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Ammi Midstokke: The brown dog reaches adolescence

Ammi Midstokke’s dog obviously has a high ceiling when it comes to learning. (Ammi Midstokke / Courtesy)
Ammi Midstokke’s dog obviously has a high ceiling when it comes to learning. (Ammi Midstokke / Courtesy)

The only thing more obnoxious than a parent who thinks their kids are infallible is a dog owner blind to the grievances of their dog. Thank goodness both my child and my dog are near perfect.

This has, of course, made me the rather arrogant owner of my first dog, assuming that her impeccable behavior, desire to follow rules, and general charm are a mere reflection of my own Type-A personality and a dedicated training regime during which I mostly bribed her with the doggy equivalent of caviar.

Aside from her initial weeks of adapting to the surroundings of our home – and a somewhat concerning appetite for my underwear and pants, which were systematically chewed into a sort of wardrobe of cotton chaps – she has been the perfect dog.

No really. I know dog parents see their dogs as extensions of their own best qualities, but Freya the Brown Cow Dog is gifted. Maybe it’s because she eats the vegetables out of my garden whenever she gets the opportunity.

As we walk down the street together, Brown Dog in all her joyful satisfaction of merely being by my side, people stop us to ask what kind of dog she is – such a fine, elegant breed no doubt.

“She’s a brown dog,” I say, because when you get a dog from the shelter they list about fourteen exotic breeds she may resemble but would be highly unlikely found as the offspring of a North Idaho stray. Aside from Lady and the Tramp, I assume pedigree dogs avoid riffraff and puppies out of wedlock.

Thus far, she’s amazed me on a daily basis. Trained as a therapy and PTSD dog, she is empathetic, outright concerned should someone be upset, and protective only when MLM salespeople and climate change deniers approach me. Like I said, perfect.

So as you can imagine, I was rather alarmed when sipping water with a friend, she paused, looked out the window and said very calmly:

“I think your dog is on my roof.”

This wouldn’t have been particularly alarming except that, even as a new dog owner, I knew that dogs probably don’t belong on roofs. Also, it was the second floor. Also, there was no door to the roof. Also, she was running around in circles looking for a place in which she might Super Dog leap her way off – no doubt with a tragic doggy ending involving me sobbing at both her suffering and the vet bills.

Amazingly, this was not the worst thing she did that day.

Earlier we had been visiting a doctor colleague in their home and Freya, skipping introductions, trotted straight into their swanky living room and peed on their carpet as if we weren’t staring at her, jaws agape. Actually I was flailing my arms about like a mad woman trying to figure out how to extricate a urinating dog.

Then, like any concerned and mortified parent, I found myself trying to diagnose and justify her odd behavior. She must have a bladder infection. Is she marking territory? I don’t understand the whole dynamic of dogs having a seemingly endless supply of urine to drizzle on all random things from flowers to fire hydrants to, apparently, carpets.

Thus, seeing her on the roof later that same day was just confirmation that she is testing limits, pushing boundaries, and driving me to my wit’s end. This wasn’t marking. Was it… defiance?

She surely did not seem the least bit concerned – neither when I retrieved the screen she had torn from the frame nor when I dodged the steaming pile of a well-fed dog on their carpet floor. For the record, she’s never done any of those things at my house, where she earned her recently revoked perfect dog status.

As if nothing had happened, she eagerly hopped back through the window with that gleeful wagging tail and enthusiastic tongue lapping at my face, oblivious to the carnage of my perfect-dog owner pride or how difficult it is to clean carpets.

To ensure that we establish discipline and mutual understanding of proper guest behavior, I thoroughly lectured her the entire way home. She blinked at me from the back seat, wagged her tail a time or two, then passed out, reminding me that I take just about everything far too seriously.