the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Even more important than a pop tart

A few days ago our occasional babysitter brought over her sister’s miniature pinscher, Bronx, and without thinking I let them into the living room before running it by our resident Gremlin of the Underworld. When Chuck saw Bronx he performed the ritual sniffing of the sacred regions and then determined that Bronx was a chocolate treat clad in argyle wrapping.

Three times I had to prevent Chuck from eating Bronx before I realized that by letting Bronx into the house I had triggered Chuck’s instinctual need to protect his territory. So I ordered everyone outside where the two dogs could meet on neutral ground, and once we were up the street on an indiscriminate stretch of sidewalk Chuck got Bronx halfway into his mouth before the argyle sweater got caught on his front teeth.

Chuck hasn’t ever been a vocal dog, reserving his few barks for the taxidermist who lives next door and sometimes for a snowman across the street who he thinks is a strange man spying on the house. A few weeks ago the taxidermist’s wife rolled out a stuffed ox? or a mountain goat? maybe a yak? into their front yard and parked it like a statue next to their porch. Thing liked to have scared the shit out of me, it looked so alive and capable of forming complex sentence structures. The evil part of me took over when I walked Chuck right up to it and just as his hackles went up I roared like a lion being violated by a taxidermist’s arm. Our dog jumped three feet into the air without a running start, and now he won’t pass that house without being carried.

I understand why he’s angry at the resurrected livestock, but I couldn’t figure out why after almost an hour of interaction he wanted to tear Bronx’s limbs from his tiny chocolate body. At first I thought it might be the two gigantic balls hanging intact between Bronx’s legs, or the way Bronx would rub those intact balls in a rhythmic motion against Chuck’s face. And then I thought it was the way Bronx flitted about the living room in a distinctly cat-like fashion, often gliding across the two-inch beam on the back of the couch like a gymnast or a flamboyantly gay ice skater.

It wasn’t until Leta came running into the living room that it all made sense, and it was then that we witnessed the embodiment of what we had hoped the relationship between the dog and the baby would one day become. Chuck immediately threw his body in front of Leta, and the more she tried to work her way around him, the more forcefully he used his body to shield her from the Chocolate Cat.

Bronx tried to contort his body in unimaginable ways to get at Leta — kids are always covered in dried food and must seem like giant walking lollipops to dogs — but Chuck growled and bared his teeth as a warning that he would sacrifice his own body before he would let his sister be defiled. We’ve never seen him be so protective of something, not even a rawhide bone or a slice of beef jerky. Leta should feel lucky because I can’t think of a better compliment from a living creature.

  • Trish D

    2006/03/02 at 11:16 am

    Thanks Heather for this incredible site! It brings a lot of joy to my work day. I have to forbid myself from reading at work because I can’t control the laughter, and also because I should be working instead of reading blogs. It’s just too tempting…

  • brandy

    2006/03/02 at 11:15 am

    My mom had a Newfoundland dog when she was growing and everytime her and her brothers and sisters would go swimming in the ocean you could not splash around because the dog would jump in and rescue you.
    My dog protects me from snowmen a lot and the occasional teenagers making out on the playground equipment at the park. Teenagers making out are her biggest enemies.
    I pity the fool that comes between Chuck and Leta with ill intentions.

  • paisleysea

    2006/03/02 at 11:07 am

    Are you sure that Chuck wasn’t just laying claim to the “walking lollipop” that would soon grow into an even bigger, tastier morsel? I’m just saying.

  • womanrat

    2006/03/02 at 11:09 am

    Heather, I just have to say this because its totally distracting me from the fabulous liondog and his cub story… how come you haven’t changed your header/ masthead thing yet? I’ve been waiting to see what March looks like!

  • DDM

    2006/03/02 at 11:11 am

    Our dog had a one day turn-around like that as well, with our son. We almost took her to the pound a couple of Christmases ago, because while laying on the floor at my husbands’ feet, she growled when our son tried to climb up in his lap. She spent a LONG time outside in the snow at this cabin for that offense. The following Spring, we went for a walk with her, and the boy in his jogging stroller. A nice neighbor came outside to talk to us, and Kaya put all 130 pounds of herself between the neighbor and our son. Which meant she had to stand over him, straddling the front tire of the jogging stroller. When the neighbor tried to reach out and touch our son, she licked her hand so fast, it looked like an epileptic episode. She still only listens to my husband, and pretends to ignore the boy and I. But when put in close contact with other people, she shows that she really does love us and wants to protect us. Sometimes in the form of barking all night at leaves falling from trees……

  • Be Still

    2006/03/02 at 10:54 am

    OK, the question that I have is where’s the picture of the stuffed ox/mountain goat/yak parked on the neighbor’s suburban lawn?

