Why Dogs Are Gross – And Why We Love Them Anyway
I am a part-time dog lover. I say part-time because I have come to love my gross dog. But only most of the time. A small piece of my heart does not love my gross dog. Because, well, she is gross. Here’s the story of how I came to understand that dogs are gross.
I Did Not Grow Up With A Gross Dog in the House
I did not grow up with a dog in the house. My mother came from a background where her mom vacuumed the carpets into a pattern and expected them to stay that way for the entire day. She was only allowed to use hairspray in a particular portion of the unfinished basement to keep the overspray under control. Picture a single bulb hanging, maybe even flickering, in a dark corner near a small mirror. I’m sure there was a shelf nearby to hold the giant can of Aqua Net. Grandma didn’t like to clean the lacquer overspray off of every surface. Considering that the hairspray of the day served the primary purpose of holding a beehive ‘do in place and achieving the perfect helmet head, I can’t say as I blame good ole grandma.
Related: Cats are Gross, Too!
My dad was born loving animals.
However, grandma’s cleaning habits illustrate exactly why animals were NOT welcome to live in the house but expected to live outside instead. Dogs are animals. Animals are dirty. Nay, they are filthy. My wise grandmother knew this. She passed this knowledge down to my mother, who unequivocally forbade a dog in the house, especially in my young childhood. We’ll talk about the cat (another form of filthy animal) in another post.
My dad, on the other hand, was born loving animals. He raised fancy breed pigeons from an early age and carried that tradition on into his retirement. He knew the value of an animal in a child’s life, and when he saw that his beloved daughter was born with an inherent fear of dogs, he decided it was time to fix the problem. Upon great discussion and I’m sure great debate, they made a decision. It was time to bring home a new dog. After a short search, Brandy entered my young world.
A Fierce, vicious, teeth-baring, snarling animal
Brandy was a beautiful Doberman Pinscher. Yes, a Doberman, one of the dog breeds known for fierce, vicious, teeth-baring, snarling dog behavior. Dobermans protect junkyards and important buildings late at night. These dogs eat other dogs for breakfast! A great choice of a pet for a fearful child, eh?
Except! Our Brandy was different. She came from an abusive household. When she arrived home, she had Mange disease, which meant she was missing patches of hair. She was malnourished, not used to eating correctly, and was rib-bone protruding thin, a picture of poor dog health. She had floppy ears because her abusive owners had not clipped them in the style of a Doberman. They had, however, personally seen cutting her tail by whacking it off into a short stub. A trip to the veterinarian deemed her healthy enough to come home.
Brandy was goofy-looking but needed a home and passed the test for my mother when they went to visit, and she demonstrated good behavior by resisting a sandwich on a plate placed near her face. A simple command – “no, it’s not yours” did the trick, and she left it alone. No one knows if it was a result of training or abuse, but she was ready to march into our home with this one positive sign. So one happy September day, Brandy became a part of our family.
A Gross Dog is Not Allowed In The House
Mom did not completely lose her sensibility in her efforts to keep dad happy, so Brandy was forbidden to live in the house. My dad got busy and went to work. I suspect he was so thrilled to have an animal nearby that he was ready to provide in a big way for said animal. Brandy had a beautiful home in the back of the garage where it was warm and protected from the cold December Michigan weather. She could travel into the fenced area in the backyard through a doorway with weather flaps over it. She had a warm fuzzy bed inside and plenty of room to stretch and frolic outside and was a happy member of our family – when we were outside with her.
Brandy did her job
Brandy did her job. She taught me to love her. How could a small girl resist the adoration that comes from a rescued dog? She would sit for hours in the front yard on a blanket with me while I dressed her in doll clothes and a pair of those giant carnival-prize sunglasses. She patiently laid there dressed in her fancy finery while I read her stories and talked to her like a best friend. At the day’s end, she would go back into her outdoor home and me into my indoor home. It was bliss.
Brandy and I made so many happy memories together. You see, because she was an outside dog, I was sheltered from the yuck-factor of a gross dog. I didn’t see her scoot her bottom on the ground to clean her nether regions, nor did I see her lick her nether regions, for that matter. I never saw her eat poop, cat poop from a litter box or her own, or vomit up whatever rotten animal that she’d just ingested. As they say, ignorance is bliss, and I was oblivious. I saw her as a perfect lady. Brandy did her job and made me a liker of dogs.
Something was missing. A Gross Dog?
Many years later, I reached adulthood after Brandy’s tragic passing one cold winter night as a very old and well-loved part of the family. I was on the verge of forming my own “perfect family.” But I could feel something missing. Every perfect family has a dog, right? You’ve seen the lovely outdoor pictures of the family, complete with tongue-lolling, calm dog, gazing into the camera with the look that says he is an integral part of this group of humans. He belongs, and he knows it. We didn’t have that. We had the home and the five kids, and the big SUV and the weekend camping trips. What was missing? The dog! That’s it! The dog (Insert ominous drumbeats here).
