Photo Kim Perry

Warning: Puns ahead.

I spent the first half hour of my day cleaning up poop. I’ll let you use your imagination (and experience) to create a picture that is a result of a sick dog not waking you up during the night. I then fed two of the three dogs and put in another half hour scrubbing the large trapper mat that was in front of the door.

It wasn’t a super-fun way to kick of the day, but I’ve done it before and will do it again – and so will you. When we love our dogs and what we do, we take on the crappy moments (or hours) as well as the joyful ones.

We sign up to the whole agreement – dogs who live too short, destroy items in our home, barf-up godknowswhat, get hair on everything, and eat stuff they shouldn’t. The list goes on and on and we have the receipts to prove we lived through it.

One of my many go-to quotes is from the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, from her book, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.” I’ve often quoted the punchline, but here’s the full passage:

“What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?” What Manson means is that every single pursuit—no matter how wonderful and exciting and glamorous it may initially seem—comes with its own brand of shit sandwich, its own lousy side effects. As Manson writes with profound wisdom: “Everything sucks, some of the time.” You just have to decide what sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with. So the question is not so much “What are you passionate about?” The question is “What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?” Manson explains it this way: “If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands, of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the eighty-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.” Because if you love and want something enough—whatever it is—then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

The first time I read that I thought of the different pursuits in my life and in fact, there is a correlation between the amount of my dedication and the amount of shit I was willing to put up with. I loved the horses enough to deal with the obvious messiness. I loved some jobs enough. And I certainly love my dog life enough.

A Long Drive Makes for a Good Story

One of my favorite poop stories, if I’m allowed, begins in Iowa. I had driven from Virginia to judge a two-day draft test (who doesn’t drive two days out and back for a two-day show?!). My two dogs and I stayed with my vet-friend in their home and the dogs enjoyed the property in the evenings.

On the way back, I stopped in St. Louis the first night, staying with a college girlfriend. Moxie started throwing up within minutes of our arrival. My friend was understanding but it was a long night. She threw up every couple hours until we drove eastward in the morning.

When she stopped barfing, she switched to “the runs,” as my mom would say. “Throwing and going” is another of my mom’s expressions that would have worked for this trip. The first time she exploded it was the smell that got me to stop the van having not heard so much as a whimper.

I pulled over on the side of I-70, cars whizzing by, to assess the situation. I opened the van doors to find Indie standing in the adjacent crate, telepathically yelling at me to, “GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!” as Mox’s explosion had gone through to Indie’s crate and onto her.

I then did something I wouldn’t recommend: I put Indie on a flexi and let her out of the van on the side of a crazily-busy Interstate. She jumped out, went a little ways into the grass and rolled. And rolled. And rolled. And rolled. I was praying that she wasn’t rolling in trash, broken glass, and needles but she was on a mission.

I ride with a few trash bags and some cleaning supplies but this exceeded normal preparation methods. I pulled the bedding and did enough to get us to the next truck stop where I bought a volume of cleaning supplies that would surely put me on a murder watch list.

“You know the regular white paper towels are cheaper?,” The clerk offered. “These blue ones are usually for oil spills.”

“I need the blue ones.” I replied.

It was a sunny day, thankfully, so I took my bags of cleaning supplies back to the van where I filled two adjacent parking spaces sorting clean, dirty, and hopeless. It was a scene for sure.

A trucker walked by the destruction on his way inside. “Hi there,” he said. “Are those Bernese Mountain Dogs? Beautiful.”

“Thank you,” I responded with my hands full of Clorox wipes, trash bags, and other murder clean up items.

I was still cleaning when he walked back to his truck. “You got a husband?” he inquired.

I stared back for a beat then lied, “Yes, I do.”

“He’s a lucky man.”

“Yes, he is,” I answered, incredulous.

Epilogue: It took longer than usual to make it home since we had to stop every two hours to clean or let Moxie potty. My vet-friend was of no help. The van needed to be gutted completely once I got home. Moxie was treated for giardia and we all moved on as if it was another normal week in a life with dogs doing what we love.