Something's wrong with the emergency back up dog

After Baxter's passing, I became acutely aware of a growing problem in my house: an inordinate amount of food had begun accumulating beneath my daughter's booster chair. I never realized that Baxter had been managing the mess for all of these years, but the lack of a canine vacuum cleaner made clear the vacancy he had left.

Enter Fern.

Fern is our 10 year old chocolate Labrador who lived indoors along side Baxter until 5 years ago when her incessant counter surfing got her banished to the outside kennel. It's not that we don't have patience for some food-driven behavior, its just that I had a colicky newborn baby, was suffering from postpardum depression and was struggling with breast feeding at the time that Fern was at her worst. Needless to say, my patience for having to re-sterilize things the dog had drug off the counter was at an all time low.

In her incarceration, Fern had become fat, smelly, and her nervous twitch of compulsively licking people grew to an irritating new level. But now, with my kids both past the point of requiring their food implements sterilized, and the recent loss of our indoor canine companion, it seemed an appropriate time to let Fern back into the house.

I spent a whole day brushing the 14 pounds of extra winter coat and dandruff off of her, and followed it up with a bath. Next, I went to the feed store and bought her some "light" dog food to help take off some of the weight she'd gained in her kennel years. Finally, I sewed her a brand new, fluffy, fleecy dog bed and placed it at the foot of our bed.

The first night was lovely. I think the dog believed her presence in the house was due to some oversight on our part, which, once discovered would result in her being thrown back in the kennel. She was very, very quiet, minded every command, and went to great lengths to blend in and be inconspicuous. When I introduced her to her new dog bed at bedtime, she hastily flopped down and didn't move a muscle until the Hubby's alarm rang the next morning.

The next morning the kids and I took her on a walk to the park. Her rotund, waddling, brown body was huffing and puffing after 5 minutes of aerobic exercise, but I felt satisfied that we were on track with our new house dog.

That evening before bed, I noticed Fern needing to make a few extra potty breaks. Then, starting at 2 AM and then each hour after throughout the night, Fern waddled over to my side of the bed, nosed my arm and whined for me to let her out. Finally, at 6 in the morning, I was exhausted. When she came in to ask to be let out, I rolled over and saw that the alarm would ring in 15 minutes, so I ignored her request..."she can wait 15 minutes," I thought to myself.

She couldn't.

6:15 AM, the hubby shuffled into the kitchen where a very antsy Fern was waiting, tail between her legs and ears back. There on the mudroom floor was an epic puddle of diarrhea. Further investigation throughout the house revealed several more pools, along with some vomit. Oh, the aroma of early morning sick...not much to compare it with...

Hearing the cussing, I got up, cleaned the spots throughout the house, and rallied the troops for another day at the park. Fern joined us and everything seemed fine...until that night. The same routine: 5 trips outside and her discomfort was clear. The next morning, we loaded her in the car and did some garage sale shopping. About 1 hour in, the faucet in Fern's rear end let loose, all over my back seat. Back to the kennel she went...at least for the rest of the day.

The Hubby wanted to let Fern in at night, and I relented, but told him that he was on dog duty that night. As with the last several days, Fern whined, I woke up, only this time, I rolled over and woke the Hubby up to let her out. I'm not sure how that saved me any more sleep than just getting up and handling it myself, but at least I didn't need to stand at the door whisper-yelling at her to come in at ungodly hours of the night and morning.

So here we are, day 6, and the dog's bowels have still not acclimated to the indoor lifestyle. It's clear that the new food needs to go, but it's hard to believe that we're having to force feed the most food-obsessed dog in the universe rice to get her basic nutrition.

Maybe we should have just gotten a new puppy.

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