August 16, 2012
I am a dog lover, and so are my husband and children. I think I may be precariously close to becoming one of those crazy dog ladies (not a hoarder; don’t call the authorities), but the older I get, the more credit I give dogs and the less I give humans. Dogs are sweet, loving, loyal and oh so comforting.
That being said, let me just clear the air on a topic which has bugged me for years: The fact that I have dogs does not mean that my door is always open to yours. Let me share a few examples of the issues that have reared their ugly heads over the years.
We have a swimming pool in our back yard. We also used to have a gorgeous Golden Retriever who loved to swim almost as much as she loved us. She used to do the coolest things in and around the pool: she’d catch a ball mid-air just before splashing into the deep end. She’d race us from one end to the other, learning early on that if she jumped off the diving board she’d gain an easy 4-5 seconds on the human she was racing. She’d dive to the bottom to retrieve her favorite toys. Maddie would swim until she was so tired we’d have to make her stop.
Our friends thought our Golden and her antics were pretty cool too, so some of them naturally assumed that since our dog was a swimmer, their dogs were welcome in our house and the pool, too. As a result, we’d have people show up (with their water wings and beach towels, because they happened to be in the neighborhood) with uninvited dogs who would chew up $50 floats, bark their brains out all afternoon and evening at parties, nip at the heels of our other guests, steal food, terrify little children and just generally run unchecked. Coincidentally, the people who brought these dogs to our house were usually the same ones who let their children behave the same way.
My favorite line that we’d gotten used to hearing was, “Oh she’ll be fine. She’s house trained.” Then of course the first thing their little furry darling would do is poop right smack in the middle of our family room (Hint: if your dog is house trained, he’s trained not to poop in YOUR house, not everyone else’s).
The abuses of our hospitality finally got to be too much, and we’ve really reined in the pool parties and summertime barbecues as a result. I will always love dogs, but they’ll always behave exactly as they’ve been hard-wired to do for tens of thousands of years. Dogs won’t always get along with other dogs, even if the other dog is a party host. Somebody’s canine angel is going to be the alpha dog, and that likely means there will be a fight. Instead of bringing a bottle of wine or other hostess gift to a gathering, a dog will leave a heartfelt present on your carpet. If there’s something nice and rubbery to chew on, a dog will more than likely chew on it. It’s just what they do.
The bottom line is, always ask a host if it’s O.K.to bring your dog to their home. It’s just a matter of courtesy.
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of “Southern Fried White Trash.” The book takes a humorous look at families and how we behave when thrown together for weddings, funerals and holidays. She has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. She has also travelled throughout the southeast, meeting readers at book signings and speaking publicly at various events. Her next book, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear,” is expected on book shelves in Fall 2012.