Non Sequitur Fridays

The Best Friend Who Pees on Your Floor

This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistian's take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It's like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Ryan Artecona is an engineer at Wistia. This is his first Non Sequitur!

My fiancée, Philomena, and I adopted a dog this summer.

After wanting one for a couple years, we finally found ourselves in an apartment that would allow another pet (we already had two cats). We both had childhood dogfriends who we remembered fondly and missed, and we were eager to build that sort of bond again with a new canine family member. We knew owning a dog would be A Lot of Responsibility, but of course we were ready to take that on because we grew up with dogs which is basically the same, and besides, we were adults now—college was, like, dozens of weeks behind us.

We found a shelter full of dogs who needed lots of love and who were old enough that adoption was no longer as certain as it is for puppies. We picked out Autumn, a sweet and shy but playful lab/pit/hound mix who had her first litter in a puppy mill at far too young an age. We brought home something quite a bit more complicated than the simple bundle of licks and cuddles and playtime we expected.

We've learned a lot.

Misbehavior & Consequences

Autumn likes feet. It's super cute when she licks our bare feet that overhang the bed.

Unfortunately, when our feet are inaccessible or when we're not paying attention to her, she settles for shoes. Eating shoes is one of her more destructive and expensive habits. In the 5 months we've had her, we've had to throw away as many pairs of shoes, and we've caught her just barely in time to save a pair dozens of times.

At first, I would answer each attempted shoe mauling with progressively harder scoldings, but things didn't improve. No combination of pops on the nose, shouts, points, or crate timeouts could disincent the shoe craving. The approach to eventually work best turned out to be making the closet off-limits, and never leaving shoes unattended anywhere else. Remove the temptation.

It makes sense now, but we only reached the solution out of desperation. Then again, I don't know why I expected anything different when treating the addict like a criminal.

These Heels are Made for Chewin'

One night, we went to a welcoming party for first-year graduate students after having not had much time to spend with Autumn previously that day. We felt awful for having to crate her. She must have felt the same, because she whined and gave us her best heartbroken face.

The next day was one of Autumn's first big rebellions. She snuck into the closet and sniffed out the exact heels and dress Philomena had worn the night of the party. Within 10 minutes, she had chewed the shoes past the point of repair and shredded the dress in several places. Before we caught on and stopped her, she even managed to poop on the floor and immediately drag the white dress through the steamy pile, leaving shredded brown streaks between the blue polka dots.

I was amazed. Philomena was furious. We sharply scolded and crated Autumn, but not before she made her point. We were also being held responsible for our actions. And we were under constant surveillance.

Quantum Poop

Autumn was not housetrained before we adopted her. Turns out, she seems to usually prefer indoor relief.

More interestingly, she seems to know this preference runs counter to our own, and sometimes takes advantage of this fact. This was, and continues to be, a constant struggle.

When Autumn is loose in the house, I'm never certain there's not a fresh mess hidden somewhere. In every room I enter and around every corner I turn, there both is and isn't a surprise waiting for me, right up until the moment I force one of the two possibilities with a direct visual check. It's a stressful cohabitation.

A few times, succumbing to paranoid suspicion and prematurely raising my voice at Autumn under the assumption that I would soon discover she deserved it, but before actually confirming so, itself would make her upset and cause a mess to happen when it would not have otherwise. If I too strongly suspect the worst, I risk thereby making it happen. Ouch.

Trainer Training

One thing that's become abundantly clear is that if Autumn frequently does something I wish she didn't, it's probably because she thinks it's permissible, or even expected. When she's awake, she's always watching what we're doing, and she learns very quickly. It's not always the case that I encourage what I intend to, or that I'm consistent enough about it for it to stick.

The early days of housetraining were rough. After a couple weeks and too many rolls of paper towel, no progress was being made. I slowly became convinced that the frequency of indoor accidents was actually increasing. Reverse progress! How?

After each accident I discovered, I would point at her, give a loud "No! Bad!", and promptly take her outside to where the business should have happened. I thought it was a decent strategy. It turns out that if you teach a dog that a leisurely walk outside always follows peeing on the floor, she'll learn a very reliable way of indicating she'd like to go for a walk. I wasn't teaching what I thought I was teaching.

Cuddles and the Rest

We're slowly getting the hang of things. Autumn really is A Lot of Responsibility, but she's the sweetest little creature and she tries very hard to please. Besides, the cuddles, kisses, goofy playtime, and clumsy mishaps make all the rest totally worth it.


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