a peek inside the fishbowl

04 Aug, 2007

On why I might never own a dog

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

Our furry houseguest

We’ve been dog-sitting this week. I love dogs. I really do. When I was growing up we owned an Airedale terrier named Charlie. He was a character. He was stubborn. He really liked doing things his way. He listened when it suited him, and usually it didn’t …  like the time I decided to don my roller skates and take him for a walk. He spyed a dog in the distance – at the very opposite end of the park – and forgot about me in all his excitement. He haulled me over hill and over dale, sidewalk and grass and gravel. I finally had to let go, otherwise I would have ended up looking like Wile E. Coyote with a lasso around a ACME rocket.

I love animals, all animals, but I’ve pretty much decided that we can never have a dog of our own … no matter how much the girls beg and plead.

This week has been an experience.

Alfie is a white little fellow, a schnauzer I think. He’s sweet. It’s clear that I’m the alpha dog in this family. He follows me faithfully. He listens. He rests quietly at my feet while I’m on the computer. He loves me unconditionally. When I scratch him behind the ears it’s I can tell by the look in his eyes that it’s The Best Thing That Has Ever Happened. Ever.

But I’ll tell you what:

I am done with bodily fluids. We had two kids who both went through a diaper-phase. I specifically remember the last diapers we ever bought, and the feeling of freedom I felt when that package was done. It was great not to have to have the diapers/zinc/wipes on hand 24/7. (Wiping and washing didn’t quite end when the diapers left the scene, but let’s just say that I’m not handling nearly as much as I used to.)

Small dog = small poop. This is good. I thought I could live with that. And I was surprised the girls wanted to help in this area. I think it had to do with their desire to show “responsibility.” The first time we took Alfie for a walk Sarah eagerly volunteered to pick up after him. She did the use-the-bag-as-a-glove thing, and as she picked it up she gleefully observed: “the poo is HOT mummy!”

I have made similar observations, albeit more quietly. You know what? I don’t find it nearly as thrilling.

Related to this, what are you supposed to do with the poop? Dog owners are supposed to flush solid waste down the toilet, right? So it’s treated and doesn’t end up in the landfill, right? But who wants to do that after it’s been smeared inside a steamy plastic bag? Correct me if I’m wrong, but there doesn’t appear to be a good system in place. The ideal poop picker-upper would look something like this:

 poop scooper

Like salad tongs for poop, you know what I mean?

Alfie is also moderately barky. This holds especially true if there’s another dog within sniffing/trespass distance. He lets His Displeasure Be Known to All.

But then again, perhaps I could learn to overlook the pooping and the barking. I love it when he turns his brown eyes on me. It makes me feel so needed. And appreciated! Alfie never talks back. I never have to give him a time-out. I know he loves me with his whole doggy-heart. Perhaps this would make up for the poop scooping.

Any dog owners care to reflect?

10 Responses to "On why I might never own a dog"

1 | Val

August 4th, 2007 at 9:13 pm


I am a small dog owner (a 12 years old shih tzu named Lucky) and yes, the whole “poop” thing is something that you need to get used to. But really, it’s not incredibly hard. I do use the bag as a glove method BUT if it’s in my backyard, I wait about 30 mins to pick up so that it’s “dry”. It’s FAR less disgusting. It’s like picking up rocks (it’s all dry). THOSE you can easily flush down the drain! However you’ll have to pick it up right on the spot if you’re taking a walk obviously. Nothing aggravates me more than people who just leaves it there, grr. But otherwise, just let it dry (doesn’t take too long), pick it up and then you can easily flush it.

Barking is an individual trait but a dog can be trained. I have a small dog and he ONLY barks if someone knocks at our door. I can’t imagine my life without my dog anymore. =) It’s not just a “pet”, it’s a friend, a family member. We got him when I was about 12 years old (and I’m going on 24 now) and I remember that whenever I’d feel sad, my dog would cheer me up. I’m sure the same would happen to your daughters. It also teaches them responsabilities AND it teaches them how to handle animals (very important). If you’re worried about the fur, pick a dog like a Shih Tzu, Terrir or a Lhasa, they never shed! AND you can’t be allergic to their fur!

I don’t know, I think dogs make WONDERFUL family members. They can bring so much joy and at the same time they’ll teach you so much about taking care of an animal. I remember that my mother used to tell me “no dog!” but now, heck, it’s mostly HER dog. ;) It’s so fun to go for a walk with them around Ottawa.

2 | Sean G

August 4th, 2007 at 9:45 pm


I am a medium-large dog owner. My baby’s name is Beaker and he’s a 29kg ball of love.

To answer your main gripe – biodegradable doggy poop bags are available. They look and mostly feel like regular plastic bags, but instead of taking 80 years (or whatever it is) to disappear in the landfill they take (I think) 3 years.

