Over my winter break, I adopted a two-year-old boxer/hound mix, formerly abused, and very timid. Her name is Tessa, and she’s my best friend/only child. However, there are two things keeping us from having that perfect fairytale family. One: my dog is neurotic, and two: I’m a horrible dog-mommy.

My dog came from an overcrowded kill shelter. She was surrounded by dog crap and barking and obnoxious people poking her. When I first saw her, she was curled up in a dejected little heap in her cage. Petting her made her flinch, and she was healing from an embedded collar. But she seemed sweet, and I adopted her. All of you getting ready to go "Awwwww!" shut up. The first thing she did when she got home was take a dump on my carpet. Okay, that was understandable as she’d never been in a house before.

Boxers have floppy jowls. I spend an hour each week cleaning oral slime off of various surfaces of my apartment. Then the A/C came on. As the air began softly, barely audibly flowing into the room, my newly adopted dog spazzed. We’re talking paws scrabbling at the floor, panic in her eyes, and frantic barking. I gave her a hug, and she chilled out enough to just quiver and stare at me with her "what the FUCK IS THAT, Mom?????" expression, a face she would later use upon encountering cars, squirrels, falling leaves, most inanimate objects, and me stumbling around pre-coffee in the morning.

I stayed with my sad neurotic dog for the rest of the evening, which gave me the opportunity to learn that she was prone to flatulence. But of course, being the weird little mess she is, farting terrified her. She jumped about a foot in the air, sniffed at her butt warily, and crept away from the spot she’d been sitting in, as though it was somehow to blame for the foul odor filling my room. When it came time for bed, I learned that she snored. And not in an adorable doggie way, either. In a loud, window-rattling, oh-god-get-the-kids-in-the-minivan-because-the-world-is-ending kind of way. I sighed, reminded myself that if I returned her to the shelter she’d probably be put down, and attempted to sleep through the cacophony.

I hadn’t been leaving her alone much, since she wasn’t housebroken, but once she was somewhat crate-trained, I decided to take a couple of hours to leave my room, pay attention to the other dogs, and resume my cooking duties. I’d been downstairs for about 45 minutes when it began. It started out as a couple of little whimpers drifting down the stairs, but quickly grew into a fit of yapping and frantic scratching. Thinking something was wrong, I ran upstairs and let her out of her crate, checking her over to make sure she was okay. She seemed fine, so I put her back in and left again, assuming the air conditioning had scared her yet again. Two minutes later, it began again. I went back up, saw that she was fine, and returned to the kitchen. After repeating this about six more times, I realized that she probably had separation anxiety. Now I’m pretty sure she does this while I’m in class, which must really thrill my neighbors.

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For a couple of days, things seemed okay. She learned how to play with toys, got along well with my parents’ dogs, and seemed like she might, someday, be a normal, adequately adjusted canine. I was wrong. After I’d had her a week, my winter break ended and I had to go back to my shitty college apartment. Once she’d settled in and crapped on that carpet a few times, she started coming out of her shell in all her drooling glory. For those of you who aren’t aware, boxers have floppy jowls. Which means that because she was drinking a ton of water to replace all the pee she’d leaked (intentionally?) into my carpet, she started drooling near-constantly. We’re not talking a little cute puppy-like bit of drool. We’re talking long, disgusting strings of drool that wrap around her face when she shakes her head. We’re talking it grosses her out so much she comes and wipes it on my futon, or my leg, or anything handy. It’s like oral slime, and I spend an hour each week cleaning it off of various surfaces of my apartment.

Molly cuddling with her boxer Tessa
Attention owner: Tessa has the floor.
As she came out of her shell more, she began trusting me enough to roll over for belly rubs. She likes belly rubs. A lot. To the point where the entire time she’s receiving one, she makes grunting, pig-like orgasmic noises that I’m sure make my neighbors wonder what the hell goes on in my apartment. If I stop for any reason, whether it’s for the phone ringing, or the fact that it’s been over half an hour, she nips at me and goes into an "oh-no-she-doesn’t-love-me-anymore" whimpering meltdown until I resume said belly rub.

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She’s finally housebroken, thanks to her learning to ring a bell hanging on my door when she needs to go out. We have a system worked out: one light nudge to the bell means I have about half an hour before she’s going to have a bathroom emergency, and a frantic ringing means potential potty emergency. The problem is, she’s learned that ringing the bell means I will have to give her attention if I’m busy. So lately, after she’s just been out, and I’ve resuming studying (read: ignoring her and wasting time on Facebook), she’ll frantically pounce at the bell like she’s going to dump the mother of all shits on my carpet if I don’t take her outside right then. The first few times, I fell for it. Once we got outside, she pranced around excitedly, demanded cuddles, and frolicked around, ignoring my pleas for her to hurry up and pee. Now I have to guess when she really needs to go out, and when she’s just being an attention whore.

Another problem is that my dog has an unfortunate habit of sitting directly behind me. This results in her getting stepped on a lot. She doesn’t understand that it’s not intentional, and because her old owners abused her, she seems to interpret it as more abuse. She can’t fathom that sitting right behind me might present a problem, so this happens about four times a day, and each time I have to spend half an hour reassuring her that it was unintentional. Dog treats speed up the process. Come to think of it, she’s probably playing me here, too. Bitch.

Despite all her faults, I love my effed up little mutt. Being pounced on every morning when my alarm goes off, curling up for cuddle sessions, and running on the beach with her are some of the best parts of each day. Her insanity matches my natural woman-insanity and I’m glad she’s part of my life. But the next dog I adopt had better be more mentally stable.

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