My wife and I got back from a very long run (mixed in with walking). We’re running a very long race in a couple of weeks, and we want to be prepared for it. As we hobbled around the house, legs wobbly from ten miles of jogging, we noticed a strange smell emanating from the dog. Sure enough, the dog had some “intestinal issues”. While I don’t usually get mad at her for getting into the kitty litter, which causes her stinky issues to appear, I found myself getting mad at her.
Almost as fast as I got mad at the dog, I convinced myself of how unfair I was being toward her. The dog is just a dog. Her intelligence is very limited, perhaps not reaching that of a small child. While she may know that it’s not allowed to get into the kitty litter, I don’t think her brain lets her know that eating it leads to bloating and diarrhea 12 hours to a day later, and that this leads to me getting angry at her when I’m already tired from the run.
Had I not been tired, I wouldn’t have thought twice about and just cleaned her up like I’ve done other times that she’s been sick. If I was well-rested, I would walk down the steps into the backyard and used the hose to hose her off and not think about it at all. But I was tired, and I wasn’t well-rested. So I got mad at her and sent her to her crate.
I thought about all this just after I sent her to the crate and realized that the problem was me and not her. I was the one that was tired. I was the one that was annoyed. It was up to me to fix the situation.
All of this reminded me of a trip to the store from a few weeks ago where I saw a man get extremely angry that his child, a toddler, had pooped their pants. The man said something to the child to the tune of “you’ve ruined my day” because they would have to change plans due to this. (Perhaps there was no replacement outfit, only diapers?) The man was red in the face, and the child just looked up at him. It all made me wonder about what else was going on besides the child having an accident.
The incident with the dog made me think about that incident, and it made me shudder at the thought of becoming that parent one day. “The fact that you recognize that you’re feeling that way is a good thing,” my wife said to me. She always knows what to say. So, yeah, I’m able to recognize these feelings and take the steps to counteract them. So I walked to the hose with the dog and hosed off her butt. She’s now a happy puppy snoring at my feet.
I only hope to remember all this if and when a human child — a “Ren 2.0” if you will — comes around. Because I really don’t want to be the jerk parent who yells at a child who doesn’t know better.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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