As you have probably noticed, we have a new addition to our family! Yes, our kids have been blessed with a sweet little rescue that we named Toby. Once thought to be part Pug, I realize now that Sir Toby is undoubtably part Boston Terrier and part nervous Chihuahua. He truly is my third child. He requires just about as much attention, medication, and steady stream of food and water as my other two children do. Truly though, he is just about sweetest dog on the planet. He tolerates everything my kids throw at him (and in some cases I mean throw literally.) He happily puts up with being chased, covered, trapped, and even being carried around in my mother’s orange leather Michael Kors bag. He sometimes looks at me with a hint of desperation but I quickly remind him that his alternative could be sharing a kennel with six other dogs and only one food bowl. Then I encourage him to hide in the tub.
Recently this sweet hound had, what he would classify as a brush with death. It really was terrible. The poor thing was attacked by ground hornets and had a horrible reaction. He was bumpy, swollen, and just a total mess. In a ton of pain. I rushed him to the vet where he required a steroid treatment and narcotics for the pain. His recovery was slow. I guess at 16 pounds it takes a while for the pain medication to leave your system. Poor sweet, very drunk Toby. At one point during his afternoon of recovery he woke up and immediately threw up on the floor. He attempted to walk a few steps and proceeded to pee in the den. Trying to squat, the sweet boy got stuck and ended up sitting in his own pee. See what I mean? Basically the same scenario with children.
If anyone has pets and if you have ever had to give them steroids, they can cause adverse reactions. For example, in our case, the medication caused Toby to have to potty….a lot. One evening I was home alone with the kids while Brian was at work. William was already sleeping and Audrey spent the evening playing with Toby. She was making tents with pillows and blankets and keeping him in there with her. One may call that playing, however, Toby would probably call it entrapment. Nonetheless, it was a peaceful evening.
At some point Toby came to visit me while I was in the bathroom. (What can I say, mommies have to potty, too.) He tapped his nails on the tile indicating that he had to go out. You couldn’t have come at a worse time! Tap, tap, tap the nails of a nervous Chihuahua. I knew he had to go out but in reality, I was not in a position to run to the back door. I’m not exactly sure what happened next except that while I was washing my hands Audrey came running into my room. “Mom, mom! I think Toby had an accident!” She guides me into her room where I saw something that literally sent me over the edge. I yelled for the dog.
Now, I have never spanked either of my children nor do I have the intention to ever do so. I know that as a practice, spanking not only doesn’t work, it is harmful. I have never even had the feeling or urge to spank my children but I understand now how it happens. Hitting anyone, animals included, as a form of punishment makes absolutely zero sense to me. It is not anywhere on my radar of logical next steps. What happened this evening can only be classified as, ‘losing my shit.’
What I found in Audrey’s room was that Toby peed on her bed. The worst of all dog accidents, I know. The greatest violation of the pet-owner relationship ever. Ever. My mind began to race. I panicked. What the hell is wrong with this dog? Why the hell is he now acting like a mean, vindictive cat? What does this mean for the future? Is this what we will have to face in the future? Is this who Toby really is? I was angry and scared and my mind was racing. Right there in her room, in front of Audrey, I grabbed the dog, shoved his face in the wet spot and hauled off and slapped the daylight out of his haunches. I then went to the back door to put him out. Of course, I opened the door, forgetting about the alarm, and set it off. The alarm is now blaring, which scared the ever-living crap out of William who was sound asleep.
The alarm is blaring, both kids are crying and my mind is spinning. What the hell just happened? And why do these things happen when I’m home alone?
I’m sure you think the wet bed is the worst part of this evening. No, no, no. Truly the bed was the easiest part to deal with. All of her bedding was pushed to the side so he only peed on the fitted sheet – all of her down was spared. I also have a quilted mattress pad on top of a plastic bed liner to cover her mattress. Clean up was really easy. I stripped it all down, threw it in the wash for the sanitary cycle and sprayed the liner with Lysol. Truly not much worse than the time William threw up in her bed.
After I was able to calm William and put him back to sleep I had to face Audrey. There she was standing in the den, her face wet with tears. Looking me straight in the face, through her tears she asked me, “Why did you hit Toby?” She buried her face in her hands. I could feel myself bristle, afraid of what she was going to say next. I knelt down by her and hugged her. She looked at me again and said, “We are supposed to give him a better life.”
Truth be told, I still tear up every time I think about this exchange with my daughter. Those were my words. I continually remind the kids that we are here to give Toby a better life – we rescued him from the shelter and now it’s our job to keep him safe, happy, and loved. How can I reconcile my message with my actions in front of my child? Part of me wanted to get all righteous and parenty with her and tell her that sometimes parents have to do things that kids don’t always understand, and blah, blah, blah. Instead, I opened up and exposed myself to her as a person, who also happens to be her mom, who makes mistakes. It was hard. Reeeaaallly hard. I knew that if I couldn’t show her that I make mistakes, too, how could she ever feel okay about making them herself?
It wasn’t until after things had settled down that the reality really sunk in. Remember the medication he was on? Remember the need to pee frequently? Remember the evening of play with a theme of trapping? Oh I felt worse than horrible. It all happened so fast and I realized that poor sweet Toby really did nothing wrong! He came to me but I couldn’t meet his needs right away. I’m certain he was taken away to a tent on her bed and barricaded with pillows. I’m certain he held it as long as he possibly could. I’m certain I spanked a sweet innocent dog!
The guilt lingered for some time. Thankfully both Audrey and Toby recovered very, very quickly. I, on the other hand had wounds that were slow to heal. For days I felt guilt not only for the dog but for literally loosing it in front of my child. I showered Toby with treats and even (without Brian knowing) let him snuggle with me in our bed the next evening. Audrey and I talked more about it and I assured her that Toby was okay and that together we were going to give him a long, happy, loving life.
Vulnerability is a tough thing folks. It’s really, really hard to expose ourselves as humans who are not always perfect. For some reason it’s even harder to expose ourselves to our children. I don’t know if it’s embarrassment or if we are afraid of what they will think of us. I just know that really showing up, being seen for who I am, good and bad is important for my children.
So yes! Let the shroud of mystery be pulled away. The truth must be told. Although many of us still hold it to be the mystery of all ages, but yes, in fact mommies do have to potty and, alas! They sometimes make mistakes, too.