Tag Archives: dogs

I have low dog-owner self-esteem


The other day I was hiking up the dog-friendly Makapu‘u Lighthouse Trail with my three dogs — we affectionally call the Ratter Pack — and I was reminded about a feeling I used to get at the dog park.

That my dogs aren’t good dogs. And that meant I wasn’t a good owner, either.

Let me back it up: When I first got Sunny, a Pomeranian-toy fox terrier mix, six years ago, I couldn’t wait to take her to the Hawai‘i Kai Dog Park. I was living in the area, newly single with a lot of free time, and wanted to socialize my little puppy as soon as possible. Once we completed the necessary rounds of shots and I got her registered with the city, I started taking little Sunny Girl to the park every weekday afternoon.

The first time I walked into the park, I wasn’t sure how Sunny would react. At home, she was super mellow and quiet. She liked sitting on the couch with me, watching “Top Chef” and eating fried chicken. (Remember, I was single.) So I figured she would be a little shy around other dogs.

Man, was I wrong!

IMG_0190She literally bolted into the park, running and playing and greeting everyone — owners and dogs alike. She loved the freedom, the wide open space, and her canine playmates. And it showed.

And then she started barking.

She barked and barked, mostly at the bigger dogs on the other side of the fence, trying to get them to run with her. And her bark could be incessant if she wasn’t getting her way.

Most people didn’t seem to notice. But there were a few dog owners who would give me dirty looks, roll their eyes or make snide remarks like, “Oh, there goes that dog again.” Sunny didn’t seem to care, but it made me feel badly.

I kept thinking, “Is my dog really that bad?” “What does that say about me?” “Am I a bad dog owner?”

I tried to stop her from barking, which was frustrating, and other dog owners could tell how stressed out this was making me. My new friends at the dog park would tell me to let it go, she’s just barking, who cares? But I did. I didn’t like people judging me — or my dog, for that matter — by her fairly innocuous behavior at the park. She wasn’t biting any dogs, she didn’t play aggressively. In fact, she was just barking — to get other dogs to play. I knew she wasn’t a bad dog, but I kept feeling other people thought she was, and it was really getting to me.

Once, a man walked into the other park, the one for larger dogs, and Sunny started barking at his pooch, a very relaxed English bulldog. I was embarrassed. I ran over and tried to grab Sunny — she’s quick, I gotta say — and apologized over and over again to the man. He just smiled and waved his hand. “It’s what dogs do,” he said. “They bark. It’s a dog park. Let ‘em bark.”

That made me feel instantly better, to have someone — a stranger — tell me what I’ve been thinking all along: What’s the harm?

IMG_8607It’s taken years to get over that feeling that I’m not a good dog owner. I know that I am. I take them walking every day. We hike at least twice a week. We go to the beach, they get bathed weekly, I feed them healthier food than I eat myself.

Still, the looks and remarks can hurt.

As we were walking down the trail, we met up with a large pit bull mix and his owner. Two of my dogs barked at him — I warned the owner ahead of time — and her eyes just widened as we approached. She shook her head and mumbled something under her breath. When another couple approached us — my dogs were well done barking by then — she remarked to them that she was so happy she had a good dog. I wanted to both cry and throw my shoe at her head.

My dogs are happy, they sleep well, they play together, they’re healthy, they get a lot of exercise.

But yes, they bark.

They’re dogs.

Get over it.

At least, that’s what I have to tell myself.

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Don’t judge me by my dogs


Before I had Indy and when I was living on Mariner’s Ridge, I would take Sunny to the Hawaii Kai dog park just about every afternoon.

This was my daily ritual, a way to socialize her while getting her outdoors and running around.

But my dog picked up a bad habit: she started to bark. And not just random squawking, either. She barked and yelped at certain dogs on the other side of the fence in an attempt to get these larger dogs to run with her. And most of them did. But the barking didn’t go unnoticed by some dog owners who, well, didn’t approve of her very normal dog behavior.

I overheard one dog owner complain to another: “Oh, there goes that dog again. Always barking.”

My dog park friends and I would talk about this all the time: do people judge us by our dog’s behavior? And do we look at badly behaving pooches and think, “Hmm. Bad dog. Bad owner”?

I had read on Cesar Millan’s blog, Cesar’s Way, that yes, the way your dog behaves is a reflection of what type of person other people view you as.

“Studies show that when a stranger comes across your pup, he or she will recognize certain behaviors in your dog, which they will link up to you. Many times, the assumptions people make about you based on your dog’s behavior are unconscious biases that we should all be aware of.”

That’s scary to me.

I have two dogs, both of whom had very different personalities. (Does this mean I’m schizophrenic…?) Sunny isn’t as energetic and hyper as Indy. And she’s friendlier to other dogs, as long as they’re not twice her size. Indy is more protective and jealous. He’s selfish and hates sharing. Sunny likes to be left alone. Indy is a snuggler and loves attention. And he loves to play. He can play all day, while Sunny prefers to find a quiet spot in the house and nap.

So what does this say about me?

I’m sure parents have the same fears about their kids, that people are judging them based on the way their kids behave. But that’s a DNA issue. I don’t share genes with my dogs. I really shouldn’t be compared to them.

So what do you think? Do you judge dog owners by way their dogs act? And dog owners, do you worry people are judging you? Because they are!

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Love me, love my dogs

When I was single, I had a rule: if you dated me, you dated my dog.

So it was only fair that when I went out on my first date with my fiance, Derek, I brought along Sunny, my then-1-year-old toy fox terrier-Pomeranian mix pooch and roommate.

I mean, if this guy was going to like me, he may as well start by liking my dog.

Apparently, I’m not alone in this.

According to new research, a woman is more satisfied in her relationship when her partner feels the same about her pet as she does. Meaning, if she’s close to her dog, he’d better be, too.

That makes total sense.

It’s like anything in a person’s life. If something is important to you, it should matter to your mate. Pets included.

Derek was a good sport about the date. We went hiking with Sunny and another dog I was sitting. And he took to both dogs right away, earning him enough bonus points that we went out to lunch after and dinner a couple of days later.

Some pet owners would even go as far as saying the way a potential mate takes to their dogs or cats is a deal-breaker. If they get along, he’s in; if not, the dog gets dibs on the bed.

Anyone feel the same way — or is it just me?

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Today’s happy shot

I love it when Sunny and Indy lie in the sunbeam — and actually don’t mind each other.


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Today’s happy shot

Hiking trails — like Mariner’s Ridge in Hawaii Kai — that are great for dogs and humans make me happy!


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