Monday, July 25, 2011

House Guests vs. My Dogs

House guests who don't like dogs pose a unique problem.  What is my responsibility?  Is it to the guest, or the dogs who live in the house?  I've been pondering this dilemma this week, as a house guest's visit has extended from "a few days" to "over a week", with no definite end in sight, and no thawing of the problem.

My routine when I have a party, or when guests first arrive, is I usually put my dogs outside, let the guests settle in so they won't be accosted at the door with 4 curious maniacs who want to sniff and greet, lick and paw.  Then, when we're more or less sitting and settled, I let the dogs in.  There are a few minutes of frenzy, which quickly winds down, especially if the guests go ahead and make eye contact and pet each dog for a minute or two.  If the visit extends a few days, I am willing to crate the dogs during meals and various other times if they become obnoxious.  Mostly, they just lay around and sleep.

BUT, if the visit lasts longer, if they distinctly don't like dogs, have never been around dogs, have no desire to befriend dogs, are as afraid of dogs as I would be of your pet snake on the loose, then no matter how much else we may have in common, this becomes a real problem.

In my case, our house is gated in the middle.  The dogs want to be with me on whichever side I'm on.  I'm either on the kitchen/den side, or the living room/bedroom wing side.  Anyone who wants access to the kitchen from the bedroom wing usually has 4 dogs greeting them at the gate.  This particular guest keeps calling me to get the dogs away so he can pass, get coffee, breakfast, etc.  He keeps telling them to lie down, lie down, lie down, lie down, which they don't do for him as he has no rapport with them, but he keeps repeating it.  The repetition annoys me. I wrestle with dicotomous feelings.  Do I run constant interference, or let him either learn to deal with my dogs, or starve?

We usually eat the evening meal in front of the TV, me in my rocker and John in his recliner.  Lucky voluntarily goes into her crate, Fooh Fooh lies at my feet, and the papillons hop up on the red couch and wait for plates to lick.  Alas, this is also the only place for guests to sit.  If the guest refuses to sit there unless the dogs get down, or constantly tells them "Shoo, shoo, get away, down, off, back", what do I do?  For a few days I left them on the back side of the gate, in the kitchen, where they whined to be with me.  Last night I declared that this is my dog's spot and the guest would simply have to get used to it, or push them off the couch himself.  He said, "but then I'll have to get up and wash my hands."

That did it for me.  My dogs aren't dirty.  Besides, nothing else in my house is immaculate and I have news for him.  I touch my dogs then touch my door knobs, keyboards, chairs, upholstery, drawers, and everything else he touches.  It's all in his head. Besides, a little dirt is good for us.  Keeps up our immunities.  I told the guest it was my dog's couch and if he didn't like them there maybe it was time for him to move on.  It came out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying.

I know I would be pretty darn offended if you chose to let me leave rather than put your pet boa constrictor away during my visit.  Is that an equivalent comparison?  But how many people have a lifetime to become used to dogs and cats compared to snakes and iguanas?

Maxie "averting his eyes", waiting for release.
Truth is, it does take some getting used to to be stared at while you eat.  I've trained all my dogs to avert their eyes and lie off at a distance when I say "no begging", but basically they still make their presence felt and will stare from a distance and creep in closer if they are allowed to.  Maxie does this best, and is the absolute cutest thing when he averts his eyes.

I would hate to turn my own flesh and blood away if they had to come live with me, but the criteria pretty much has to be "can you live with my dogs"?  People who aren't "dog people" are not used to bending and swaying to accommodate the needs of what they consider their "inferiors".  They are, I find, selfish and kind of "brittle".  Even many dog people are only accommodating to their own dogs. They don't necessarily like other people's dogs.  And old/crippled people would find it hazardous to walk thru my house with the big dogs brushing up against their knees, the little dogs underfoot.  I've learned to drag my feet, and brace myself.  Still, I couldn't possibly rehome my dogs, nor leave them outside or crated up all day, to accommodate even a dear relative.

Should I feel guilty for putting my dogs before people?  If I limit myself to only friends and family who love dogs, that's pretty limiting!  Cuts me off from at least half the population.  What is my responsibility?

If anyone cares to comment on this or give me some advice, I'd appreciate it.

Upwards and onward!


Anonymous said...

OH How I know this feeling! Dogs crate during eating times when there is company. A few are crated while inside all the time with company as they are not 'stranger friendly'. Most are loose when company is just hanging out. I try to make sure the dogs don't pester guests. After a short greeting they are required to go lie down. When it's completely non-dog people it is a PAIN IN MY BUTT to have them over for more than an afternoon.

Anonymous said...

I understand completely! It is difficult to revamp your life for an uncertain amount of time. We normally cage our parrot when guests are around, for both their protection (he may bite) and ours (he may escape out a door with frequent comings and goings). But after awhile it gets old!! Everyone wants their normal routine and life back!The trick is to maintain grace and civility and not lose any friendships over it. But, the house guest has to realize that this is an opportunity for him to become a part of your family and your environment, a chance to walk in your shoes for awhile and learn from the perspective. It's almost like reading a book and stepping into someone else's world only it's real! That's the best part of visiting.