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Bark It Out

A Parable

About a month after Ed and I got married back in 2004, I decided I really wanted a puppy.  Ed’s birthday was conveniently coming up, so I surprised him.  I knew Ed didn’t really want a dog yet, but I figured once he saw that cute little Golden Retriever he’d fall in love.

We set up a crate for the puppy and planned to have him sleep there.  I put in a soft blanket and a stuffed animal.  Everyone told me how much their dogs LOVED their crates and how they all slept there without a problem.  Well, everyone except my parents, who have always snuggled in the big bed with their dogs (and their children).  I expected our puppy to have a rough first night but then learn to love his crate.

I was wrong.  Ed and I put our sweet little puppy in his crate that night and went to bed.  Within minutes, the formerly sleepy puppy was barking his head off.  Ed actually put on ear phones to try to get some sleep.  After a little while, I couldn’t stand it.  I went to my puppy.

He had tears in his little eyes and his nose was running.  He was sweaty and exhausted from barking.  As soon as I unlatched the cage and picked him up, he fell asleep in my arms.  I waited a few minutes and then tried to put him back in the crate.  He woke up immediately.  At that point, I realized it was going to be a long night.  I was on summer vacation from school, so I spent the night with the puppy on the couch, letting him sleep on me and then trying to put him in the crate.  It didn’t ever work.

We spent two nights like this and then I lost it.  I screamed at Ed: “If you want him in that crate, then YOU put him in there!” 
The puppy would cry as if he was in pain and sometimes even wet himself.  He’d fight going into the cage and dart out before we could get the door closed.  Ed tried once to put him in and then agreed with me: our puppy could sleep in our bed.

Our puppy, who we named Duke, cuddled up on my pillow above my head.  He slept peacefully and was happy to snuggle up to us. 

At the next vet appointment, I told the vet that I let him sleep in our bed, with shame on my face.  I explained that I couldn’t understand why everyone else’s dogs seemed to love their crates and ours hated his.  The vet explained:

“Puppies are like children.  No two are alike.  You need to do what works for your puppy.”

I let go of the guilt of thinking my puppy was “controlling” me.  We were all happy and sleeping, and that was what mattered.  In a few months, Duke had grown too big to sleep comfortably in our bed so he happily moved to the floor, despite constant warnings that he’d ALWAYS want to sleep in our bed. 

Looking back, I’m happy to have had these nights to cuddle with Duke, as it was a short time in his life.  We left Duke with my parents when we moved off the farm, as you simply can’t take a farm dog off the farm.  We still visit Duke often and love him just as much, but we knew we did what was best for him.  I’m also very happy to have learned these lessons before adding Joshua to our family.

hammonasset 038

Where do your dogs sleep? Did parenting a dog or other pet impact how you parent your children?

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