Sunday, September 11, 2011

Crankiness

Today, the Beast and I participated in a 5k charity walk for the local Humane Society.

For weeks, I have been convinced that this event would provide me with ample blog fodder. I mean, I own an extremely excitable Aussie-collie mix. How could he not go off the wall surrounded by 2,000 other dogs, dog food and dog treats everywhere, screaming children, and an overly-excited radio host cooing about all of the good-looking dogs in the crowd. I was sure that there would be some kind of epic meltdown worthy of a hilarious blog post.

Well there was no epic meltdown. Quite the contrary. The Beast was a rockstar. He barked a little when he got out of the car, but aside from that, he was eerily well-behaved. In fact, we got a lot of compliments for his on-leash etiquette. He showed up most other dogs there, teaching them a thing or two about how to walk nicely beside their owners and how to look to their humans for direction. He was a rockstar, I tell you! And I was seriously proud!

Proud, that is, until a little later in the day, when the epic meltdown finally came. And it was a good one.

Hubby and I decided to go for a coffee. And since it is such a beautiful day, we decided to take the Beast. A little bit of family time together on a great fall afternoon.

Getting to the coffee shop was pretty uneventful. But all hell broke loose almost as soon as we got there.

Now the Beast suffers from separation anxiety. If he is with both of us, and one of us leaves to, say, get a coffee from the local coffee shop, he gets noticeably agitated. He paces back and forth, whines a little, maybe lets out a yelp or two, but eventually settles into a super-upright sit, ears straight up, staring in the direction from which he expects his person to eventually come. Although he is clearly impatient, he is ultimately able to hold it together.

Not today. Hubby went in, and the Beast went nuts. He skipped the whining altogether, and went straight to his shrill, glass-shatter-sounding bark, causing a little girl sitting on the patio to jump approximately seven feet into the air and to let out an equally shrill shriek of her own. The two of them then spent the next minute competing with one another for the title of most annoying noise-maker on the street. Believing it best to move away from the patio and wait for hubby a little further down the street, I made my way towards a bench, causing the Beast to lunge maniacally toward the door of the coffee shop, whining and yelping as though he was being led to his death by an axe-wielding murderess. Just as I finally got him to assume a "sort-of" sit and replace his orchestra of dog sounds with something in a lower pitch, he caught sight of hubby through the coffee shop window and resumed his desperate crescendo. At this point, having abandoned all hope of calming the Beast down, I did the only thing left that I could think of. I prayed. I prayed that the barista would hurry the f$&k up and give my husband his espresso so that he could get his ass outside and take some of the heat from the coffee shop goers who were clearly getting upset that this crazy dog was ruining their perfectly lovely Sunday afternoon.

Mercifully, as soon as the Beast saw hubby emerge from the coffee shop, he ceased his downward spiral and went back to looking like a perfectly normal, well-balanced puppy. Opting not to sit on the patio, where everyone wanted to shoot the Beast (or possibly even me), we made our way to the opposite side of the street and another bench. We weren't even three minutes into our coffees when the Beast started acting up again. First, he made a grab for the pastry that my husband was eating, something that he would never dare do if we were at home. Then he started barking and lunging toward everything coming in our direction. First dogs. Then humans. Then, embarrassingly, at an elderly gentleman in a motorized wheelchair. Too mortified to be seen in public with an ageist dog that has a problem with persons with disabilities, I decided to just call it quits and take the Beast home, where he could continue his hysterics in private.

As we were walking home, I desperately tried to figure out how the Beast could be so well-behaved one minute, and so not the next. And then it hit me. He was tired. No, actually, not just tired. He was exhausted. And so he was simply being Mr. Crankypants. 

A simple 5k walk, even among 2,000 other dogs, is not normally enough to exhaust my dear Beast. But combined with the rest of his weekend, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Because here is how the rest of his weekend looked:

Saturday
8:00 - 5k run along the river to brand new dog park
8:30 - Fetch, chase, wrestling in the dog park
9:30 - 3k run (the more direct route) back home
9:50 - Take a peek in the park one block from home to see if there are any dogs
9:55 - No dogs so we go home
10:00 - Chill out a bit
11:30 - Crate time so I can go to a yoga class
13:30 - I come home from yoga and find the Beast playing fetch in the back yard with hubby
14:45 - 2k bike ride to the local doggy watering hole
14:55 - Swimming, fetch, wrestling and chase with all the other doggies at the watering hole
15:45 - 2k bike ride back home, with a pit stop at another dog park along the way so the Beast could wrestle with his best friend, a German shepherd, who just happened to be there
16:30 - Home for an early dinner
18:00 - Barbecue at my neighbour's place, to which the Beast was invited, where he spent the next six hours barking every time someone new came, playing with a 13-year-old boy, roaming around the backyard waiting for someone to drop a piece of hamburger, and generally being showered with attention
24:00 - Bedtime 

Sunday
7:00 - Wake up
8:00 - 2k walk to the place where we pick up the car from the car-share service
8:30 - Drop hubby off at the grocery store and drive to the charity event
9:00 - Arrive at the charity event, register, and spend an hour wandering the grounds where approximately 2,000 dogs have been marking their territory. Lots of sniffing, lots of greeting other dogs, and lots of begging the vendors for treats.
10:00 - Walk begins and the Beast and I make our way to the front of the pack (because let's face it, all the little miniature dogs walk to slowly), and we complete a brisk 5k
11:00 - Leave the event and go to the dog park
11:15 - Fetch, wrestle and chase in the dog park
12:10 - Drive back home and drop the Beast off
14:00 - Go for a family walk to the local coffee shop
14:10 - Have an epic meltdown

Just typing this makes me exhausted. No wonder my dog was cranky today!

The Beast is a high energy dog who needs a lot of stimulation and exercise to avoid boredom. And from the beginning, I have been convinced that his first family did not give him enough of either. So I am determined to do better by him and to make sure that all of his needs are met. I'm also prone to feeling slightly guilty for leaving him in his crate during the weekdays when we're not home, so I like to give him lots of stuff to do when we are with him on weekends. 

Obviously, I've taken it all a little too far...

This is pretty typical of me. When I started lifting weights to get healthier, I became a full-blown bodybuilder, going to the gym three times a day and eating nothing but chicken breast, tuna, and minuscule amounts of brown rice for 16 weeks. Now that I brought home a dog who needs lots of exercise, I find myself filling his social calendar to the brim and pushing him to go-go-go so that he will be fulfilled at the end of each day.

I think I need to let my foot off the gas, just a little bit. Because no matter how well-intentioned this is, it's just too much for the little guy. I mean, it's Sunday night, which means that he would normally be pacing back and forth between the living room and the front window, patrolling the 'hood as everyone puts their garbage to the curb for tomorrow's pick up. Instead, he's been splayed out in the exact same position in front of the door for the last three and a half hours, and only moved once when hubby came home.

So my promise is this: I'll get better. I'll get better at figuring out what is too much and what is just enough. I'll get better at accepting that it's okay for the Beast to spend some downtime in the middle of the day during the weekend when we are home with him. And I'll get better at reading his signs before he has a meltdown and chases down an old man in a wheelchair.

I'm sure that we will do this same charity event next year. But I'll make sure to keep his entire Saturday and his Sunday afternoon clear...