Who rules this kingdom?

I just read that despite the economy, people continue to increase spending on their dogs. These four-legged creatures have become such integrated parts of our families. There is a four-legged, furry one that I share my home with. Yes, I am a dog owner. Albeit, a tormented one.

“Cleo” is just over a year old…strong-willed and still full of explosive (and destructive) puppy energy. We got Cleo as a puppy, for my husband. And to be honest, ever since his death, I swing wildly back and forth as to whether or not I can handle this dog. Owning a dog was not a decision I took lightly, and “giving one away” is not either.

The story goes, that “Cleo” and “Leo” were rescued from Alabama. Two abandoned puppies found by the side of the road. They were transferred to a rescue group here in Wisconsin, and we spotted them on petfinder.com (do NOT go to this site unless you seriously plan on getting a pet, it WILL suck you in). The profile described Leo as being the “brawn”, and Cleo as being the “brains”. We fell in love with her plucky tomboy attitude right away. My husband nick-named her Alabama-Slamma’, and told her every day that she had won the “jackpot”. Cleo had us wrapped around her finger immediately, and was smart enough to know it. Her status went from “dead dog” to “her royal highness”, as all the rules established for our previous dog (i.e. no dog on the couch, no people food for the dog) were quickly broken. And my husband…well, he just wanted to give her a great life.

Thus my torment….

My husband just died. I can barely take care of myself, let alone a dog. And it’s not a joking matter. I need quiet time, calm time, alone time – time to hunker down and mourn. But, no, I am living with an extrovert, a playful joker, and she pushes me to the limit, she brings me to tears (of frustration) with her antics, she makes me want to get physically abusive (which I am not, and never will be). In short, she pushes me over the edge, and she does it often. It might sound melodramatic to some, but it feels very real to me. When this dog escapes, she returns home with dead animals (squirrels, mice, moles, voles). When we go to the dog park, she rolls in more dead, stinky vermin, or swims out in the swamp to retrieve dead fish. She finds every mud hole there is, chews up every lone sock, shoe, or “under-garment” left lying around, demolishes her bed, tears at my blankets…it’s never-ending. Did we do obedience training with her? Hell, yes! Months worth (and it left both my husband and I completely exhausted every time).

Don’t get me wrong. She’s actually a good dog. During the day when I am at work, she lives a leisurely life, sleeping and lounging. She just has a vibrant nature that needs to be full-filled, tamed, re-directed…whatever, I don’t have the energy to do it. It’s really quite heartbreaking that she stores it all up for me…a stumbling, skeletal, zombie of a person.

Yet she is a companion. A housemate, who snores, and farts…who needs meals prepared, and who does anything for a laugh. And when I take her somewhere to run free, it brings joy to my heart to see her pouncing and bounding, rolling and frolicking, and I think to myself, breathe in her joy. Breathe in the air. Breathe. And after retrieving a poor mouse from her clutches, or washing the fish scales from her coat, I often laugh (though usually not right away).

In her mind, she’s queen, and in many ways, in our little world, she does rule. When it comes to a decision of me going to yoga, or her getting taken to the dog park, she wins. Even when every muscle in my body fights leaving the house, she gets several walks. In the end, her well-being comes before mine. And that’s what I struggle with. Right now I need to come first. It’s paramount for my recovery. So every day I wonder if I should keep her. I wonder if it’s good for her, if it’s good for me. Because really, she’s more like the court jester. Living in a kingdom over which I preside, and where I sit questioning, are the funny moments worth the agony?

Luckily for her, I can’t make a decision “to save my life”, so to speak. Keep up the funny, little dog. It’s what’s saving yours.

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2 thoughts on “Who rules this kingdom?

  1. I have two dogs in addition to my baby. We live in a condo and my husband took care of them after our daughter was born. Now they are staying at my inlaws. It breaks my heart they can’t be with me. It’s like I lost my whole family. But I can’t give them what they need right now. I barely have enough (and I suspect it’s not enough ) to give my daughter. I do hope one day to get them back. I suspect there may be stage in this grief process where pets become therapeutic. I hope that comes soon for you.

  2. Oh, K…
    I love your words. I agree with your words, I *feel* your words. I’m not a religious person, either, but know there is something powerful out there, and when it comes to situations like this, I feel Cleo is there for a reason. I get the frustration/madness part…I have one if those, too. But there us something about them which keeps us from complete insanity, if only through theirs.
    Love, A

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