And so I began my campaign. I used the age-old technique of informing my husband we need a dog. You know the conversation: the one where I’m feeling all motherly, and I either need another baby or a dog. He promptly sighed with great angst and hung his head, knowing he would surely lose the war, so what was the point of engaging in small battles over it. He comes from a family that had gross dogs in the house and he knows the secret.
The search for the perfect (and gross) dog
So, we began our search for the perfect dog. We know that too many dogs are carelessly bred, so we decided to rescue. We chose Jada, a six-week-old lab mix puppy scheduled for euthanasia if she didn’t find a home. I brought her home that October with visions of children frolicking around the yard playing with her, dressing her in silly clothing, and generally loving her. I dreamt she would delicately prance to the door to greet me upon entering at the end of a day of running kids and errands and naturally lie at my feet while patiently listening to the troubles of my day – That she would be calm and loving. After all, she was part Labrador. Aren’t those known to be the best family dogs out there?
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I was about to have an epiphany.
It didn’t take long to get into a routine with Jada once she was here. She was crate trained so that our home was safe when we were away. Each morning I would tuck her into her crate and head off to work at my part-time job. When I’d get home, I would come into the house with my wobbler son (not quite on his feet yet) and let my sweet (and gross) dog outside, then run to the bathroom. You may think this is a little too much information, but it’s critical to know how our routine works for the rest of the story.
One memorable day, I came rushing in from work. I had to use the ladies’ room. It was a particularly urgent need, and I found myself doing the potty dance as I made my way up to the bathroom with the baby—no time to settle him in the living room. We were on a mission to get to the potty! I knew poor Jada had been in the crate all morning and needed out. She was doing her best to impress on me just how much she needed out by screeching and yelping in her best doggy voice from before I even entered the door.
Another great read: Stressed? How to Practice a Mindful Attitude During the Holidays
Gross Dogs Are Disgusting!
As I zoomed past her crate, with baby in my arms, I released the latch on her crate and made my way straight to the ladies’ room. I plunked baby down on the floor and quickly got busy getting to the business at hand. Jada came screeching in behind us, barely able to contain her excitement that we were home. The next series of events happened so fast I hardly had time to think.
As I delicately perched myself upon my throne, panties stretched out between my calves, my gross dog Jada decided to enthusiastically take a wet, slobbery lick of the center of them. Ew! Disgusting!!! As I was reacting, er, screeching at her to stop licking my undies, the baby made a terrible gurgling noise and proceeded to spit up his entire lunch. Yup. Right down the front of his shirt and all over the floor. Jada seemed to think that this was a special gift just for her, so she enthusiastically moved from licking said panties to licking the baby’s face and shirt. In a full-blown panic at the double assault, I leaped from my throne, grabbed her, and pulled her from my poor son. Right about that moment, as I was leaning over, bare butt exposed, she took her moment to slip between my knees, run behind me and take a giant lick of my lily-white cheek. And I don’t mean the one on my face!
I’ve been assaulted!
Holy cow! We had been assaulted in multiple ways by our sweet, loving family pet! Where on earth was the sweet, loving dog that calmly kept me company and laid peacefully near my feet adoring me!? This gross dog was a disaster! It only took a few seconds to shed the slimed panties and get a hold of the beast by her collar, and escort (probably more like drag) her to the back door, where I released her into the yard. I made quite the site shuffling, bent at the waist with my naked bottom hanging out, through the house, dragging a wiggling, spastic yellow furball by the collar.
Jada commenced barking her fool head off at any little anything in the backyard while I rushed back up the two flights of steps to the bathroom to rescue my still-dazed and confused wobbler from the bathroom floor. After a critical cleanup and a new set of clothing and undies for everyone, I regained a sense of control and went about the rest of my day. But this day had scarred me. Jada gave me my first lesson in indoor dog experience.
My grandma knew the secret
I reflected upon the wisdom of my grandmother, who knew the secret. Bless my mom for trying to pass the lesson along to me. Unfortunately, she failed. It took my own experience with a family dog to understand what everyone else already seemed to know: Dogs are gross. You see, if you have an ANIMAL in the house, it will likely act like an animal. Animals do gross things. Dogs are animals. Therefore, DOGS ARE GROSS!!! This epiphany has shaken me to the core.
Before you worry too much about my own sweet children’s experiences with animals, though, know this: Dad’s efforts were also fruitful. Jada is no longer with us, but since she passed over the Rainbow Bridge, we have had two more dogs enter our home as members of the family. They are also gross. However, I am learning to balance the gross factor with the love factor. Because despite the many, many nasty things my gross dogs do, I somehow still manage to love them. Sometimes I love them just because they have no shame. Dogs are gross and don’t care. Perhaps humans would be a little nicer if they cared a little bit less about some things.