinda daffy looking breed we had not really considered adopting. I'd never even seen one of these dainty goofballs in real life, and I certainly thought my boyfriend would not go for it — I couldn't imagine him wandering down the street walking this less-than-ten pound absurd creature on a leash.
But then the this dippy little dog named "Pal" — a moniker that only conjures up the image of the bowling alley creep in Uncle Buck — came into the room with a cone on his head. We were swooning instantly. He had the feet I imagine muppets have if you could ever see below their waists; he had two little antenna hairs the stuck up among the fluff on each ear and he had a crooked snout that was endearing. He was perfect! And he got along with our dog roomie Mister Mister, too. Pal was house-trained and we later learned that he could sit, shake AND high-five. This little guy was the one.
Once at home, we mulled over names for a good 24 hours. I was set on Francis; my boyfriend was determined to rename Pal Beetlejuice. We also considered Porkchop, King Tubby, Pony Boy, Rambo, Baxter Stockman, Prince Jammy and Tony Yayo as potential names. We settled on Frankie, with the agreement that I could call him Francis if I wanted and my partner could refer to him as Frankenstein. Like all pets, he does go by his now-given name most of the time, but in the four-ish weeks we've had him, the title has morphed from Frankie into Franklin, pumpkin head, puppy-baby and so on.
Life with Frankie has not been easy by any means — though he played it cool with Mister Mister at the shelter, he has been not so kind toward the older canine gentleman at the house now that they share a home. He is picky about when he eats and for some reason, though we have an entire yard that acts as a dog toilet, Frankie still prefers to shit on the sidewalk in the darkest part of the walkway so we're sure to step in it at night. He's very smart and very needy; he's possessive when it comes to any one of the many tennis balls in our house that are not actually his (which is why he is often in time-out in his room.) But like I said, he can high-five and it is so cute!
Adopting a pet introduces a whole new dynamic to your relationship — one where you are able to learn how your partner handles being in a position of authority. I'm not at all comparing this to parenting. However, it is interesting to see how our animal-parenting styles have emerged as we have taken on joint care of this dog. My boyfriend is the authoritarian; I am merely the frustrated counterpart. Still, we are working together to love a dog that is far from faultless. The other night after a rather stressful and trying day with Frankie, my boyfriend sat on the edge of the bed and held the six year-old pup like a baby and looked at me and said "we're a family now." Adopting a dog may be the best thing that has ever happened to us.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies