Every hour of the day, we had to plan around her. Medicines. Meals. Walks. Everything became so structured and rigid that it’s no surprise it all collapsed when she died.
For the past several months, she was everything. Our days and our conversations revolved around her. While excited to explore our new city, we stayed home to care for her instead.
We hated it. She hated it. We fought with each other and with ourselves. But we knew it was temporary. Eventually it would end. We just didn’t know it would end like this or that it would hurt this bad. Somehow, we clung to the idea that she was going to get better.
We adopted Domino when she was 9-months-old from a family that could no longer care for her. And no wonder. She was an absolute fucking terror. When we first met her, she pounced on us with all her 55 beefy pounds, anxious to dominate us, while scratching the hell out of our arms and legs.
“We’ll take her!” We said and then, questioned our judgement almost immediately.
She lunged at every squirrel on every walk – literally pulling me to the ground on more than one occasion. She barked ferociously at passing dogs. She was terrified of stairs and sometimes still peed on the carpet. And this was all before she went into heat 2 days after we brought her home, exacerbating the crazy.
We relished the moments when she was sleeping, and we could pretend like everything was going fine.
When I went on a business trip 2 weeks into our dog-parenting adventure, Craig was left to fend for himself. In hindsight, it was pretty terrible timing, especially considering that Craig wasn’t the one who wanted a dog in the first place. Not that he didn’t like pets, he just didn’t like having additional work – and Domino definitely was a lot of work! Sensing his animosity, the first day after I left on the trip, Domino jumped on our bed and peed right on Craig’s pillow while she stared him down, trying to prove she didn’t care about him either.
We knew immediately that we were completely incompetent to raise her – just like the 3 families before us apparently realized when they each passed her on to the next person. But we are not quitters. So we began watching The Dog Whisperer religiously and took Domino to doggy school where they trained us how to be good dog parents. We did our nightly homework and forked over hundreds of dollars like any good parent does. And in no time, Domino was a pro on the leash. Always by our side. No longer barking or lunging or being a general asshole.
She became a model citizen.
That being said, she still preferred to dominate people by jumping on them instead of basking in their affection. She had no interest in being petted, and only put up with it when she was begging for something. And while I desperately wanted a dog I could cuddle with, she would only begrudgingly cuddle with us when she knew that was the only way we would let her up on the couch. Even then, she would slowly stretch out her legs and nonchalantly try to push us off the couch so she could have it for herself.
Her independence was alternately admirable and infuriating.
Our hearts swelled anytime she simply rested her head on our laps which happened less frequently than Christmas.
I think she was always a little wary of attaching to us. Anxiety was her baseline. Are you leaving? Are we moving? Am I going with you?
The first time we moved with her, it was a 3,000 mile journey from Ohio to Arizona as we sought out sunny skies. With her 2-year-old puppy energy, she despised every minute of the drive across the country and eventually refused to get back in the car at all. Every time we stopped for her to pee and walk around, we had to physically lift her back in the car which she hated and would usually acquiesce and jump in the car and out of our arms.
We let her share the motel bed with us as we traveled (under the presumption that it would lessen her anxiety). And maybe it did. But it also deprived Craig and I of any sleep as she stretched out in between us and pushed both of us to the edge.
When we finally made it to my sister’s house in Arizona (where we planned to live for at least a month while job-searching), Domino’s alpha personality didn’t mesh at all with my sister’s alpha dog. Within 3 days, we had spent all of our meager savings on a security deposit and rent for an apartment that allowed people who have dogs and not jobs.
We were excited about our new place in a new state, but also anxious. And Domino was, too. The first night in our new apartment, she stayed up way past her bedtime, and in her delirium, peed on her own bed! Realizing her mistake, and making the saddest puppy dog eyes she could muster, she begged us to let her sleep on our air mattress. We weren’t fooled by her charms, though. We were pack leaders (thanks, Cesar!) and weren’t about to give up our bed!
While we initially worried that Domino would miss the green grass of Ohio, it quickly became apparent that Domino loved Arizona. She loved being able to go on long walks and hikes most days of the year and not having to suffer through long days of rain or snow. Even in the deathly months of summer, we could hike in the early morning or drive up the mountain and go for a hike at anytime.
It was so much different than Ohio had been. During the freezing months in Ohio, we used to sneak Domino into our apartment building’s exercise room to have her walk on the treadmill (which was actually pretty fun – and I highly recommend it for people living in cold states – but it certainly doesn’t compare to a real walk).
Domino may have loved Arizona, but she still wasn’t totally sure about us. More like a cat or a coyote, she preferred to be on her own. When she tired of us trying to love on her during the day, she would always retreat to her crate, her safe-space. Though, during this time, she officially declared Craig her favorite person and to my chagrin, started giving him (and not me!) kisses when he got home from work, and when Craig and I would playfully wrestle, should would jump on ME to protect HIM! Still, though, she certainly never wanted to be picked up – by anyone. That required way too much trust. The one time she did allow us to pick her up and carry her, we knew she must be desperate. Arizona is not always the safest place for hiking with dogs…
To be continued!
Part 2 coming soon!
This is part 1 of 3. I can’t promise when part 2 will be written, but check back in the next week or so. Or better yet, click on the follow button and you will be notified when I post a new blog. 🙂