Scientific research says that dogs are good for mental health. They improve your levels of dopamine and serotonin and are clinically proven to reduce depression and anxiety. My theory is that pets are just so stupid and ridiculous, they make it impossible to stay mad or sad.
Today is our wedding anniversary, so Chris and I had big plans this morning. We planned to turn on a movie for the kids, enjoy coffee together and have an uninterrupted conversation. Conversation is a real luxury when you have young kids. But such high expectations make a recipe for disappointment.
Everything went wrong. Chris was grumpy, and I was grumpy. And after two weeks in the house during the miserable cold of Christmas vacation, maybe we’re all just a little tired of each other. Then, I get a call from my mother telling me that my father is in the hospital. (Both my parents struggle with serious chronic medical issues, so occasional hospital stays are not really surprising).
What a bad day.
So, where can any parent go to be alone with their sad and grumpy thoughts?
That’s right - the bathroom.
Forget your financial troubles and your water bill; Take a 45-minute shower. Feign constipation and sit on the toilet for an hour reading a novel. Listen to Adele on repeat and have an ugly cry if you need. In the bathroom you are free to be you. Every parent knows this.
Unless, like us, your bathroom doesn’t have a door handle.
When we moved into our house, we didn’t realize what a fixer-upper it was. On top of many other projects, one day the bathroom door handle just fell off. And our home is old; it isn’t the kind of door handle you can go to Home Depot to replace. So, we added this to the never-ending list of home ownership projects that we will probably never get to.
But my kids know the protocol: If you hear the shower running, don’t open the door. If you’re on the toilet, block the door by opening the bottom drawer. Always knock. My kids obey this protocol at least 65% of the time. So, it works for us. And you know that they say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Who doesn’t know the protocol? Our dog Taco.
Taco follows me around from the minute he nudges me awake disgustingly licking my toes at 6:50 am until bedtime. I don’t think he is anxious. I think he just really loves me, and I’m his favorite. He sits with me on the couch, lays on the bed when I’m doing laundry, and stands beside me at the table. Sometimes he sits in my lap, not understanding that he's huge and this is painful. One time I walked up and down the stairs pointlessly just to see how long he’d keep following.
It’s nice to be loved.
But today as I was forgetting my water bill and reveling in my sad, grumpy thoughts, I heard a noise and popped my head out from behind the shower curtain. And there is Taco, sitting there on the bathroom floor, impatiently waiting for me to finish. I continued showering, until I heard a noise from my kids downstairs and peeked my head out of the curtain again. Taco, not missing any opportunity, jumps in from the other side, right there in the shower with me! He’s sitting at the edge, far enough away not to get hit by the downpour. He just sits there, like “Okay, are you going to pet me now?”
“TACO! NO!” …. “Chriiiiiiiis help!” I yell from the bathroom.
Chris comes in and peeks his head behind the shower curtain and starts laughing. “I just love you, mom...Haven’t seen you in a whole 5 minutes,” Chris says in his dumb Taco voice. (Do all people talk for their pets, or is that just us?)
Taco looks at him with those big puppy eyes that indicate he knows he’s done something wrong and he’s going to try his best to get away with it. We could both see streams of brown in the tub from the dirt washing off his paws. It’s 20 degrees outside, so Taco hasn’t had any baths recently. Baths usually happen in the yard. Also, he’s going through a weird shedding faze. I don’t understand why he’s losing his undercoat in the middle of winter, but he is, and he looks absolutely ridiculous with white fluff balls falling off him all the time. “This is the price of beauty,” I tell him during our daily grooming sessions. I’m brushing and vacuuming like a mad woman.
“Bath time!” says Chris, who runs downstairs to grab the doggie shampoo. Before I could give Taco a chance to climb out, I grabbed him by his harness and put the handheld sprayer to his fur. So, we gave Taco a 30-minute shower. He does not like to be washed, but he was submissive. His ears went back in silent protest, and his tail was tucked between his legs. But he stood there, miserable and wet.
Now Chris and I are having a better day, and Taco is sad and grumpy.
Poor dog. I don’t think he’ll be jumping in my shower again.