My dog, Kirby, is a six-year old Puggle. In dog years, that makes him the ripe old age of 44, which means that he’s long since outgrown many of the annoying habits that he had when he was a puppy. Kirby has successfully mastered bladder control. He has learned that Daddy’s books, dress shoes, and MacBook Pro power cords are off limits. He no longer runs around in circles. In fact, middle age suits Kirby (and me) quite well. He spends most of his time curled up on my bed.
The Dogster Puggle profile says that Puggles make “ideal human companions,” and for the most part I agree. Kirby and I have achieved a symbiosis that works remarkably well. I keep him well-fed with a steady supply of kibble and baby carrots, and he gives me cuddles and keeps me company while I write. He never barks except to warn me of suspicious persons loitering outside our house. He has learned to live with an erratic and admittedly inconsiderate walking schedule. The terms of our relationship are clear.
Except that sometimes Kirby lashes out. And I think I’ve figured out why.
You see, like many dogs out there, Kirby is a shared-custody dog. My best friend and Kirby’s Mommy (a heterosexual female) and I (a homosexual male) adopted Kirby when the two of us were loveless, lonely roommates living in Houston, Texas. Since moving to San Francisco, our romantic situations have changed significantly. We have now, happily, rectified the situation by finding our own partners, and as of April, Kirby’s Mommy moved three streets down to set up house with her boyfriend.
That’s when the trouble started.
You see, we’ve decided to share custody of Kirby every week. Every Sunday, we have a family dinner and Kirby gets handed off. But we’ve been noticing a trend lately. One or two days before Kirby has to switch houses, our normally well-behaved Puggle manages to find some way to a) ingest an almost suicidal quantity of food, b) defecate in places that he shouldn’t, c) destroy something that he knows he shouldn’t touch, or d) all of the above.
Two weeks ago, my partner and I went to Costco to pick up a 24-pack of toilet paper and put it in the closet on the second shelf. While we went downstairs to bring in the food, Kirby dragged out the bundle of toilet paper, pulled each roll out of the package, and left a single bite mark in each one. All of this happened suspiciously on the Sunday before he was supposed to go back to his Mommy’s house.
Coincidence? I think not.
This week, while on his way to the dog park, Kirby broke out of his place in the back of my best friend’s car to bolt to the front seat and ingest nearly a pound of peanuts in less than ten seconds. I wasn’t there to experience the trauma, but I know that Kirby can swallow things faster than you can say “choke leash.” He then proceeded to explosively crap whole peanuts all over the only carpeted area in their house –- the stairs –- for the next two days.
Some people might call that bad luck. I think that it’s lashing out.
It remains to be seen how Kirby will adjust to the new order of things. We’ve been debating extending the amount of time he spends in each house, or getting another dog to keep him company. We even resorted to giving him more toys and treats on Sundays to try and dispel any negative associations.
Maybe none of these things will work. Maybe our broken home and the introduction of two new parents in Kirby’s life is simply too much for him to handle. Maybe he’s depressed.
Maybe some family therapy is in order.
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