Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What about the dog?

Perhaps the only thing more shocking than me moving to New York is the fact that I’m not bringing my dog.
That dog means the world to me.
I’m not the typical dog owner and I certainly don’t have a typical dog. Naturally, we do not have a typical owner-dog bond either. What we have is special. That dog reads me so well he can figure out what I want from him before I have to ask. And likewise.
I have undoubtedly the very best behaviorally challenged dog that has ever walked the face of this Earth. I study canine behavior as a personal hobby. I write a blog about dogs; largely my own. If you asked anyone to say something personal about me, they would immediately go to “she loves dogs.”
Truly loving dogs, especially your own, means making sure that your decisions are based on what is best for the dog and not what is best for your own emotional wellbeing.
I’m not an idiot, though. I know Sensi is going to be depressed without me. Animals have emotions. It’s so much harder to think about the story of Hachi now.
This isn’t a situation where I can have it both ways — decide what’s best for him and not hurt him in the process. Whether I bring him or leave him, I hurt him. The decision left to make has to be based on what hurts him the least.
He is approaching 10 now. He’s a big dog, a senior citizen now. Sensi has lived his whole life in the country. He has never peed on concrete.
But mostly, his behavorial issues are why I can’t bring him. I walk him now, but never down a path so narrow or crowded that I can’t keep space between him and others. He is afraid of this world — this calm country world that is the only world he’s ever known — and his knee jerk reaction, at least while cornered on a leash, is to bite.
In New York, his anxiety would be through the roof. He can hardly handle watching someone walk down the road outside the house without barking like they might just kill us, nonetheless listen to the noise of tenants in nearby apartments. And it’s not about the space — walking solves that — but he’d have to be muzzled for every minute of every walk. He hates the muzzle.
Constant high-level anxiety. Stress. Bathroom problems. Muzzled walking. This is not the life for my dog.
If anything has brought me to total breakdown about this whole situation, it’s leaving Sensi. There’s nothing I can do to explain this to him, to help him understand. All he’s really going to know is that one of the two things (Brent and I) he always believed he would have is gone — and not dead, because dogs know dead, but I’m going to be back to visit. So to him, I’m just gone. He’ll never know why I keep leaving, and why it’s so long before I come back.
The only thing I hate more than knowing how much I’ll miss him is knowing how much he’ll miss me. 


  1. Karen,

    I have wondered why you've been so quiet lately... If you haven't already left, please give me a call. Heck, give me a call if you're already in NY! I'll miss your OP writing...and having a smart dog writer on our side here in Metro Detroit.
    Many wags and well wishes,
    Nicole Herr

  2. Hey Nicole! I'm so glad to hear from you! I'm still in town and would love to see you before I go. I can't find your contact info (new computer) but shoot an email to my regular ol' oakpress address.

    And regardless where I'm at, I think I'll always reach out to you for doggie insight :-)