The Difficult One

He’s the difficult child. The one who makes me look like a bad parent. He doesn’t listen. I have to repeat myself a million times. He doesn’t come when called. He runs out into the street. He doesn’t play well with others. He spits out his medicine. He’s stubborn. When he’s done, he’s done. He digs his heels into the ground and I have to drag him away, tail between my legs, wondering where I’ve gone wrong.

He’s the dog. Until now, I’ve had it pretty good as a parent. My kids threw fits here and there, sure. A couple of bad ones in public. But I never felt like the parent everyone always scrutinized. Now, when I can even get this four-legged kid to go for a walk, pet parents look at me with disapproval when he misbehaves.

“Katy wants to play,” a woman beams as her panting dog bounds toward us.

Great. I’m trying to keep Rowan from barking or growling. “I’m not sure he’s interested,” I say and try to steer my unsure dog off the sidewalk. He doesn’t like big dogs.


And there’s the look. At me. Like my kid just spat in her kid’s face. Let’s be honest. We’re out here to poop and move on, lady. Your giant, fluffy poodle is freaking my tiny terrier out. And me a little too if you want to know the truth.

We’ve had our dog, Rowan, for about ten months. He’s an anxious dog. We don’t know what kind of life he had before he came to live with us. We rescued him from a temporary home of more than 20 dogs. He was a stray before that. To be honest, some days we can maybe see why he became a stray. He’s made progress, slowly. He’s kind of the weird kid. He rolls in dead worms on the sidewalk. He’s the clingy kid who follows his daddy or me around every second. He doesn’t want to play with his kind.

He’s been a challenge. He channels Houdini, escaping his locked metal crate, bending the bars, losing a tooth in the process. He ate some blinds, a scone, lots of tissues, some holes in our bedspreads, probably some Legos, and he used to pant and shake when he knew we were leaving. The vet, a trainer, they both gave advice. Nothing seemed to help except what we felt in our gut. We had to medicate, quit using the crate when we left the house—every experience has been another story to tell.

With the kids, my husband never ran through the house in the middle of the night in his underwear frantic that they had run away in the dark. We never searched the yard in pajamas with flashlights calling their names, wondering where they had gone. (Though the teenage years are yet to come.)

I never consulted “experts” with the kids. I didn’t even read parenting books. But one day I found myself taking Rowan to doggie day care so he could socialize with other dogs. And as I left, I held my breath that I wouldn’t get any phone calls to come back, that he would pass and be allowed to return. He did. We watched him on a webcam as he ran from door to door that day, ignoring the other dogs and lifting his leg freely. Even now, we still see him misbehave on the webcam, doing the exact things he hates for other dogs to do to him.

As many times as we’ve threatened to get rid of him, Rowan has worked his way into our hearts—some more slowly than others. He makes us laugh at his speedy bursts of energy around the room. He makes us realize that we all come with insecurities and quirks and that none of us are perfect. And he’s challenged us to love when it hasn’t been easy.

It’s a good thing he’s cute.



Filed under Family, Uncategorized

41 responses to “The Difficult One

  1. Very funny. I can relate as I have a dog with separation anxiety. We are too scared to count the damage costs but 7 yrs in we can’t imagine life without him. Now the kids want a cat….

    • They look so sweet and then you get them home! Rowan is actually much better after several months of medication. I hated to do it but he was such a mess every time we left him–and I work from home so he is not home alone a ton. People keep telling us to get another dog to keep him company. Really.

      A cat would sure be fun! Imagine the damage then from the dog and cat fights. My kids want a lizard. Didn’t we JUST get them a dog??

    • I love this post! Feels wonderful to know I’m not alone! With 3 daughters, and my “difficult” toy Aussie (only) son, your post is like looking in the mirror~~~ phenomwomom

  2. Boy did I need to read this today. After about 3 years of begging from my husband and 4 kids I finally gave in 2 months ago and got a puppy, also a rescue. She is all kinds of adorable but I swear this one dog is 1000% more of a pain in my a$$ than all of the children combined. I keep telling myself she is a puppy and that it’ll get easier but the end of that tunnel seems VERY far right about now. Thank you for sharing your story. It made me feel better that I am not alone in my doggy-challenge. 🙂

    • My husband and I really think this dog was abused, but our vet says there are no signs of it. But he’s a quirky, weird dog for sure. I used to be able to walk him all around the neighborhood, and suddenly he just decided that he didn’t like walks. Or going outside at all really. I’m hoping he just doesn’t like the heat. He’s a nut. He truly has made me realize that we all have our strange ways that may not make sense to others but thank goodness someone embraces them! And it’s come at a good time. Isn’t there a saying, “Dogs are people too”? 🙂 Good luck with your puppy. And here’s to hoping she will outgrow many of her quirks!

