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She is conspicuous in her absence.  I expect to see her sitting high on the end of the couch, deforming the cushion, as I walk up the front walkway.  I expect to trip over her when I traipse through the kitchen at night, to find her curled up on a dining room chair in the morning.  I am shocked when she does not bark to welcome the nanny in the morning, or to guard against anyone who walks in the door.  She doesn’t jump on me when I sit on the floor to play with the babies, nor try to eat the beignet I set on the end table as we settled into an evening of “Homicide” after the babies had gone to sleep.

 

Her “stuff” is gone, too – her bowl, her collar, her leash and harness.  There’s a space in the living room that has obviously been swept after her crate was removed to the garage.  But the biggest difference is not in her trappings nor even seeing her in her usual haunts; it’s in my behavior.  I don’t have to seal up the kitchen at night, lest she sneak in there and pee on the chair cushions.  I don’t have to obsessively close the bedroom doors, lest she do the same to our bedding.  No longer do I worry that a stray baby sock or hat on the floor will become a chew toy.  Pacifiers that E. drops will stay put until we clean them, not become squirreled away in the dog’s mouth.  I don’t have to bribe her into her crate before I leave the house, nor distract her with a treat when the nanny comes.  I don’t have constantly hush her barks as she threatens to wake the sleeping babies yet again.  And while she’s torn up a third sofa with her energy and her nails, it won’t get any worse than it is now.  I don’t have to protect our home any longer.  Molly is gone.

 

Mr.Apron took her to the shelter yesterday, took her “back” to the shelter we adopted her from 2 years ago.  Was she defective?  Were we incompetent?  Probably neither extreme is fair, and I have to believe that she’ll be adopted again soon, to a family with the fenced-in  yard she needs, and the attention she craves.  I have to believe she can be rehabilitated, or we wouldn’t have worked so hard, spent so much money on her in the time she wrecked our home, and brought chaos into our lives.

 

I’ll always be sad when I think about having to surrender Molly.  I’ll always look back on her photos nostalgically and wonder if we had tried everything in our power.  Or if we should have returned her long before we did.  But things are so much easier now; I can’t believe how much we rearranged our lives to accommodate that 32-lb dog, how careful we had to be to manage her behaviors and her less-than-desirable attributes.  It’s like we can breathe again, and relax a little in our own home.

 

As I dressed for work this morning, though, I realized it’ll take far longer than 24-hours for the dog to truly leave our lives.  While the dog and her chaos may have left, we’ll still be lint-rollering pieces of her fur off of our clothing for years to come.

Molly the dog is an enigma.  She is almost house-broken, until the weekend comes.  Our routines are not as rigid, our schedules not as predictable, and she gets more freedom.  Today, that meant she pissed on our bed, through the blanket, the sheets, and the mattress pad.  Why?  Well, she was left alone while we were working in the kitchen, hammering in extra nails to fix a bounce in the sub-floor.  The noise drove her upstairs, where we’ve been a little lax in our usual obsessive closing of doors to limit her access.  Is it our fault for not watching her?  Shouldn’t she be trained by now?  We know she can hold her bladder from 7am till 3:30 or 4pm, yet this accident (or, “On purpose” as we’ve been calling them) happened around 10:30am, in my best guess.  Physiologically, she can hold it, but does she choose not to, or have we, the responsible owners/trainers, not reinforced heavily enough, that potty happens outdoors? 

We praise lavishly, we even reward occasionally, the outdoor products.  In general, she stays in her crate while we are not home, and we always take her outside upon releasing her from her confinement, so as to give her a chance to relieve herself, and to relieve us in knowing she is “empty.”  We are never truly relaxed until she is empty. 

