There’s no better testament to how much owners influence the behavior of their dogs than the vastly different experiences that Aaron (that guy I married) and I have taking our dog Jackson to the vet.
Aaron is the default parent (yes, I’m using the term “parent” because “owner” sounds too sterile for the type of loving relationship I have with my fur babies) to take our dogs to the vet during emergency situations, because I am NOT good with blood and, you know, not panicking. But I started taking our pets to the vet for all non-emergency purposes, because I’m the parent who works at home. In theory, it’s easier for me to be the vet person because my schedule is flexible.
Now, Aaron always reported perfect behavior from Jackson during his vet visits. But the last few times I took Jackson, he’d get panic-y in the waiting room, cowered from all vet employees, and bared his teeth at our usual vet!
WTF, Aaron, you liar! Our baby is a god-damn monster. And he really hates our vet. I have no idea why — she’s a totally sweet lady who always speaks gently to him and gives him treats. And he’s NEVER been one to hate people. Other dogs while on a leash, yes. But people? No. (Well, except for that one guy once… thank gawd.)
So this time, when Jackson’s weird bacterial infection on his neck refused to heal up completely, and seemed to be getting worse, I begged Aaron to resume his role as “the vet parent.” Jackson’s shitty behavior and my anxiety was making the visits way too stressful for me. And I suspected that my anxiety may even be triggering Jackson’s mood.
Aaron obliged, and took off work to be a good parent. I wished him luck as he left the house, even suggested he take the muzzle that had come in handy last time.
Aaron reported perfect behavior from Jackson! Jackson walked into the waiting room and sat like a good boy. He walked into the exam room and didn’t cower at all. And when the vet came in there was nary a lip raise, and in fact, he gave her a freaking kiss at the end!
So yeah, it’s me. I’m the problem. At home, I’m the dominant one, while Aaron is the sucker they walk all over. But at the vet, my anxiety disorder, and my fear of all things medical, turns me into a scared weakling, and my sweet boy into a scary monster. Take me out of the picture and — in the same setting, with the same people, and with the same medical issues — Jackson is a the perfect patient.
Sometimes it’s not just “bad owners that make bad dogs,” sometimes it’s good owners with bad anxiety. I’m sorry, Mr Jackson.
So, who else have pets that reflect your own bad habits? Have they helped you get over your issues, or have you — like me — found ways to pass off certain pet parental tasks? How are you balancing you and your pets’ conflicting behaviors?