What my dysfunctional dog taught me about my limits

This week I’m participating a Coffee-Talk writing challenge by Sandy at First Gen American. The challenge was to write a blog post about “What my Dysfunctional ________ taught me about ________.” Here’s my offering, and be sure to check out the list of what other bloggers have written below!


Lucy, our low-maintenance dog

When we moved into our house, we inherited a dog: a big happy old golden retriever who was used to roaming all up and down the neighborhood. Then a friend rescued a healer mix for us and we took her in. Then our neighbor’s dog adopted us, another healer mix, and when the neighbors moved to a city, he moved in with us.

So, three large dogs who mostly took care of themselves in a very large unfenced yard. We had two small children, my husband was beginning to have health problems and I was barely getting by.

Then my friend rescued another dog and asked us to take her in. In those days, we said “Sure, why not,” way more often than we should have. And so, this small feisty, brindled, short-haired dog with a beguiling-but-crazy grin came to live with us. She had bandy legs and walked like a pirate. She charmed all of us – we loved her.

My husband named her Little Bit. Little Bit had been around and right away, she whipped our bigger dogs right into shape by teaching them how to lick the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. It was sign of my mental state that I found that more irritating than funny.

Little Bit also had a few issues about being left behind. Every week or so, she’d decide she didn’t like that we’d left the house and stroll down the street. Not in the loping, “Let me come too!!” way that we could do something about. No, long after we’d left, she’d wander down the street in a “Hmph! They’re not leaving me behind!” way.

And then these hyper-vigilant, over-earnest, do-gooders would pick her up, assuming she needed help (Oh no, she absolutely did NOT need help). “Oh we found your sweet little dog down the street,” they’d say in sanctimonious phone calls suggesting that we were terrible, terrible dog people.

Mind you, no one ever did this with the golden who had spent his life all over the neighborhood and guess what? He always found his way home! It’s apparently the little dogs that people get all worked up about. After a few of those calls, I began to lose what little sense of humor I had left. Then Little Bit decided to follow us down the street onto our local main road where cars travel fast. And there, she began to stand in the middle of the road and grin at people. At one point someone took her to the pound and it took us days of stress to figure that out.

And then, she began to entice the other three to come along down with her.

Where other people would have enjoyed the distraction of a cute, troublesome pet, I couldn’t handle it. We had three other dogs in a rural neighborhood of unrestrained dogs and everything had been fine. I was hardly managing to care for my humans and certainly was not caring for myself.

So I told the friend who’d brought us Little Bit and you can imagine where that went. There are few terrains more treacherous in the world that how people feel about animals. The differences are so vast that all I can really say is that we were on different places on the scale. Our friendship suffered from it for quite a long time.

Little Bit went back to live with her, and promptly ran away before being found two weeks later on the other side of town. But my friend, more loving, more flexible, and definitely less stressed, managed to find a workable solution that thrives to this day. A happy ending.

Little Bit was a warning shot across my bow that penetrated my sleep-deprived panic enough for me to realize how off kilter I was.  I was so stretched that I was also being a type of mother and person I didn’t want to be. Mothers of young children are emotional black holes, sucking in all available energy as they try survive while caring for babies. I felt angry, overwhelmed and alone. I wanted to run out and sit in the road, stop traffic and have nice people kindly take me to the pound. At that point, I may even have welcomed being put to sleep!

Slowly I started clawing my way back up out of this place. I put some boundaries into place and the earnest, exhausted “Sure, I can do anything” was the first thing to go.

We only have one dog these days (and three self-sustaining cats who take of the mouse problem), because it’s still hard to manage my humans. But I’ve tried to learn my lesson. And an excellent barometer of how I’m doing is still whether I laugh or start to seethe when I think of dogs licking dirty dishes in the dishwasher. It works as well as anything else.

One of B's low-maintenance pets

Check out Sandy’s and other bloggers’ coffee-talk posts on dysfunctionality here and enjoy!

Invest It Wisely =What My Dysfunctional Aunt Taught me about Wealth and Finances.

