On Dogs, Babies…and Poop


I am old, so sometimes I find myself unnecessarily impatient with perfectly nice younger people. The kind of people who have babies and then post every minute of every day of their child’s perfectly normal, average life on social media.

“Jimmy doesn’t sleep! Isn’t he AMAZING?!”

Having a child is amazing. It just makes me grumpy to be reminded of it. Like I said—I’m old and make less sense every day.

I mention this because I’ve just got a dog. It’s the first time I’ve owned a dog, and Facebook is heaving under the strain of the posts about my dog, while Instagram is talking about little else.

“He won’t sleep except on our bed! Isn’t he AMAZING?!”

Being old doesn’t exclude a person from being a hypocrite. Quite the reverse, in fact.

But in almost exactly the same way as having a child, having a dog is a life-changing event. Like a child, with a new dog you’re going to have less sleep, less money, less control over virtually everything you own, your whole life will smell worse, and you will become a natural at picking up poop. Mostly in public.

And you’ll keep telling people it’s AWESOME even at those times when you’d gladly swap them—baby or dog—for a quiet meal or an extra hour in bed. Or the opportunity to actually be within touching distance of your significant other when you’re going to sleep.

The parallels between being a parent and being (sigh) a doggy daddy are quite remarkable. Both child and dog need all sorts of paraphernalia just to go on a simple car trip. When you get to where you’re going, the people you’ve driven to see have no interest in you but are super-excited to see your new little bundle. But they soon lose interest when it looks like there might be poop on the agenda.

Unlike a baby, you can legally leave an animal alone in your apartment when you go out to do things they can’t accompany you to, such as work, seeing a movie, or just standing on a corner somewhere and breathing in the quiet. As long as you don’t mind returning home to torn blinds, mysteriously upturned furniture—and yes, more poop and a vague but growing scent of urine that you can’t quite track down.

If you are in an apartment, then you are free from the hassle of having to train your dog to go outside and poop. You don’t have to consider whether it’s worth having a doggy door installed in your back door—and whether the benefits are outweighed by the likelihood that you’ll come out to the kitchen at 3am and find a raccoon sitting in the sink.

No, none of this will weigh on your mind. You will, however, be pulling on reasonably decent clothing at unreasonable hours to take your pet to the Designated Spot. Where he or she will occasionally “go to the bathroom” but will mostly sniff around and wait for other dogs to show up. As the weeks pass by, you’ll become less concerned with your clothing choices and more focused on getting out and back in the minimum amount of time possible.

You’ll basically look like a homeless person, dragging an unwilling puppy to a tiny, poop-infested triangle of grass (thanks, other dog owners, BTW) at midnight screaming, “GO POTTY, GOOD GOOD BOY, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.”

Just as children eventually mature, learn how to look after themselves, before leaving the nest and losing all ability to write or to call, your puppy will also grow up. He’ll be less impressed with chasing strangers, more understanding of where to pop out the poop, and may even be assured that when you leave the apartment you will come back. But—if you let him sleep on your bed that first night, he’s there forever.

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