Yet the weekend is a slower pace, and that’s almost exclusively when she has her accidents.  In anger, we throw her in the crate, but this act of retribution is not even akin to putting out fires (laundry would seem to be its metaphor); it’s more to let her escape our wrath, the anger we have at ourselves for not prophylactically taking her out at 10am, or 3pm, or 7pm or whatever.  The other dog we adopted at age 4.  He has never had an indoor accident, except for the one time we gave him some high-quality, super-expensive food that made him shit 5 times a day, and he couldn’t hold it in the middle of the night.  I know dog experts say dogs don’t have consciences, that they don’t feel guilt, shame, or remorse, that they’re simply reading our reactions through tone of voice, body language, or actions.  I would argue that Finley does, though.  If he has flipped over a trash can (a habit of his from his youth), the dog gate fell, or he scratched a door out of anxiety from a fly’s presence (he’s a teensy bit neurotic), we will find him cowering, with his head low to the ground, tail down, nose downward. Even if we try to allay his feelings using cheery voices, happy greetings, and jovial head-petting, his tail may wag, but his bodystill  says, “I did something so wrong.  Will you find it in your heart to love me and not kick me out?”  He only requires 3 walks a day.

Why does she need more?  She simply does not understand.  She is too dumb to completely grasp the concept of voiding exclusively outdoors.  I know that, being part-lab, she will always be a few cards short of a full deck, but she has shown the capability to learn.  She has a release command for eating her food.  She will stop jumping if you ignore her and tell her to sit.  She will sit (when she feels like it) on command.  She will lie down (and roll over) when a treat is brought near the floor.  She will go up stairs on the command “up”.  She will stop pulling, briefly, on a walk.  She may not be all there mentally, but she isn’t eating drywall, and she hasn’t destroyed a shoe yet.  But if she is truly too stupid to grasp this concept, I blame myself.  I know she’s too dumb, and I don’t know what to do about it.  Which kind of makes it my fault.

One of the house-breaking books we brought home initially in March, when we brought Molly home, said there isn’t such a term as “almost house-broken” or “mostly potty-trained;” a dog either is, or she isn’t.  Since Molly continues to have accidents on the weekends, regardless of who is at fault, I guess she is as bad as the piddling puppy we brought home 6 months ago. 

Does anyone have any resources they love for “almost-trained” dogs?  Do you have any tricks or techniques to pass along for dumb dogs who don’t have an innate drive to please their owners?  Are we ever going to be able to use the crate as a PoMo coffee table?

Molly has made me cry.  It wasn’t when she ate my watchband.  Afterall, leather is not so different from the rawhide we give her to chew.  It wasn’t when she ate my emery board or a pen; both are shaped like the rawhide sticks.  And it wasn’t when she tore into my popcorn heating pad, as that is easy enough to replace, and did smell like food.  No, she made me cry when she — all 24 pounds of her — yanked me down the street when I was trying to walk her.  I spent the entire afternoon researching how to train her to walk gently on the leash.  I looked at videos, I read blogs, I researched high-priced animal trainers.  And for the rest of the week, I dutifully followed protocol, stopping movement when she pulled, rewarding her for looking at me by doling out treats, and commanding “gentle” (I can’t do “heel”; I feel like a tool).  Yet it was all too slow.  I felt like I was rewarding her for looking at me, not training her to walk without pulling.  Her pulling on the leash is so constant, I doubt I was being consistent enough in my stopping to teach her the right lesson.  But it actually hurt.  Either my arm was being pulled out of its socket, or my fingers were all mashed up from gripping the leash handle.  I cried because she is too stupid to understand that pulling does not move either of us faster on the walk, and I can’t teach her that.  Molly is many things — cute, cuddly, affectionate, destructive — but she is just a dog. 

As in all things, when patience wears thin, we look for the quick fix.  My mother has also been driven to seek out dog trainers as she has 3 rescued dogs who are all, to varying degrees, insane.  There’s dumbshit Annabella, the chocolate lab who eats the bannister and runs into walls, Holly, the amblyopic border collie who has nuclear diarrhea in the car and has anxiety about everything, and Jellybean, the fox terrier I have yet to meet, but who, I’m sure, is insane.  And she has to walk them all.  Holly, for all of her border collie sleekness, pulls so hard on her leash she ends up on her rear legs, hopping like a wall-eyed bunny.  She can’t even stay still long enough to pee; she leaves a little trail as she waddles in the grass.  Annabella is a sweetheart, but she’s 90 lbs of loving.  Jellybean is tiny, but she’s also a terrier, so she’s intense.  Altogether, the dogs weigh more than Mom, so she needs all the help she can get. 

