One of our tasks this week is to "eliminate energy drainers" in our lives. We've all got them. Things, people, thoughts that weigh us down and make us feel bad. I've been on the lookout for them this week, and I've found a big one. A 65lb energy drainer. His name is Ralph.
Every time I look at Ralph I feel bad. He used to be our baby. Every morning we would take him to the dog park to meet his friends and he would run free for an hour or so. We would take him swimming on the weekends. We took a million pictures and videos of him and showed him off to all of our friends. He was always on one of our laps or spooning with us in bed. He could do no wrong. You can see what's coming, can't you?
I distinctly remember more than one conversation with new parents about how the dog gets "re-prioritized" when baby arrives. And I distinctly remember the feeling of disdain as I told myself that these were clearly not the kind of people we were. We're the kind of people who consider our dog family. (I'd like to just point out here that becoming a parent has made me a lot less judgemental...)
These days Ralph is about 15lbs overweight and woefully neglected. He still gets 3 walks a day, but always on a leash, and sometimes just to the end of our block and back. He doesn't get any off-leash time anymore because Jeff doesn't have time and I can't trust him not to run off when I've got the baby with me. We forget to feed him. We forget to get his nails trimmed. He doesn't have any toys to play with because he can't distinguish between his toys and baby toys. We don't take him anywhere anymore because he growls at other dogs and yelps and cries if we try to take him with us to the park or to a restaurant. Most of this behavior probably has something to do with the fact that he isn't getting enough exercise and stimulation. It's a vicious circle.
Two things have convinced me that something has to change. This book - once again I would like to express my affection for Jennifer Ford Berry and her infinite wisdom - has made me realize how much stress I feel on a daily basis as a result of our attitude toward Ralph. Also, our baby has started yelling at him. Nothing knocks you down a few pegs more than watching your child mimic behavior you're not proud of. She loves him to death, don't get me wrong. She's always hugging and kissing and petting him, and she's very gentle. But she's also always telling him - loudly - to "SIT!" and "STAY!" and "DROP IT!!!" and "NO BARKING!!!!!". Yesterday I even heard her say "GO AWAY!!!". Wow. Just writing about it makes me cringe.
So I'm making a change. Today I'm taking Ralph to get his nails cut and to get him weighed. We've already cut back on his food, but starting today he's on a new exercise plan! I'm committing to taking him out for some off-leash time once a week. If all goes well we'll do it more often, but I'm starting with baby steps. This weekend we'll test it out. I'm also committing to making every walk at least 15 minutes. It will just take a little planning. Too often I'm about to run out the door with Elle and realize that he hasn't gone out yet. No more!
Ralph is people too, and it's time we started treating him that way again. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go cuddle with my furry baby while the hairless one sleeps.