Confusion and Its Cousins

A few days ago, the decision my late wife and I made to skip the joys and obligations of parenthood was a subject of my observations. Today, I am at least the temporary caretaker of a fifty-four pound lap dog named Bob; a dog that requires twice-daily feedings, at least two (usually, so far, more than two) walks per day, regular veterinary visits and the attendant expenses, unwavering attention, and more. And Bob has disrupted my life to some extent. My early morning solitude is a luxury of the past. Instead of getting up, making coffee, and meditating through my fingers, Bob urges me to take him outside. Now. He wants to walk. A more apt description is that he wants to run, his nose glued to the trail of some unknown target, but his desire is thwarted by having to drag an old man behind him.

As much as I like Bob, I wonder whether I have tricked myself into believing I need a companion? I wonder whether I just wanted a way to get through the loneliness? Yet my desire for a dog is not new. I have had a romanticized idea about dog companionship for a very long time. But I have not had a dog since I was in high school. I could have had a dog long, long ago. My wife would have been flexible about it; even though she did not embrace the idea, I am certain she would have been happy with a dog if it made me happy.

Do I really want a dog, or do I simply want the idea of how a dog at my side would make me feel? I suppose time will tell. But not too much time. I do not want a dog to become attached to me, only to be put back in the dog fostering system. The thing that really gives me second thoughts is the obvious fact that Bob wants room to run and frolic and play and chase real or imaginary quarry. I strongly suspect he had that kind of home before he was brought in to the HSV Animal Welfare League. I wish I knew more about his history. I thought, today, that he might have lived on or near Brookhill Ranch, where there’s lots of room to roam. I’m tempted to try to find out. But I’m not sure how. As much as I think Bob is a wonderful beast, I think he needs more room than I am able to give him. But if I’m his last best hope, then I’ll certainly give him a home.

Before I stumbled across an online listing for Bob, I was convinced the only dog for me would be a small (under 20 pound) dog; a friendly, easy-to-care-for animal that would quickly develop an attachment to me and vice versa. Bob is nearly three times the weight. He is fiercely powerful and dedicated to pull hard on his leash. He sits on command, but only when presented with a treat. He responds to a few other commands, but only in the right circumstances. He enjoys sitting in humans’ laps or sprawling on sofas.

I’m still leaning strongly toward keeping him, but I’m feeling quite guilty for doing it. He needs more space and energy than I am able to give him. Maybe if I bought some acreage and a mobile home…


My home insurance bill came in the mail today, taking my breath and much of my financial cushion away. The size of the bill makes me seriously consider going “naked,” also known as self-insuring. Of course, self-insuring assumes adequate liquid cash to rebuild and restore one’s home and possessions. I ask everyone this question: do you have enough ready cash to rebuild your house and refurnish it with everything you have bought and kept for the last fifty years? If so, I applaud and admire and very nearly worship you. I don’t have that kind of cash sitting around collecting dust (or even interest). I will not go naked. I will pay the bill and plan to set aside even more each month so I have what it takes to pay the bill next year without blinking. My wife took care of this stuff until now; she provided the pump for the financial pipeline for our two-person family. I contributed gas and appreciation and recognition, but I did not get very involved. Now, I am. With each property tax bill and insurance statement and credit card statement, I am becoming more miserly.


I went to be early last night, about 9:30, and awoke late, around 6:00. Despite the long hours of sleep last night I am so tired I can barely keep my eyes open. This has been something of a regular thing for several days, though, before I got Bob, so I cannot blame him. The other day, I fell asleep at my computer in the afternoon. I awoke and saw the computer clock read 6:27. I was confused; I thought I had slept late and that it was 6:27 in the morning. Maybe I am aging faster than I realized.  Whatever. I need a nap.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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3 Responses to Confusion and Its Cousins

  1. Bev says:

    That’s good. I thought about it some more overnight after seeing a post by someone in one of my groups. She has 3 or 4 dogs that look like Bob — maybe even larger — and she seems to make out okay with them. If he’s got a good-natured temperament, the pulling thing can be dealt with. I used to work with my mom’s Dalmatian for a couple of days each time I would visit there and could get the dog to stop pulling. Unfortunately, it was probably my mom that I should have been working with because she wouldn’t do what needed to be done to make her dog behave. Most pulling can be stopped by making the dog stop and either just stand, or sit, every time it starts to pull, or to turn and change direction. However, you have to be consistent and not let them drag you along some of the time or it gradually just get back to that. If you are able to correct the behaviour each time it starts, pretty soon the dog will behave and just walk along beside you. Anyhow, good luck with Bob. If you find him to be good company, then I’d just work on the pulling thing. In any case, he’ll get you out and getting some good exercise!! haha.

  2. Bev, I appreciate your perspective and your suggestions. I will keep them in mind when deciding on my future with Bob.

  3. Bev says:

    I don’t really like to give you advice, and I don’t want to be a downer, but as a lifelong “dog person” with a lot of experience with dogs, I’m actually kind of worried about Bob as a choice of companions. I felt apprehensive the second I saw his photo. He may not weigh nearly as much as my Rough Collies (if he is 55 pounds), but that’s a very powerful dog. Also, by his coat colour, he may have something like some Mastiff or other of the powerful dogs in his background. If he’s strong enough to dig in and pull you around, that’s a worry. I probably never wrote about this, but on one of my trips passing through to visit with my mom, someone’s dog attacked her Dalmatian which, although only 45 pounds, was extremely muscular. My mom ended up getting knocked down and dragged on the pavement, broke her nose and tore up her face. It was just dreadful. She’d always had trouble with the dog pulling her. Normally, she could cope, but in a weird situation like that, she had no control as her dog tried to escape and defend itself. Anyhow, I’d really give this some serious thought. I think having a dog is a great idea — I really do — but I picture you with a nice cuddly 20 pound dog that you can lift in and out of your car if you need to — like if it ever gets sick and needs to go to the vet. Big dogs require a very different level of care and also training. I mentioned about Bob’s behaviour around other dogs — if you do keep him, be absolutely sure he is not a “reactive” dog — one that will react and fight with other dogs. A dog can seem to be the kindest animal in the world, but may flip out when it sees another dog, or a certain kind of dog, or a cat or whatever. There was recently a tragedy with a rescue dog here – I won’t even say what all happened, but it turned out that the dog was reactive. If you’ve seen how he is with other dogs and he’s laid back, then it’s probably okay, but just be aware until you know him better. Anyhow, I’m sorry to sound a bit negative — I’m just thinking of safety issues. It’s so important to have complete control over your dog. If you do keep him, see about getting a no-pull harness — the leash is attached in such a way that if the dog pulls, he gets turned toward you and can’t keep pulling forward. He looks like he has some white on his face, so I’m guessing he is a few years old. The way he is now is likely to be the way he will be for the rest of his life. Anyhow, as I said, I do think you should have a dog. I just have reservations about that one, especially after reading your post about how strong he is.

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