  3. Charlotte aka The Stiletto Mum

    He looks like a cute little kid

  4. We call it SDS…. Selectively Deaf Syndrome…. had it with our last dog when everything except you was more interesting to be with.
    A dod pyscologist told me that a dog has to want to be with you , so you make this more attractive than rolling in fox shit or whatever.
    Treats (in our case cheerios breakfast cereal with our current dog) worked an absolute dream, though eventually it was just praise and fuss rather than edible reward every time. Mind you, we got her from a pup at 7 weeks so our methods and lifestyle are all she’s known. She’ll be 10 in January.
    Your little chap may have been bullied by the other dogs in the rescue place you got him from. Stick with it. He will bring his own reward to your family.
    Good luck! 🙂

    • He definitely did not like living with so many other dogs. He wasn’t there long, but honestly, I don’t think I’d like living with that many either. And they all roamed free! He prefers people for sure. I’ll have to remember the Cheerios trick.

  5. Oh he is so cute and what a character! You definitely have your hands full though, but it sounds like you are doing a great job.

  6. I wondered why you’ve been posting so rarely lately — now I know. Same reason as me, actually.

    Rowan sounds like a handful, but it also sounds like you are doing all the right things. Vet, trainer, meds. And lots of love! He’s a lucky little guy.

    But if he is an escape artist, you might want to get him a little GPS tracker — that way he won’t end up back in another house with 20 dogs.

    • He is only one reason I haven’t been posting and visiting much. I have been working more and more from home and it’s just been hard to find the time (especially with the kids home over the summer). Also, with the kids getting older, there’s a fine line of what I can and can’t write about them. There’s a lot I COULD say! But I’m trying to get back out there.

      The meds helped tremendously. To watch an animal so desperately try to get out of a crate was really hard. But leaving him alone in the house wasn’t an option either–he did some damage. To see what this 11-pound dog did to a metal crate–amazing! I don’t even think his problems were extreme.

  7. Aw, so sorry you are going through this! New pups are hard enough, but those with a history can be quite challenging. It’s impossible to know what goes on in those little heads or what they went through before you came along. He really is a cutie pie, though. Hang in there. Hopefully, he can be rehabilitated and you all can rest a little easier.

    PS — We have missed you here, but understand the absence!

    • Thanks, Shannon. It’s good to be back!

      After I wrote this, my daughter walked the dog and he pulled himself right out of his collar and ran away from her and right to our back door. Defiant and determined, much like a child I know. 😉

  8. I used to have a dog that would break every leash we owned, she was that strong (and hyper). Being a mom to kids or a dog is so challenging in so many ways.

    • Wow, that is strong. The thing that always kills me is that I try to walk the dog or get him outside and he acts like it’s the worst thing in the world. Then oh, yeah, he DOES have to go to the bathroom. (Which is exactly like one of my children who never has to go to the bathroom!)

  9. Rowen is adorable! Too cute to be a trouble maker, but his antics might just well make for another “Marley and me” type book.
    My blue heeler is a bit high strung (mostly when company comes up the driveway), but he doesn’t damage anything other than our ears from his high pitched voice.

    • We left Rowan home once in his crate and when I came home, I could tell he had escaped. The blinds were crooked. He had chewed every set of blinds in the front of our house. Little bite marks all the way up as far as he could reach, some while standing on a chair. We had to put carabiners on the crate to keep him from escaping and he still got out. Houdini I say. Thankfully, he is much less stressed in his crate now.

  10. lisa

    They all have their issues even the ones you get as puppies. I think this one would still bark at me though . . .

    • This one barks at almost anyone who comes over but not for long. He gets so excited to see people. He loves people and thinks everyone in the world is there to see him, pet him, etc. So it’s a little hard on walks sometimes. And like now, with the AC/heat guy here…

  11. Andrea

    Love this. We’ve had a rescue for about 6 months now. Assimilation had definitely been a challenge and I found myself nodding my head over and over as you shared your stories with Rowan. But they do weave their way into our hearts, don’t they. My little nutcase is snuggled up next to me on the bed as I type…

  12. When he grows up, I hope he matures and makes these early challenges worth it. The fact that each dog year is equal to 7 years means you got about 3 years of judgment coming. Stay strong.

