Good dog

May 18th, 2008

The author and Zen teacher Lin Jensen wrote a book entitled “Bad Dog!” I haven’t read it although now I want to, since Lin let me read an advance copy of his forthcoming book, “Together Under One Roof.” You will want to run out and fetch that book too as soon as it’s out. You will want to want to run and fetch and sit and stay with everything Lin writes from now on, as I do, because I have a hint of what he writes about in “Bad Dog!”

And that is that there is no such thing as a Bad Dog. Mercy me, there is no such thing.

This is what I have been learning so vividly in my relatively brief yet eventful tenure as a dog owner, in my slightly longer stint as a mother, in my considerable experience as a wife, on the bumpy road as a daughter, and even in those storied stretches when I’ve been bad at any and all of those things.

If you’ve been traveling here with me for a spell you know that Molly, our dog, came to us from my father’s house, after his death, after all other recourses failed, on good authority that if not yet altogether bad, she was probably difficult, quirky, nervous, untrained and prone to peeing on the carpet. Including his last, humiliating debilitation, those were the very things we would have said about my Dad.

Molly is none of those things, or maybe all of those things, but we just can’t tell anymore. We can’t tell because she’s such a damn Good Dog.

Her goodness was revealed to me in little bits, like milkbones, until Molly went and had herself a bad accident in March. It was the kind of accident that turns your day and night inside out for a good long while, topples your every notion of what a dog could and should do (and what you’d like to do yourself), rattles all that loose and shakes it silly.

She ruptured her ACL, the ligament behind the knee, repairable by a fabulously expensive surgery. She spent four days in the hospital and then came home with a list of post-op instructions that knocked the last bit of sense out of me. She was to be completely confined in a crate for two months, hoisted for weeks via a sling when hauled out expectantly to pee and poop, noosed for 14 days in an Elizabethan collar (a gross misnomer for its indignity) and kept painfree. I look at this list now and it doesn’t seem outrageous enough. It doesn’t seem like the list that left me deranged. We are now six weeks into the stretch, she and I, six weeks when we’ve never been closer or more dependent, and I can only say that I’m smiling now, my eyes flooding with love and appreciation, because she is such a Good Dog.

I’m dedicating this week to Molly so I can show you all the tricks she’s teaching me.


  1. Hooray for Molly…and for you, for being Molly’s dog-mom. When J’s yellow lab had this same surgery, it was amazing to see how incredibly resilient a dog’s body can be…and how incredibly patient a human owner can be when patience is the only option. If you “have to” do it, you’ll find a way. I guess that’s something that parenthood & pet-ownership have in common: as crises arise, you re-define your sense of what you can & will do for another creature.

    Comment by Lorianne — May 18, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  2. Wow. I have much to learn from you. I am not a “dog person” yet I am the one primarily responsible for the care and well being of our dog. Your list of post-op directives was a jaw dropper. Godspeed on her recovery…

    Comment by Kristin H. — May 18, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

  3. We did both knees in our black lab to the tune of $4k. We call Violet our bionic dog.

    I have to say all her surgery was outpatient and the instructions were not quite so involved. You must have a cautious surgeon.

    Also, I recently read Momma Zen and loved it. Thank you!


    Comment by DementedM — May 18, 2008 @ 10:40 pm

  4. Hmm. My url didn’t come through.

    Let’s try again!


    Comment by DementedM — May 18, 2008 @ 10:41 pm

  5. Dogs are good. They are optimist. They are gifts. We are lucky to have them.

    Comment by marta — May 18, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

  6. Glad to hear Molly is on the mend.

    Labeling can make all the difference, can’t it? It’s so easy to slip into the “bad dog” routine, as if “bad” is something outside our own state of mind. If you have a Good Dog, you must be a Good Doggie Mommy.

    Comment by RocketMom — May 19, 2008 @ 2:06 am

  7. Here’s to good dogs and good dog parents!

    I often wish I was blissfully unaware … My heart’s failing? Great! *said with an exuberant tail wag* Pet me! Pet me!

    Dogs are forgiving, generous, loyal, loving – all together spectacular! :o)

    Comment by Shalet — May 19, 2008 @ 5:11 am

  8. We get the dogs we need (if I’m to believe my own post today!)…

    Comment by Jena Strong — May 19, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  9. I forgot to mention yesterday, the vet did warn you it’s not uncommon for the other knee to blow too? About 30% of dogs will blow both knees.

    Violet healed from her first surgery only to turn around and blow the other knee.

    Hopefully, Molly’s karma is kinder than our Violet’s, but I did want to give you a heads up.


    Comment by DementedM — May 19, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

  10. Yes, I’m afraid we do have her ticket entered in the Sweepstakes, thanks.

    Comment by Karen — May 19, 2008 @ 6:14 pm

  11. Good dog.
    Good mama.
    Good wife.
    Good life.
    It’s all good, and I’m happy to hear Molly is on the mend, taking you with her.

    Comment by bella — May 19, 2008 @ 9:56 pm

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