Monday, December 3, 2012

Pet Ownership: just as glamorous as you think it is

I am, as you are likely well aware, a pet owner.  I am a proud crazy-dog-mother to a lovable, stubborn and cheerfully chubby basset hound mutt named Bubba.  I adopted Bubba two weeks before moving to Baltimore from a shelter in Southwest Virginia where he'd been for six months.

Bubba (aka: Sir Bubbakins, Little Man, Bubs, The Bubster, El Bubbisito)
The local indie station where I'd lived highlighted local pets each week, and I heard about him months before I adopted him.  Upon learning I was going to move, I went by purely out of curiosity to see if he was still there.  "I'm just going to look," I told myself.  And then I walked out with a dog.

When I adopted him, he wasn't the most social creature.  He'd been in the shelter six months because he growled and/or snarled at all children and men.  He was definitely abused before I got him.  The shelter was so thrilled that he didn't pee on me or growl, and that I didn't have kids, that they practically threw him at me.  He was, they guessed, about four years old, and they had no idea what his background looked like.  Bubba had been days from being put down at a high-kill shelter before being taken in by the no-kill shelter in which I found him.

He's my little shadow.  He waits outside the bathroom door when I shower.  He whines (apparently) when I go to take out the trash and recycling.  He's a clingy momma's boy, but he's my clingy momma's boy.  Bubba has been greatly socialized, no longer growls at children or men, and has a soft spot for belly rubs.  My landlord, being amazing, has no pet fee.  No monthly deposit, no one-time chunk of change.  He and the maintenance man know and love Bubba.

When I first moved, Bubba was my only friend in the city.  He was the only reason I left my apartment, because I didn't want him peeing inside.  He was acclimating to the new surroundings just as much as I was.  It's his fault that I've had terrible dog-related pick up lines used on me and that people sometimes break out into, "He ain't nothing but a hound dawwwwg!" when we walk by.

The King of Mt Vernon claims his territory
There are some things about being a pet owner in a city that I hadn't fully anticipated.

I knew dogs had to be walked.  Exercise and whatnot.  Sure, I can walk a dog.  But when the dog has no yard to claim as his territory, the dog has to be walked so it can do its business.  This is common sense, and I knew this, but I didn't know it.  I didn't know what a walk in a hurricane was like until Bubba.  I didn't know what walking a dog in a snowstorm at 2am when you booked it back from a Friday night in Annapolis on a highway with poor road conditions was until Bubba.  I didn't know what sleeping through your alarm and choosing a dog not peeing in your apartment over a shower was like until Bubba.  Little dude needs to be walked.  It's gotten to the point where he associates walks with going to the bathroom, and doesn't understand at my folks' place that he can attend to his needs in the backyard.

Dogs EAT.  I grew up with a dog, so this is another one I knew, but Bubba puts his food AWAY.  He inhales his kibble and anything that falls on my floor doesn't last an instant.  We've had to practice portion control since the vet sent us home with a "Chubby Chart," commonly referred to as the, "Your Pet is Fat You Ought to be Ashamed of Yourself, You Terrible Excuse for a Responsible Pet Owner" Chart.  It's Weight Watchers for dogs and, as you can see, has a picture of the world's saddest bulldog in front of an empty bowl of food.

The Chubby Chart is real
But what is a dog mom to do when her pet has an insatiable appetite?  He ate all his food that one time we went camping.  He eats kale and celery that falls on the floor.  He's tried to eat poo on the sidewalk on more than one occasion, and I have pulled so many chicken wings/pizza crusts/fritos/etc out of his throat while on walks, that it doesn't even phase me anymore.

Except for today.  Today it phased me.  Usually I can tell exactly what particular piece of discarded waste I'm fishing out of Bubba's esophagus, to the tune of, "This is cheaper than asking the vet to do it."  It's gross, but I shake it off, remind myself that I just picked up his poo with a baggie, and wash my hands in hot water with dish soap when I get home.  No biggie.  Today while casting my reel down my dog's throat, I caught the offending snack.  And then I jolted back, inadvertently smacking the top of Bubba's mouth with a hell of a lot more force than intended.  Here is where, if you're squeamish, you stop reading.  Things are going to get nasty.

Bubba starts choking on the sidewalk, and I tell myself to suck it up, because I'll be damned if I'm going to drop money at the vet just so THEY can stick their hands down my dog's throat.  No, no I've got this.  So, in the midst of heavy rush-hour traffic, with the eyes of every motorist on Charles Street trying to get to 83 on me, I went back in while they watched my dog gag and what looked like an abusive pet owner inflicting horrific pain upon him.  I wrapped my hand around something smushy.  Not smushy like a turd, but smushy like it had once been alive.

Bubba has sniffed dead things before - birds that have fallen to their demise from nests, cockroaches, and the like.  Today, though, as I reeled in my catch, I threw a dead mouse on the sidewalk.  I cursed.  I shook.  I looked like a crazy lady.  Bubba wagged his tail and went in for more, until I dragged him away.  Upon our return home, I vigorously washed my hands in dish soap, and upon learning I didn't own any rubbing alcohol, doused my hands in nail polish remover.

So you're new to Baltimore, and own a dog.
People here are gross.  There are trashcans galore in Mount Vernon, but no one seems to use them.  There's a tree on my block that has coffee grounds on it every morning (a caffeinated pick-me-up for the dog, naturally), sometimes you see a used condom or, my favorite, a bag of dog poo all but two feet from the trashcan.  Come ON Baltimore.  I already have to watch for dead rodents, don't make me watch for your chicken bones, your pizza crusts, your general filth.  Walk the two blocks to the closest trashcan, and THROW IT OUT so I don't have to FISH IT OUT OF MY DOG.
A peaceful snuggle, post-snack walk.

I am honored to say I was a guest blogger over at the lovely Anne Marie's Let's Give Peas a Chance, which won the Mobbie for Best Food Blog, this past weekend.  You can check out my risotto recipe over here.
Also, I'm incredibly excited to announce that I've begun a Craigslist column over with the hilarious City That Breeds, Mobbie award winner of Best Humor Blog since 2008. Go here to see last week's best Missed Connections.


  1. It's a basset thing, the poo eating. This time of year we call them poopsicles.

    1. That didn't used to be a main offense of his. Recently, though, he can't get enough. Now he gets pinned down and his teeth brushed as requisite punishment.

  2. I can empathise, though I always feel like the city can use MORE garbage bins. I don't know if that would help with the horribly lazy messy people, but it would be a start.