Like Val’s dog, Beaker only barks when someone knocks at the front door. Sometimes he’ll bark at a dog while on a walk, but this is rare because he really shy and is mostly a big baby.

I think my main gripe about having him has to be the shedding. Labs are well known for the hair they leave around your house, but if you’re on top of it daily then it’s not a big deal.

I find the companionship of Beaker to outweigh the hair and hot poop in a bag. It’s totally worth it.

Also as a child I had a dog and it definitely taught me a great deal of responsibility.

3 | BeachMama

August 5th, 2007 at 6:44 am


We have two, count.. two large dogs! The eldest, a collie lab mix, is 11.5 years old and the youngest, a siberian huskey, is 7.5 years. I love them both to death and wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Hubby is actually the one who wanted a second dog but it is very clear that they are ‘my’ dogs. The poop in the bag has never really bothered me. I only feel badly when someone else has to pick up after them. The Huskey is the only one who will poop on a walk and he has gotten much better these days and usually sticks to the backyard, where we do let them dry out before picking them up.

The pet store has this disposal think you can bury in your backyard and I have longed for it for quite a few years, but hubby prefers the bags. I refuse to flush dog poop, it makes me gag plopping the stuff in the toilet.

As for responsibility. A is 15 and has had dogs and cats his whole life. It hasn’t helped one bit in responsibility. He doesn’t walk any of them or clean up after them. J does more at 4 truthfully. A’s mother’s dog actually doesn’t like him and bit him on the nose last year (that dog would have been so gone in our house) so he doesn’t do anything for her anymore.

I think the dogs are great, even with the constant battle of the fur. I miss them when we go away and wish that we could take them everywhere with us.

4 | andrea

August 5th, 2007 at 9:28 am


Lo! Someone has already invented this scooping device!


5 | DaniGirl

August 5th, 2007 at 5:37 pm


There’s quite an assortment of pooper scoopers on the market. I love this company’s dandilion picker so much that I’d consider getting this one if no others: http://www.petsmart.com/global/product_detail.jsp?ASSORTMENT%3C%3East_id=2534374302023689&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302025632&PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524441774914

I am a dog person. I’ve always had dogs in my life, and always will. Our current love is a 100+ lbs golden-shepherd mix called Katie, and she’s simply the best dog ever. She also poops her bodyweight daily, I swear. I have tried the scoop and plop, but it just doesn’t work for me. I try to keep a supply of the biodegradable bags on hand, but we do use a lot of shopping bags.

To me, the worst part is the annual spring pickup, and I will curse the hell out of my dog while doing it. But we get so much more love from her, and enjoyment from having her in our life, than could ever be offset by the annoyances of cleaning up that there’s really no contest.

Oh, and she doesn’t bark. Only when she’s alone and a stranger comes to the door, or occassionally at inanimate objects when she can’t figure out what they are (she barked at a lawn chair in the middle of the field last week, because she knew it didn’t belong there but couldn’t figure out what it was.) She has this giant, booming bark that is far better than any burglar alarm, but we only hear it maybe once every couple of months… so much so that even after eight years, it still takes me a minute to realize it’s her.

Dogs rule. Cats, on the other hand….

6 | Moffman

August 6th, 2007 at 8:46 am


I have also always considered myself an animal lover. I grew up living with cats as pets, but always kinda wanted a dog as well.
When I got together with the woman who is now my wife, she had two cute little Pomeranian dogs. I enjoyed coming over to her place and playing with the dogs. They liked me and I liked them. They’d always sit in my lap and revel in the extra attention they were getting.
When I eventually moved in, however, I realized that living with dogs is not what I thought it would be.
Here’s a list of reasons why I will never own another dog once these little guys shuffle off to doggie heaven:

1) Their breath smells awful: At the best of times, their breath smells like dog food. At the worst of times, it smells like rotten fish left in a garbage can in the hot sun for a week. We give them crunchy (and expensive) dog food especially designed for dental care, we have tried actually brushing their teeth, we give them bones that are supposed to freshen their breath… nothing works.

2) Their bodies (sometimes) smell awful: Most of the time, they are relatively innocuous, but get them even the slightest bit wet and they smell revolting. There are few stenches in this world that rank up there with wet dog. They also pass gas fairly regularly. Not pleasant.

3) They bark: It’s not like they’re noisy dogs. Most of the time, they just laze around and sleep. They don’t bark without some kind of stimulus. But any time anyone walks by on the street or approaches our house, they bark. It’s enough to make your blood boil. I’d like to be hooked up to a blood pressure monitor to see the effects. I’d prefer to hear one of the kids crying than listen to their barking.
We’ve tried using muzzles and we’ve tried a device that emits a high-pitched noise whenever they bark. Those both worked for a few days and then they resumed barking.

