I shared a comic on Facebook the other day that I found on Pinterest that pictured a dog waking up it’s human in the middle of the night and saying, “Hey, wake up, I gotta go stand in the yard and sniff things instead of peeing.” I joked and said that of my two dogs, Jackson is the one to do this.
It does not happen often, but every great once in a while he makes an urgent request to go outside and then does this exact thing. I always honor his request, though, because many times he really does have an urgent need and as a compassionate dog owner, in the spirit of Love, Laugh, Woof, I always wonder how I would feel if I couldn’t access the bathroom on my own and somebody made me wait uncomfortably until morning.
If you read my last blog Sometimes Dogs Just Know, you know that I’ve been going through some human dental woes lately. Yesterday I had a minor procedure with an oral surgeon to wrap up the issue of a root that had been left behind during my molar extraction. Just like when the actual tooth came out I spent last night in considerable pain.
Despite taking a prescription painkiller, something I detest doing, I was up every hour on the hour all night. I had gone to bed extremely early around 9 pm and Tinkerbell had followed me upstairs to snuggle and give me her best Labrador moral support. Jackson had opted to stay downstairs with my husband who was watching the Blackhawks playoff game. I knew that my husband had come to get Tinkerbell to take her outside at around 1 a.m., so when Jackson woke me up at 4 a.m. I tried to lure him back to his dog bed with a cookie.
Jackson stayed on his bed for about five seconds before coming to nudge me again with his nose, which is his classic method for telling me he needs me. Another nudge and a groan followed.
“Jackson, no, you just went out,” I groaned back at him and rolled over.
I felt him hop up on the bed with us and thought, “Oh good, he just wanted me to make him a spot on the human bed” as he lay parallel between my husband and me.
Then he groaned again and nudged my hand with his nose. He repeated the process. Groan, nudge. Groan, nudge.
“Ok, buddy, let’s go,” I said and stumbled sleepily to take them outside. My mouth throbbed in pain and any normal person would have woken their sleeping husband up to do the potty break, particularly as I was cursing him in my head for not sufficiently getting Jackson to do his business when they had gone outside and for telling me continually that I was “too obsessed with whether or not the dogs took a dump” in his words. Despite my assumption that he had not gotten them to go potty, I love him and respect his schedule as a firefighter and the amount of sleep that he loses on shift, so I hate to wake him up for non-emergencies here at home.
My mother used to tell me all the time that she did not know anyone who obsessed over a dog’s bowel movements like I did with my late Babe, because I used to make sure that she had pooped on our last outing of the night just like I do with Jackson and Tinkerbell. It’s not that hard to get them on a schedule of doing that at a regular time, particularly if you teach them the “good dog, go potty” phrase at a young age.
My husband, who never met my mom since she passed away before we met, has echoed her sentiments. “They’ll go poop when they need to,” he says when they come inside from their final outing of the night and I ask if they both pooped. I reply that when they poop before bedtime it means I will get a full night of sleep. Think of it like Peter Pan, only different. “Dog poop at night and straight on ’til morning.”
Once outside with Jackson and Tinkerbell, they both ran off of our deck and peed, and Tinkerbell promptly ran back up onto the deck to wait for her cookie. I let her inside and waited for Jackson to complete what he had conveyed to me to be a very urgent task. A few minutes passed while I waited some more. And waited some more.
I aimed the flashlight at him and found him sniffing around the far side of the yard, checking out the recently evacuated bunny nest, the garden boxes, the grass by the fence. I watched as he casually made his way around the perimeter of the fence, eating some grass along the way, with no urgency, no cares in the world.
He sniffed his way around the yard for ten minutes before I called him, “Jackson, come!” Because we had had a random 80 degree day and I knew all of my neighbors would have their windows open, I had to call him quietly in a stern whisper. Of course he ignored me and kept sniffing and grazing. “Canine Good Citizen my foot” I thought, only not the word foot, referring to our recent earning of the American Kennel Club CGC certificate.
“Jackson, COME!” I yell-whispered again, getting annoyed as he continued to ignore me. “Jackson, come here now,” I said in a normal stern voice, all regard for being quiet tossed to the wayside by the throbbing pain in my mouth and my annoyance at my beloved soul dog.
Finally I walked into the yard and reached out to grab his collar, not in anger or to physically move him, but so I could get his attention off of the sniffing and eating grass, put his attention back on me and my commands, and direct him back to the deck. As I did so he ran off across the yard. Annoyance turned into mild anger for a few seconds until I watched him race completely to the other side of the yard and hunch over in the classic dog poop stance.
I walked back to the deck and watched as he finished doing his business and raced over to me at full gallop, jumping the steps to the deck and ready to be let back inside. My annoyance was gone immediately as I realized that he did indeed need to go potty, he just needed a bit of time to get things really truly moving in his body. “Oh, Jaxy boy, I love you,” I told him as he looked at me with his big otter tail wagging while I rubbed his chin, “I would much rather you drag me outside at 4 am than to not have you at all.”
I felt bad for being annoyed at him, and as I gave them their treats I realized that I should write about it. As much as I talk about patience, patience, patience (followed by more patience) as well as understanding and compassion and how integral they are to us as dog owners, I realize it’s important to also let people know that you will be annoyed or even angry at even the best dogs in the world. It’s just normal. I love my husband in a way I never dreamt possible and I get annoyed with him. Same with the kids, same with anyone we love. It’s just human nature.
What we have to make sure of as dog owners is that annoyance and anger does not prevail, that it does not turn into something worse, like getting fed up and dropping your dog off at the shelter because he wakes you up, or punishing him for something instead of using training and positive reinforcement to get the behavior you want. That is a critical part of Love, Laugh, Woof: understanding that when you get angry at your dog like I did, when you have an interspecies misunderstanding like me not realizing that he was thinking about pooping, he was just doing it more slowly than I wanted him to, that you don’t let that anger out other than by breathing deeply and thinking about why your dog is doing something that might not be what you want him or her to do.
With everyone’s bodily functions finished, I seized the chance to take some Advil for my own aching mouth, grabbed a few Fruitables for the dogs and gave them the “bed, bed” command, which is what they know means to go up to our bedroom. They scampered up the stairs and promptly laid back down and let me sleep until their standard wake up call of 6:30 with Jackson’s beautiful wet nose nudging me all over again.