Dogs Behaving Badly

A yard stick. A t-ball hat. Multiple socks. The outside “Welcome” mat. A 300-page book. All items that found their way to the trash can since my husband left. And all thanks to my child of the four-legged variety.

My dog is the cutest black Labrador Retriever in the whole wide world. He’s a cuddle monster who wakes me up every morning with a level of enthusiasm matched only by my spinning instructor after three cups of coffee. He somehow hasn’t quite figured out how to play catch with a tennis ball, but he sure is good at cleaning up all the morsels of food his human brother and sister manage to drop on the kitchen floor after every meal. He’s the perfect pet.

Until my husband leaves.

And then the cutest, cuddliest puppy in the whole wide world morphs into pure naughtiness matched only by that dog in the movie Marley and Me. The chewing, the jumping, the disobeying. My husband leaves, and everything we thought we had taught him disappears into the trash along with the remnants of my daughter’s Angry Bird underwear he swiped out of the laundry basket.

I expect that my children’s behavior will be a little off when mom is the only parent in the house. But even the dog seems to know we’re one man down, and if he’s ever going to get away with taking a nap on the patio table, that time is now.

It’s times like these that I have to remind myself that even short absences like my husband’s most recent 2-weeker affect everyone in the house, even the furbabies. The entire atmosphere in the house changes. Mom’s stress level multiplies, while the parental attention is cut in half. The kiddos know they have to fight for the attention that dad took with him when he left, any attention they can get.

Negative attention is still attention, a basic fact of psychology that even a dog can figure out. So while the kids are busy discovering fun and interesting ways to one-up each other to earn my attention, the dog is right there in the mix, shredding toilet paper, eating crayons and generally destroying anything that will create the messiest of messes. (And I swear he purposely eats those crayons to leave me Crayola-colored messes a few hours later in the backyard.)

But just like my human babies, my canine baby knows exactly what mommy buttons to push to get back into my good graces. And as I snuggle up in bed at night after the naughty pup morphs back into a cuddle monster, I remember that I have to give extra lovin’ to this sweet animal who doesn’t understand why his family can’t stay in the same room at the same time every minute of every day.

So I give him that extra love that is matched only by his daddy.

Do you catch your pets behaving badly when your servicemember is gone?

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