Budgeting in The Fun Stuff – What My Dysfunctional Family Taught me about Personal Finance

Krusty On Chrissy- What My Dysfunctional Father Taught Me About Love

101 Centavos – A few Things I’ve Learned from my “Old Contract” Grandfather

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18 Responses to What my dysfunctional dog taught me about my limits

  1. Tonia says:

    Love how we have those barometers. I know I’ve gone too far/done too much when I simply start to tell someone that I am tired …. and burst into tears.

  2. Tia says:

    Ahhh… Little Bit… I’m the proud ‘arent’ (honeslty I don’t know who nelongs to who these days) of Little Bit. I’ve been told that I should hire a dog whisperer and have Little Bit write her memoirs because she’s had some big adventures in her life. She’s gettin up in years now, and is much happier standing guard at her (our) house than running around all over town. And actually after she left me for 2 weeks & ended up 15+miles from home, she has only run away during thunder storms when I’m not there. She runs off, just looking for a human to BE with through the storm, then expects that whoever found her will give me a call & she’ll end up being delivered to my door like a wayward pizza delivery. She still has tons of sass, but she has made it clear that her job is to guard the house, help the sun rise & set and make the hollyhocks grow.

  3. Pingback: Coffee Talk: Lessons From My Dysfunctional Boss « Molly On Money

  4. We use to foster small dogs and would have up to 5 at our home at once. A woman came by to adopt one and brought an animal psychic along. I’m not saying I don’t believe in psychic but the information this one gave out was about as general as it comes. After that I realized I could be a dog psychic too! 😆

    • growingmygirls says:

      Oh you so totally could be a dog psychic — I’m sure of it! Can’t imagine 5 dogs in the house. Four was hard enough!

    • Kellen says:

      A woman I know has hired a horse psychic OVER THE PHONE to talk to her horses. Also, hired a dog psychic/medium to figure out what had happened to her dog (psychic said he had been eaten by a bear, and was happy in heaven. They found a little dog skeleton on the train tracks near their house several months later.)

      There are people willing to pay good money for some general “psychic” information. You can be like the detectives on Psyche – only for dogs.

  5. Pingback: Coffee Talk: A Few Things I Learned from my “Old Contract” Grandfather | 101 Centavos

  6. 101 Centavos says:

    “managing my humans” – l like that line.
    Our dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks Boxer takes a little more management than we’d like, but since she’s a rescue, there is no alternative. We’ll have to keep her.

    • growingmygirls says:

      Hello 101! I’ve always been fond of “dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks” as a description — it says so much! And yes, these rescues need us. At least that part feels good…sometimes.

  7. Pingback: What my Dysfunctional Family Taught Me About Life First Gen American First Gen American.com

  8. Beautiful writing. As a working mom with 2 young kids, I can totally relate to the black hole. I suddenly don’t feel invincible anymore and have to push back on things more and more.

    Thank you for participating in this coffee talk. It was a really fun story to ad to the mix. Adding you to my reader now. Looking forward to reading more.

  9. growingmygirls says:

    Thank you Sandy — it was a treat to participate. Looking forward to more and am investigating readers — had put that off until the kids were back in school. You prefer Google?

    • Yes. IF you just search feedburner in plugins, it’ll pull a bunch of options up for you. I’d surf around a few websites and see what look you like and then email the blog owner and ask which plugin they use.

  10. JK says:

    Hi, there~ I love this!! “I wanted to run out and sit in the road, stop traffic and have nice people kindly take me to the pound.” And, you are so right about this: “I was hardly managing to care for my humans and certainly was not caring for myself.” — I really understand this feeling, especially during these months: September to June. But most of all, I am reminded of my college days, living in the pink house, that our various cats were infecting each other with feline leukemia (a disease none of us had heard of before), and how a friendship ended over the decisions we made on how to treat our dying cats. I periodically google my friend, C, to try to see what she is up to these days. 30 years later, I’m not sure what I learned from that experience except that losing both my cat and my friend at the same time still makes me sad.

  11. growingmygirls says:

    It IS sad to find such profound differences between friends, and then to find you can’t bridge them. Thanks so much JK!

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