I’ve Failed as a Parent

It has become apparent to me that my dogs, Brutus and Murder, have separation anxiety. Brutus has always been an anxious dog, and I put that down to his inconsistent routine. He’s been through a few different living arrangements over the past three years, and it’s easy to see the toll that all of the moving around and uncertainty has had on him. Murder is barely a year old, so I know that his anxiety is entirely my fault for being a terrible pack leader and raising him completely wrong. I’ve already achieved my all-time greatest fear of screwing up my kids, and I haven’t even had real kids yet. This fills me with confidence for the future.

I’ve decided to do some research into curing their separation anxiety, but so far all of the solutions seem to demand weeks of daily obedience practise to train these behaviours out of them, and I don’t have that kind of time. I’m out of the house from 7:30am – 6:00pm, and I’m in bed by 8:30 for my 5:00 start the following morning. With grocery shopping, cleaning up after the boys, cleaning up after myself, and maintaining personal hygiene, I really don’t have that much time to spend hiding on the other side of a door, trying to encourage my boys to behave like normal people when I leave. But I know that’s just a poor excuse for being a negligent parent. I could easily make the choice to spend even half an hour training with them, rather than watching eight episodes of Sex and the City, but I don’t, because I suck. It seems to me that changing my behaviours might be the biggest struggle that I face in overcoming my dogs’ borderline retarded tendencies.

Training Brutus and Murder to cope with my absence is made all the more difficult by the fact that there are two of them. Brutus on his own is a cinch – he’s intelligent, eager to please, intuitive and loves doing the right thing. Murder on his own is also easy – he doesn’t pick things up as quickly as Brutus, but he’s clever, and once he’s been shown the right way a few times he excels at obedience. Brutus and Murder together are a nightmare. Murder won’t allow you to show any attention to Brutus – he tries to steal the treats as you’re rewarding Brutus, and he’s a horrible distraction, always demanding to be the sole focus of your attention. Brutus is reluctant to follow instructions in case Murder gets a treat and he doesn’t, so he just dances around in circles, trying to sit closer and closer to you, but further and further away from Murder – while Murder follows him and stands in front of his face – and it’s just chaos.

Another problem is Brutus’ aggression toward other dogs. At first it was only black and white dogs (which has always baffled me, since Brutus is black and white himself), then any dog that threatened his territory/family, he only ever seemed to have an issue with male dogs, getting along with females just fine, but after introducing him to the female dog I pet-sat a few weeks ago I have discovered that he doesn’t particularly care for any dogs, regardless of gender. It has gotten to the point where he approaches every social situation with aggression and hostility, always attacking the other dog/s immediately, without even a tentative sniff first to assess the situation. This is a problem in itself, but it’s made worse by the fact that I’ll be moving to a new house, with a new roommate, who also has a dog. Murder isn’t particularly aggressive, but he follows Brutus like he’s god, and copies everything his big brother does, which makes intervening in a conflict situation difficult and dangerous, since Murder is twice the size of Brutus and weighs about 50kg. Trying to restrain two dogs – one huge and clumsy, one small and quick as a fox – is no easy feat, and I’ve received my fair share of cuts and bruises for my efforts. That being the case, I’m sure you can understand my lack of enthusiasm to introduce these two to another dog built similar to Murder.

I’m hoping that if I make a start on obedience training immediately I’ll be able to make enough progress to avoid a bloodbath once we’ve moved, and to prevent them from destroying the new house the way they’ve destroyed the current one. In this interest, I have also decided to transition them to outside dogs, which was my original intention when I decided to take Brutus on, but he was just so happy to be in the house, I didn’t have the heart to kick him out, and once Murder came along (and spent all night crying) they were inside dogs, on-the-bed dogs, do-what-they-want dogs. And now here I am, one year later, tearing my hair out with frustration. Sigh. I’d had such high hopes. I thought I’d practise obedience training with them all the time, and they’d sit and stay until I said they were allowed to eat dinner like those dogs on all the Facebook videos. I thought we’d go on walks, and puppy play dates, and trips to beaches and parks, I thought I’d take them to the Pet Expo and they’d have so much fun! Thanks to their humiliating behaviour, of course, none of that has happened, or if it has, it only happened once and ended badly and we’ve never tried it again.

As much as I love my dogs, I do sometimes regret taking on so much responsibility. I really do have the worst tendency to make my life so much more difficult than it needs to be. And I feel guilty that they aren’t getting the most out of their lives, even if it is kind of their fault for being psychopaths that can’t be taken out in public. Perhaps a little responsibility will be good for all of us – the boys will have defined boundaries and won’t stress whenever I leave the house, and I’ll have a healthy relationship with my companions and won’t have to deal with the constant destruction of my belongings. At this point I remain cautiously optimistic.


The day I saved my first animal.

I’ve always loved Wednesdays, they’re my favourite day of the week, and I’ve never really known why – maybe it’s something to do with my love of symmetry or because in senior school I always had the day off, I don’t know. I was thinking about this last night as I contemplated the distance to Friday – at least tomorrow is Wednesday, it may not be Friday but it’s my favourite day of the week, be happy, but why is it my favourite day, what do I have to look forward to about Wednesdays, it’s really just like any other week day now, and definitely not as exciting as Friday. So I went to bed expecting today to be just like every other Wednesday – get up, go to work, come home from work, be thankful that I’m another day closer to Friday. I left my house this morning to make the short journey to my bus stop expecting absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

As I turned the corner into the street that my bus stop is on I noticed a possum in the middle of the road, and it was pretty easy to determine that it was dead, even from 15 metres away. I decided to do the decent thing and move it off the road – at least it wouldn’t be squished all over the place and someone in a nearby house would see it and call the council when they opened to have it removed. I could see a little blood, but no visible signs that she’d been attacked and there were no guts hanging out, but as I carried this stiff body back to the nature strip I noticed that she had a tiny, hairless baby nuzzled into her belly. There’s an animal management centre a few streets away from where I live, my bus goes past it every day, but I didn’t think they’d let me on the bus with a dead mother possum and her hairless infant, so I called the centre instead to see if they could come pick the two up. Of course, it couldn’t be as simple as all that and I got directed through to the emergency after hours line where I described the situation to a call centre staff member and was informed that I would need to contact the RSPCA for this kind of issue. It was then that I noticed that this baby’s head was still *inside* the mother – she had died in the middle of giving birth and now I had to deal with this just-born, pink wriggler who was still attached to his mama via the umbilical cord – definitely not what I had expected on my commute to work this morning! Nothing in my life has equipped me for handling this situation, I mean I’ve seen a few nature documentaries and TV shows, and I know a little bit about the whole birthing process in general, but really not enough to make any confident decisions about medical treatment for what I *think* was a ring-tail possum? All I could do was laugh as my bus drove past and I was still kneeling on the grass, trying to keep this little dude warm, and consulting the woman on the phone about the correct action to take in this situation. In the end I was put through to the RSPCA and they dispatched an ambulance to my house where I waited with this little guy, still attached to his dead mother since I couldn’t cut the cord in case I accidentally killed him.

So it’s been an exciting day already and I have officially made my first ever animal rescue – I guess you could consider this the first day of my career as an Animal Rescue & Re-homing Specialist – and also my first blog post. What a successful day it has been so far, and only just past 11:00 am. And a prime example of subconscious and conscious thoughts manifesting within reality – I had just been discussing my goals regarding a career working with animals last night and then boom! Animal rescue emergency first thing the next day. I’m feeling very justified in my decision to pursue a different career path, and very good-samaritan-y. Welcome to my life, and I hope you enjoy the ride.