I own a dog. A big dog.
With this privilege comes innumerable benefits. Warm companionship, unconditional love, hilarious entertainment, just to name a few.
When the idea of dog ownership came up five years ago, my husband jumped on the opportunity to give me something cute and cuddly to nurture that would not need a college savings plan.
“Dinghy” our 110-pound labradoodle was just the ticket.
Sure the first year was tough. He ate more flip flops than I can recall. He dug a WWI trench across our back yard in search of moles. He stole our socks. He scratched gouges in the back door.
But Dinghy was a great big ray of sunshine to us, despite his naughty behavior.
In 2007, my husband deployed for a year. I was anxious about my ability to hold the family and household together without falling apart.
But every morning I woke up, turned my head, and there was a big adorable dog staring at me, depending on me, loving me no matter what. Thanks to Dinghy, I made it through that year just fine.
Moving to Germany was another big hurdle for our family, made easier by having a dog.
I cannot lie: going from a house with a yard to walking our dog on a leash four times a day stunk. But in many ways, walking the dog helped us transition by enabling us to meet new people. No one can resist Dinghy and his mop of messy blonde hair. (See “The Stalkers Among Us,” 9/8/10).
But dog ownership is not always a joy, and yesterday this truth became humiliatingly clear.
While on our daily walk to Patch Elementary with my 5th grader, Dinghy stopped to take his morning constitutional. Doing an impression of a kangaroo, he made a deposit into the grass by the sidewalk where throngs of kids and moms were passing by. Used to this, I automatically whipped a doggy doo-doo bag from my pocket and got ready for the clean up job.
But Dinghy wasn’t quite finished. He turned his big sloppy head back to see what the problem was, which prompted me to look too.
Ew. Where is a doggie bidet when you need one? Instead of using the bag to clean up the deposit in the grass, I put it over my hand like a surgical glove and reached over to Dinghy’s nether regions to assist in dislodging the hanger-on that was bothering him.
In one fell swoop, I tried to grab the offending lump, but fur complicated the issue and my work was not complete.
There wasn’t much more I could do, and I resolved to deal with it later.
After kissing my 5th grader good-bye and meeting up with two other dog walking companions, we started our daily routine.
Every morning, rain or shine, a group of moms with dogs meets near the school to walk, talk and start our day. We trek by the library, the commissary, the gym, but we end our walk with a nice stroll down Florida Street, a long string of large homes with well-kept lawns and mature trees. This is where all the flag officers live, along with a smattering of high-level government officials and a few ambassadors.
Yesterday was like any other day, and as sometimes happens, Dinghy had to go again while on Florida Street.
I pulled another bag out of my pocket and glanced at Dinghy’s backside. I was horrified to see that, even though the original foul lump had somehow been dislodged, it had been replaced by soupy dribbles and two long pieces of partially digested grass!
Ignoring the mess, I cleaned up the pile in the grass and pressed on.
Nearly at the end of the street, I spotted two couples emerging from one of the bigwig’s houses. The stately older gentlemen were dressed for a day out and had their wives with them.
As they headed for a Mercedes parked in front of the house, one of the men called out to me, “Is that a labradoodle?”
“Why, yes it is.” I said as the dog walkers slowed down.
“May we pet him?” he said, moving toward me.
“Sure.” I said reluctantly.
The man and his wife reached out to Dinghy, who wagged his tail and looked up at them. I looked on, praying that he would not turn his back end in their direction.
Just then, a red squirrel darted by, and Dinghy whipped around to track it as it scrambled up a nearby tree. Initially amused, the couple watched Dinghy with wide grins.
I hoped that they had not seen the hot mess under his tail, but just then, I saw their grins turn into self-protective glares as they each took one giant step backward.
Nodding good-day, I yanked Dinghy away and we all got outta there.
Later at home, I had the unenviable job of cleaning up Dinghy’s exit door. With doggie doo-doo bags on each hand, newspaper on the floor and a pair of scissors, I tried to trim away the heinous mix of fur and foulness that had disgraced me that morning.
After the procedure, I disinfected myself and plunked down in my chair with a fresh cup of coffee. The morning walks usually perk me up and leave me ready to face the day, but the morning’s mixture of revulsion and humiliation left me feeling tired and defeated.
Just then, I heard familiar sloshy glug-glug sounds in the laundry room where we kept the dog’s water bowl. Dinghy emerged and spotted me splayed out on a chair in the living room. He lumbered toward me, mouth dripping gooey plops of slobber-water mixture in a trail on the floor. Tail wagging, he plunked his big sloppy face into my lap and looked up through his mop of hair at me.
I love you, too, I thought, and my day suddenly seemed a little bit brighter.