Nine years ago, after much discussion, my husband and I made the life-changing decision to add to our family. We had been thinking about it for the first decade of our marriage but the timing/finances/house situation just never seemed right. But finally, settled in our first home with jobs we both enjoyed, we knew it was time to adopt our first dog.
As with any new parent, there were growing pains. Each of us had our own ideas of how best to raise our four-legged family member. We found ourselves arguing over seemingly small issues like food, exercise, sleeping arrangements, and what training school he would attend. To be honest, those first few weeks and months put a strain on our relationship I’d never anticipated. (Yeah, I know it’s probably good we never had human kids.)
But as we ironed out our differences and settled in to the new routine, the stress dissipated and we began enjoying the new dimension that Ranger brought to our relationship. So much so that a few years later, we added to our family by adopting another dog. Once again, there were challenges, but once again, we worked through them and discovered that Mayzie expanded and strengthened our marriage even more.
How so? I’m glad you asked!
My husband and I have been together 28 years and married for 21. We love each other and we have a good marriage. However, after almost three decades, well, even the happiest couples can sometimes run out of things to talk about.
Unless you have dogs, that is.
Okay, it might be a little ridiculous how much time we spend talking about them. We love retelling funny stories about things our dogs have done in the past. Or discussing stuff we’d like to do with them in the future. Since I work from home, I look forward to regaling the hubby with all their antics when he gets home. Or I’ll send him text messages with cute pictures to brighten his day. They are endlessly fascinating, funny and downright adorable. With them around, you can bet we’ll never run out of things to talk about.
The truth is, my husband and I rarely argue. But like any married couple, there are times things get heated. (“Why can’t you put the toilet paper on the right way!?) However, our dog Ranger is a sensitive little chap and gets freaked out by loud voices and tension. So for his sake, we’ve learned to control our decibel level and we try to keep our body language relaxed.
Me: Did you pick that thing up at the store that I asked you to?
Him: No, I forgot.
Me: Ugh! Seriously? (Glances at dog, who looks worried.) Darling (smiling through gritted teeth), it’s the one thing I asked you to do for me today.
Him: Sheesh, it’s not that big of a deal! (Also notices dog’s worried expression.) I just had a lot on my mind on my way home (takes deep breath) dear. I’ll pick it up tomorrow.
The interesting thing is that when you’re forced to keep your voice low, you actually end up having a discussion instead of a fight. And it’s just amazing how much better you can hear someone when they’re talking rather than yelling.
I’m an introvert and I married an introvert. So BD (Before Dogs), there were whole weekends we spent holed up in our house reading or watching TV or doing chores. Basically, anything that didn’t involve the outside world. Turns out, our dogs actually like to go out and do stuff. Mayzie is especially insistent. She pokes us with her nose when it’s time for a walk, and she won’t give up until we (reluctantly) give in. But you know what? Once we’re out the door, we’re happy about it. We enjoy the fresh air and spending time together, and we’ve met most of our neighbors while out walking our dogs. Which is good because Before Dogs, I always had this fear that if we ever met with a terrible fate, our neighbors would end up on TV saying things like, “Well, we didn’t really know them. Always kept to themselves. Pretty odd folk, they were.”
Thank GAWD our dogs have kept us from being posthumously embarrassed on TV.
We love to camp and hike. Always have. But these activities take on a different meaning with our pups along. Before Dogs, our hikes were more oriented toward getting from Destination A to Destination B. Sure, we took in our surroundings, but it seems there was always a goal: “We must get to the lake by such and such time in order to get back before the sun sets.” Our dogs don’t understand timelines or goals. They are absolutely always in the moment, which forces us (in a most wonderful way) to be in the moment as well. Our hikes are more leisurely now, stopping frequently so they can sniff a patch of grass or gaze longingly at a squirrel perched in a tree. During this time, we either talk or just quietly take in the beauty around us. Without fail, these are the times that we treasure most. By making us live in the moment, they remind us that the moment is all that matters.
Your turn! How have your dogs made your life or relationships better? Tell us in the comments.
About the Author: Amber Carlton is owned by two cats and two dogs (all rescues), and is affectionately (?) known as the crazy pet lady amongst her friends and family. She and her husband (the crazy pet man) live in colorful Colorado where they enjoy hiking, biking and camping. Amber owns Comma Hound Copywriting and also acts as typist and assistant for Mayzie’s Dog Blog. She encourages other crazy pet people to connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.