Her trainer recommended the Gentle Leader harness, so all 3 girls now walk wearing them.  Mom dispatched one to us, after I’d slung a tape measure around Molly as if measuring her for her first training bra.  She’s 22 inches around, so Mom bought the Medium.  Small only goes to 20 inches, and they didn’t have the in-between size in the store.  Of course not.  Just because you manufacture 7 sizes doesn’t mean the retailers should carry them all; what sense would that make?

Well, we’ve had the harness scarcely a week, and it works.  When it’s on.  Molly is rather rabbit-shaped.  She has a long, lean torso which she uses to bridge herself between Mr. Apron’s lap and my lap.  She’s also incredibly agile and can jump astonishing heights, such as to clear the dog gate as if in Olympic hurdling.  Her assets are also useful for elongating and jumping clear through the harness.  Usually, though, she just manages to slip one front leg out.  Four times now, she’s lunged forward , slipping through the harness, leaving it to precariously cling to her hind-quarters, stopping her motion only because the bulge of her tail keeps it from slipping off completely. 

After that happened again today, Mr. Apron tackled her like some apt football metaphor, and declared that was it; it was going back to the store for a smaller size.

We had the receipt; I just couldn’t find it.  After 15 minutes of cursing myself for not putting it on the bulletin board or in my purse, or in the box the harness came in, I found the receipt, and we headed to Petco.

Even exchange, right?  Mr. Apron hit the return desk while I pounded the aisles.  I saw nothing in the leash/collar aisle, nothing with the Eagles NFL-license harnesses, nothing in the dog-walking accessory section.  The Gentle Leader harnesses, for some reason, are two aisles over, in their own section.  Because that made sense.  They didn’t have the S/M at our Petco either.  Just S or M.  I sighed, took the Small, and prepared for failure.  I found Mr. Apron, weary as the cashier prepared to issue a merchandise credit because Mom bought the harness with her credit card, and presented the new harness to them.  Wouldn’t you know, the same harness that cost $26.49 in Seekonk, MA, costs $29.99 in our part of the world?  Wouldn’t you know they actually made us pay the difference?  Plus tax.  I wonder if, had we not had the receipt, we would have been able to make the even exchange without money changing hands.  You know, like a merchandise credit when we brought back the Flavia beverage machine someone bought us for our wedding (that we hadn’t registered for and had no use for, hence, we hadn’t registered for it)?  I bet we would have.  Just sayin’. 

And as I’m fond of saying, it’s not the $3.50 +tax; it’s the principle of the thing.  And then not even carrying the right size.  You have to get the thing on the dog in the first place to see if it fits, even if (as we did) you do measure first.  And now we’re stuck in the world of Petco store credit, even if I did order the harness from the manufacturer online. 

We got the fool thing home.  Whereas the Medium was adjusted all the way tight and still too big, the Small is now adjusted all the way loose, and still too snug.  I’m worried about our pretty little girl chafing her beautiful blonde fur.  I’m worried we’re not going to be able to wrastle her into the snug contraption without resorting to etherizing or, Mr. Apron’s prefered method, tasing her first. 

Let’s just hope it works.  While I’m slightly conflicted that this isn’t teaching her not to pull, and that, were we to take it off, we’d be back to ground zero, I’ll settle for a dog who walks gently with some assistive technology.  I long for the obedient, amazing, stunt-performing dog, but I’ll leave that to Cesar Millan and Lassie.  As long as my arm isn’t being wrenched out of its socket, I’ll settle for good enough.