The Pit Bull Problem

Most of you know that I had a miscarriage this past summer. It was long and drawn out, full of very pointless morning sickness. Some minor bleeding at seven weeks led to a doubtful ultrasound which led to two more ultrasounds and some blood work to confirm: miscarriage.


And as part of my grieving process, I cut my hair, bought some new pants, and…wait for it…got a puppy.


The hair looked cute, the pants fit really well, and the puppy…was a mistake.


They told me at the shelter where I adopted him that he was a lab-boxer mix.


“Well, that sounds like a good family dog!” I thought to myself. “High energy, sure, but fun and loving.”


But it turns out he’s a pit bull. Which I should have known. All dogs at shelters are pit bulls. And I know that pit bulls can be great dogs. There are no bad dogs, only bad owners.


Which means we are terrible owners.


I expected to lose a few toys from his chewing. Maybe a pillow or a few pairs of socks. I did not expect to lose an entire couch.


“Mom, Rocket’s in the couch!” Nate called to me one morning.


“You mean he’s on the couch. Well, tell him to get down.”


“No, I mean he’s in the couch!”


“Stupid Catholic schools and their inability to teach prepositions…” I muttered to myself, as I meandered into the sunroom, “When I was a kid, we had to memorize all the prepositions and all the irregular adverbs in a song—HOLY SHIT! He’s in the couch!”


Rocket had crawled behind the sofa and used his nail or teeth to make a vertical slit through the upholstery in the back of the sofa and used the opening to crawl inside.


From there, he was working to climb through the back of the couch to the front, tearing out the insides in the process.


There was couch stuffing and scraps of shredded tan upholstery everywhere.


And to be honest, I didn’t love the couch. We inherited it for free from a relative when we first moved to Kansas City five years ago, and since we had left a lot of our furniture in Baltimore, we were happy to take it.


And I made the mistake of letting Nate and Sam eat on it, sit on it, and touch it. Which means it was already pretty much destroyed. There were yogurt stains and marker stains that I couldn’t get out. Every time my mom would come to visit, she would say, “I think you need to get rid of this couch.”


But it was functional, so we figured we might as well keep it until our kids are older and can be trusted to use furniture properly.


And then Rocket happened.


When he put a pretty sizable hole in one of the three cushions was about the time that Tighe and I officially gave up: This is just his sofa now. As long as it’s keeping him busy, he can have it. When he gets older and less destructive, we’ll replace it.


Soon he started in on the sides of the couch, pulling at the upholstery until staples were flying in the air and the wood frame was exposed.


All three cushions are now gone, their foam filling has been shredded, mutilated until it looked like an ugly snowfall in the sunroom. Before we have guests, we clean it up, loading up the stuffing into trash bags, which we’ve taken down to the basement for temporary storage.


He’s clawed through the fabric where the cushions used to rest and is removing the springs. It’s actually kind of impressive.

No, seriously—this couch is in our house.

No, seriously—this couch is in our house.


Our cleaning lady finally said something when she was here last. “Erin, I can get you a used sofa from one of my other clients who just bought something new and is looking to get rid of the old one.”


“Erin, you know you’re in rough shape when your cleaning lady is offering you assistance,” another friend said to me later.


But she’s just offering me a sofa, not food stamps or beauty tips or anything. Okay, she has offered me beauty tips before, but that’s only because her husband cheated on her with her next-door neighbor, and she wants to make sure that doesn’t happen to me. Our next-door neighbors are two middle-aged gay men, so I think I’m safe.


Anyway, back to the pit bull. Long walks only seem to energize Rocket and the kids’ energy makes him more hyper. We’ve met and continue to meet with a dog trainer. Her best suggestion was food puzzles.


And since he’s hungry ALL THE TIME, those work. Basically, we make mealtime a challenge. Instead of just pouring some food into a bowl, we hide it. Or disguise it. Or put up some sort of obstacle that he has to overcome in order to enjoy his meal. When the weather was nicer, I took a scoop of food and tossed it into the backyard, and he would spend over an hour making sure he had found every last morsel. Anything to soak up a little more of his time and energy.


Since warm weather is right around the corner—please, dear God in Heaven, tell me that warm weather is right around the corner—I have grand plans to spend many hours outside, honing his discipline to within that of Mark Wahlberg in an ice cream shop. He will sit on command, come on command (that’s what she said), heel on command, and not aggressively attack small children on command.


But if there’s one thing that eight years of teaching math and seven years of parenting have taught me, it’s that it’s impossible to teach anyone anything. But I can dream.

See? It’s still kind of functional.

See? It’s still kind of functional.