  13. Your post was exactly what I needed to read tonight. I live just out of Sydney, Australia and three weeks ago we bought a second dog. We bought Lady directly from her last owner who has found true love and is selling up the farm and moving to the city and is parting with most of her dogs. We live near the beach in the city and before we went on holidays, Lady had been a fairly docile lapdog unless she and other other dog Bilbo were growling at each other. For the first week, they simply ignored each other most of the time. Anyway, Lady ate a dead rabbit, smeared herself with a very dead fish, introduced herself to virtually every single neighbour on our walks and this morning we got a knock at the door. Lady had climbed onto a table and jumped over the fence to say hello. She ended up spending today’s walk on the lead.
    Our other dog Bilbo has been through quite a lot of stress as I’ve been quite unwell and he became quite withdrawn. He growled at visitors who tried to pat him and goes crazy when my friend picks up the kids. He didn’t get out for walks for awhile there and so seemed to forget how to be a dog or interact with other dogs and then had a bad experience with a very forceful dog and he became quite withdrawn.
    We weren’t quite sure how he’d react to Lady but as he is 8 years old we wanted to have some overlap with the next dog. I know that sounds terrible but given my health I thought that would be better for our kids. My daughter says that Lady has taught Bilbo how to be a dog and having her with him has made him much more confident. Now, she’s growling a bit at other dogs. You can’t win.
    I did some research and a dog doesn’t need to be injured to develop PTSD.
    Anyway, you’re welcome to visit my blog and catch up on the antic of a couple of mad Australian dogs and their equally mad Mum, xx Rowena

  14. alanaiswriting

    Rowen sounds adorable but a handful! I am sure there have been many “I’ll laugh about it later” moments..!

  15. Sure was a fun read today. Thank you.

  16. kerryskaos

    I can totally relate to this post! We had/have a very energetic beagle and right now (due to several reasons), our little dixie is staying at poppa’s house. Dixie has completely destroyed our yard, chewed the kids toys and does not listen at all. The big problem is that the kids love her and want her back. My husband wants to leave her at his father’s house, but I think it is cruel to keep the kids pet from them. Any thoughts on this?

    • I’m no expert but we have a lot of dog training businesses around here. Maybe something like that would help? Some are like doggy boot camps. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. 🙂

  17. We had similar issues with our Shih tzu but she finally got with the program. It was mainly house training problems…i refused to do the puppy pad thing! Our groomer had the right advice that eventually worked after six months! Now my kids have adopted a cat. I am ALLERGIC! So we are trying it outside, but with winter approaching…oh the worries!

  18. Rowan reminds me of my youngest brother. K9 or not, I think we all know a difficult one. How was Rowan when brought to your home?

    Enjoyed your post! Cheers.

    • Rowan was pretty anxious and nervous when we’d leave him at first. But he’s always been very happy other than that. He’s a fun dog and kind of quirky. Yesterday he rolled around on a detached chipmunk tail. He loves stink evidently! Mmmm! We all have our quirks, I guess. Thanks for stopping by.

  19. Rowan – what a character! And my pleasure. 🙂

  20. Too funny! i have 5 kids and my four legged one is my greatest love and pretty much my greatest challenge. He is a Boston Terrier (aka Boston Terror) and he too eats everything in sight – including an entire Lego city! If these guys weren’t so darn cute….

  21. This was very refreshing, I too ran into this but ended up taking a different route. My “Lady” use to steal things, and I mean EVERYTHING. You would turn your back for a half a second and turn back and whatever you had is gone. We live in a country area where all the dogs run free, which was great until she started stealing things from other houses (shoes, towels, shirts, boxer shorts, you name it). We work too much and she was just too sweet to tie up so ultimately we found a family with a stay at home mom, fully fenced yard, and a couple of dogs to play with. Utimately I am sad to have her go, she is happier to have more friends, and my husband may need a couple years before we can try this again.

    Best of luck to you and your doggie, he is definately taking advantage of his cuteness!

  22. This is hilarious! Such a cutie little dog though!

  23. Raeshma

    I’m loving your blog! This made me smile. We are planning to bring home a Maltese puppy this summer. I’m excited, but also a bit anxious. It’s almost the same feeling I felt before giving birth to my son! I hope I can be a good parent to the puppy, and I hope my son learns to care for a new family member.

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