Single Dog Parents, I Salute You
Single dog people, I have developed a healthy new appreciation for you.
It's not as though I didn't appreciate you before, so please don't think that. It's just that I never made the leap into dog parenthood with the goal of falling into your ranks. In fact, had I been by my lonesome the day I met my pup, I probably wouldn't have taken him home amidst fears of being woefully inadequate. But here I am now, and it's terrific as well as terrifying, depending on which day you catch me.
You don't enter a relationship planning its demise, and after five years of co-parenting Mr. Moxie the Italian Greyhound, roles and duties had been efficiently carved out. Mox's human dad was a semi-retired sort while I was the work-a-holic type. He had become Moxie's main walker and feeder, save for weekends and the days the pup would accompany me to Dogster HQ. He cooked for Mox twice a week and climbed the hill to the local park daily to make sure our high-energy hound spent a good hour burning off all he'd consumed. Other duties were split, the most painstaking of which was cleaning the dog's litter box (yes, this is a thing), which required daily poop disposal and a weekly deep-clean and refill of Yesterday's News litter (made from recycled newsprint, and thusly appropriate for the editor's dog, no?).
I was relieved and grateful to learn I was keeping Mox when my ex and I parted ways, but as soon as all of his belongings vacated the apartment and his moving van rolled down the street, I turned to Mox sheepishly and said "I guess it's just you and me now, little buddy." I was immediately worried Mox would mourn his dad's loss, based on the small fact that he liked to wait by the door late into the evening on Friday nights, waiting for him to return from his weekly poker tournament. I had already resigned myself to seeing Mox mope, wondering when his pop would be coming home, and I felt like a proper jerk in advance.
What I wasn't prepared for was how resilient and perceptive dogs can be. Somehow, Mox seemed to understand that all the boxes in the living room disappearing meant his dad was gone for good. And not once did he wait by the door, or mope, or cry, the way I had envisioned. He also seemed to understand that he was the main man in my life now, and he made sure to stake a claim on the other half of the bed. I might never know what it's like to sprawl out in the middle of my queen pillowtop as long as I have a dog -- I spend my nights clinging to the righthand corner while he stretches it out, digging his little nails into my ribcage.
Anyway, my recent foray into solo parenting has me thinking of those of you who wander into it intentionally. Bless your hearts, you lovely, masochistic people. Here's my shortlist of the things that are a tad more difficult ... and a tad more awesome. Let me know if I missed anything, please.
Going to the Pet Supply Store: We used to buy 25-pound bags of dog food for Mox, and a massive bag of litter at the same time. These days, this is either two trips for me, or a delivery. I'm no waif, but I look fairly pathetic lugging giant bags of feed around by my lonesome.
Cleaning the Litter Pan: What used to be a divide-and-conquer routine (he disposing of the litter and I scrubbing and sanitizing the area below the pan) is all me these days. I swapped pan and pellets out for a Fresh Patch subscription, but I found that the plot of grass got gross quickly (even if I was swapping it out every week). These days, I am testing a device called the Piddle Place, and so far it's a better option than the previous two. The unit doesn't smell, and I empty it weekly with much less fuss than I'm accustomed to. Score.
Taking Short Trips: I used to be the queen of "Hey, honey, I'm going to Carmel with my sister this weekend," knowing Mox had a full time stay-at-home dad to the care of him. Now, the dog is either coming with or I'm bugging one of my two SF-based siblings to house- and dog-sit. It's not terrible, but it does take some extra planning to get out of town.
Making Human Food Detours: In December, I stood outside a restaurant on Divisidero Street in San Francisco with a rumbling stomach, wondering how the heck I was going to get lunch when I refused to tie Mox up outside. I am anti-tethering, even for tiny bits of time, bolstered by the fact that I have a rather expensive-looking dog on my leash, and so I stood there, confounded that I couldn't walk my dog and eat, too. These days, I'll opt for streets that have an outdoor dining option if I have to eat on a walk.
Coming Home Late: On days when I can't bring Mox to work, he stays home by his lonesome. I try to get out on the early side to run him to the park after-hours, but sometimes I fail, and boy do I get a talking to when I bust through the door. For a fairly quiet dog, Mox can scold with the best of them. Fortunately, a brisk walk around our hill in the dark usually appeases him.
Cooking for the Dog: We'd gotten into the habit of feeding Mox three home-cooked meals a day while free-feeding him high-quality kibble in between. That sounds like a lot, but Mox burns a lot of energy on his runs, and he still manages to look long and lean after consuming so much. These days I add shopping and cooking for the dog to my to-do list. And it's not a lot of work, but it is an extra item on my weekly schedule I didn't have before. (Also, Dogsters, if there are pet recipes you swear by, I want to hear about them.)
Taking Over the Walks: Weaving walks into my day is another new thing. I suppose I was fairly spoiled before, but I find I enjoy this time with Mox. We'll go for long walks by the houseboats on the creek near the office on my lunch break, or trudge uphill to Lafayette Park on the weekends. He's become my favorite exercise outlet, and he is always grateful for the workout, practically prancing on the way back home.
Taking the Dog to Work More Often: I realize I'm fortunate to work for a dog-friendly company, and that I hadn't taken full advantage of this before. Where a Moxie appearance used to be a monthly affair, it's now two to three times a week, with the little guy curled up in a bed next to my desk (as he is now, while I type). He used to stress me out by wandering away from our area and peeing in strange places (usually, to my mortification, in front of the desks of our parent company's engineers). But these days we have an office with a door, and he is an angel. Even better, he now comes to most meetings and is the loveliest icebreaker I've ever had access to. Dogs are awesome.
Getting All the Love: Being the sole focus of a dog's affection and attention can be an overwhelming thing. But dear God, do I love it. Moxie and I have a bit of a mutual-admiration society between the two of us. And for the time being, we're being fairly picky about making it a club for three.
So, tell me, what are your favorite and least favorite parts of single dogparenthood?
About the Author: Janine is your typical annoying Aries overachiever with nine human siblings and a soft spot for sighthounds. She is a tattoo collector, tea drinker, and unabashedly into marshmallows and cheesy musicals. Janine believes responsible breeders exist -- her dog is from one. She runs the show as editor-in-chief of Dogster and Catster.
Photo Credits: All shots by the talented Liz Acosta.
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