4) They crap in the yard: Hey, it’s better than crapping in the house, but still, I’d rather be able to walk around barefoot in my own back yard without stumbling onto a surprise that eluded my last mine-sweeping expedition.

5) They get in the way: I’m beginning to think it’s a game they play called “Trip the tall human captor”. It’s usually when I’m carrying something heavy that they play this game.

6) They are an un-needed responsibility: When you plan for a vacation, or even a small day trip, you have to plan for the dogs. Who’s going to look after them? Will they be able to be on their own for the time we’re going to be out?
For people with families, it’s not really that big an extra inconvenience. But for those without kids, it seriously impedes your ability to be spontaneous. “That was a good dinner. Should we go out to a movie now too?” “Uh, no. If we do, the dogs will have crapped on the floor by the time we get home.”

All this being said, I like the dogs. I really do. If they belonged to a friend, I would enjoy visiting them and hanging out for a while. I just wish they didn’t live in my house.

7 | roz

August 7th, 2007 at 7:58 am


Sorry i’m a few days behind in my comment, but i’m too much of a dog lover not to comment.

I had a dog growing up, and although i didn’t have much responsibility for him, he was THE BEST christmas present my parents EVER bought for my sister and i. It was the saddest day of my life when he died.

Now as an adult, i have 2 doggies. Westies to be exact. I wouldn’t trade the responsibility of them for anything. I also do the whole poop dry thing in the backyard, and ya, picking up warm poop off the neighbours lawn isn’t my favorite pastime, but really – it’s worth it. Really.

My doggies bark when they hear a noise or when they think something isn’t right. But they are NOT yappy dogs. You train dogs to be yappy or not. If they bark and you give them attention (whether it’s positive or negative) they will continue to bark. If you ignore them when they bark, they will learn that it doesn’t get your attention. It’s all about giving them attention for behaviour that you want like being quiet or sitting etc. (I could go on and on about how to train doggies).

It’s the best feeling in the world when you come home from work, and there is a little friend or two so happy to see you!

And the breath smelling thing…one of my dogs has the best dog breath ever – seriously! and it’s because he chews dog toys all the time. It really helps to keep his teeth clean and white and his breath smelling nice. My other doggy…we got her after she lived with someone else for 6 months and she had bad breath and we found out it was because her last owner didn’t let her have toys. Now she has a ton of toys to chew on and her breath is totally fine.

Again, if you have any other questions, just let me know. i love to blab about dogs :)

8 | Miss Vicky

August 7th, 2007 at 9:54 am


andrea, I think your white-haired friend is a Westie. Schnauzers are grey (salt-and-pepper or charcoal). My last pooch, Pepper, was a schnauzer. Lived to a ripe old age of 16. She barked when folks came to the door but that’s about it. She was a wonderful companion and I miss her.

Winston, who arrived with the Webgeek, is a real contrast. He’s a 100 lb German Shepherd. A lotta dog, let me tell you. probably too much dog for me, but I still love him.

Being a dog owner takes commitment, that’s for sure. There’s the poop thing…. For backyard use, we have a spring-loaded claw-type thing not unlike your drawing above. It’s awesome. For walks, we use the biodegradable Scoopies. I have yet to meet a dog owner that flushes the poop. That is about the stupidest bylaw ever. I have been thinking about putting in a dog poop composter for a while now. One of these days…

In addition to poop, there’s the hair. Now, civilized breeds like schnauzers have a single coat and do not shed. Well, they shed hair like we humans do. Shepherds, on the other hand, have a double coat and they shed like the dickens. I swear, Winston sheds at least 1 Pepper-sized pile of fur every week. It takes a lot to keep up with that, and most of the time we don’t. But dog hair does make good compost and it keeps skunks away, i am told!

Dogs also need exercise. And they need training, structure and routine. Rather, dog owners need training and they need to make sure the dogs aren’t running roughshod over them. Winston was in charge of the Webgeek for years before they moved in. We have worked hard to adjust the pack order in our house, especially since wee G arrived. Shepherds are really smart and they need a job to do. We just haven’t found the right one for Winston yet.

While having a dog is a nice idea, and nothing beats those eyes looking up at you like you’re the most important thing in the world, it’s really not for everyone. It’s a massive commitment of time and energy that goes way beyond daily feedings and walks.

9 | mark

August 7th, 2007 at 10:23 am


Hi Vicky: We have this discussion with lots of people when we take him for a walk but it is indeed a Schnauzer and not a Westie. Granted the breed is not a purebred since it’s mixed with other dogs to get white but it’s mostly a Schnauzer and there is no Westie in him. :)


10 | Miss Vicky

August 7th, 2007 at 3:53 pm


Interesting! Well, that would explain the barkiness as well – schnauzers are very territorial. He’s just saying to the other dogs “back off. they’re with me”

comment form:


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter