Once upon a time, my husband and I lived in a house that belonged to us. We did what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it. We decorated the house based on our individual preferences. We watched television and played music without considering if the sounds would be soothing. I could go two weeks without dusting, and two months without changing the vacuum cleaner bag. I could wear black pants in my house and then go to church without removing dog hairs in the parking lot.
The transformation of ownership was slow. It started with one dog and picked up speed when we added the second dog. Unlike the creatures of Animal Farm, our dogs seem to have no particular political agenda other than their own personal comfort. They don’t mind if our comfort aligns with theirs, but they don’t feel that our happiness is necessary for their happiness.
We still pay the taxes, mow the grass, and pay to have the furnace serviced regularly, but the house is no longer ours. It is theirs. A dog bed is now prominently placed in the living room. Our basement has been converted to a dog retreat for when the dogs are home alone. Television, if turned on, has no sound because loud noises agitate the dogs. My productivity at home has dropped dramatically, and keeping the house clean feels like a Sisyphean struggle. Dog hair and the occasional paw prints are now my signature fashion accessories.
“You should treat the dogs more like you treat employees,” my father said. But I never nursed a co-worker through a parasite infection or had to soothe an employee that was terrified by the sound of a lawnmower. Besides, our dogs aren’t like children. Our end goal is not to raise them so they will go into the world and be good self sufficient dogs that contribute to society. Therefore, my husband and I have not resisted much to the transfer of power.
I was contemplating today how I had given up control of the house to the dogs. Then again, did I ever have control of it anyway? We don’t have control over anything in this world, we just have the illusion of control. We are all one phone call, one diagnosis, one broken water pipe, or one natural disaster away from being reminded how very little control we have. 2020 has illustrated that point in dramatic fashion.
What have I gained by embracing this chaos? Joy. Love. Calm. When I felt anxious last year, Carmen would patiently let me pet her even if she was sound asleep. (I can’t do that with Forte. Forte is more of a look but don’t touch dog when he is sleeping.)
When I was in elementary school, I read a book about how time was measured hundreds of years ago. The book talked about sun dials and hour glasses. It talked about how ropes with knots were allowed to burn, and each knotted interval represented one hour. We now set our schedules by the dogs. Time of day can be measured by morning feeding, morning play time, morning nap, afternoon play, dinner, and bedtime. The weeks are measured in bags of dog food. Every bag lasts 2 1/2 weeks. In my old life, time was measured by monthly reports, quarterly financials, semi-annual revenue goals, and annual performance reviews. Keeping time by dogs is so much better.
I have to go now. I need to sweep up after Forte and fluff Carmen’s bed. Maybe later tonight I will start searching on Petfinder for another dog…….