  • Madonnalisa Chan

    2006/03/02 at 11:00 am

    I’ve often wondered about getting a dog before we have kids just for that reason. I heard that while you are pregnant even the dog “knows” to watch over you as well. The only problem is allergies!

  • Doll

    2006/03/02 at 11:05 am

    I’m curious what Leta’s reaction was to the ferociously protective Chuck. Can either you or John draw? Because “Chuck and Leta” would make a wonderful comic strip.

  • Keita Rae

    2006/03/02 at 10:54 am

    After 100 posts, it takes a newbie to out Chuck on his selfish motives. Small girl sees stuffed-animal sized dog, complete with Build-a-Bear sweater. Sized for hugging. Chuck was protecting his place as the only-furry-thing-to-be hugged in the house. That is, unless Jon has a hair problem.

    I’m a huge fan of Inspired me to have my own blog. Thanks for the wonderful time you give me everyday, Heather!

  • christine.

    2006/03/02 at 10:54 am

    Chuck is completely chivalrous toward his little girl. Cute. My dog, on the other hand, likes to pee on all trees. Different strokes for different dogfolks I guess.

  • zhanae

    2006/03/02 at 10:47 am

    Does Leta still call chuck elmo-puppy?

    Comments are awesome.

  • bluestar

    2006/03/02 at 10:46 am

    Ooh, I’m jealous. Our dog Coco (a chow-chow which yeah, agressive, I know) is SO great with older kids and people. He’s HORRIFYING with other dogs, no matter what the situation. Just awful, will fight and fight to no end. Our friends have a little girl about Leta’s age (a little younger) and for some reason Coco can’t deal. He just wants to be as far from her as possible whenever they’re over. Of course she wants to be as close to him as possible, so that doesn’t work out.

    I wonder what coco will be like once we have our own kid, I worry about it a little bit, though I think in general he’ll just completely ignore the kid. Who knows. Thanks for keeping comments open!

  • minda25

    2006/03/02 at 10:46 am

    I love Chuck. The spaghetti noodles, the sulking in the basement, the odd relationship he has with Leta… you’re lucky to have such a wonderful dog, and he’s lucky to have such a loving family.

  • Carley

    2006/03/02 at 10:39 am

    I didn’t think it was possible to have a dog cuter than Chuck, but this tiny Chocolate Cat is giving him a run for his money!

  • Michelle

    2006/03/02 at 10:31 am

    I know you are so proud of Chuck. When your pet becomes even more human than you thought he was is just a Great moment.

  • thatedeguy

    2006/03/02 at 10:36 am

    I would be slightly worried that when Leta becomes older and has friends over that chuck doesn’t try and defend her from her friend.
    We have a dog that has shown signs of aggression towards children and are seriously contemplating having him put to sleep when our baby arrives in June.
    Chuck does seem to be a much better behaved animal though.

    P.S. I love that you’ve allowed comments again.

  • reluctant housewife

    2006/03/02 at 10:23 am

    Today’s Daily Picture is great. It reminds me of a Madonna and Child. Great job, Jon!

  • Kristine

    2006/03/02 at 10:23 am


    Now I get to go check out 88 new websites. I love it when the comments are open. It’s like the red carpet of blogs and I love finding new ones to add to my list.
    Not that I can read all the ones I already have, but here’s to trying!

    and I wish you watched American Idol…it would be hysterical to hear what you have to say about the singers.

  • dr.amanda.

    2006/03/02 at 10:22 am

    i don’t know which i love more. the humor you find everyday in life or the amazing pictures you take. today’s is so serene and beautiful. love it.

  • bridgermama

    2006/03/02 at 10:22 am

    Who knew an argyle sweater could be so useful? I love the fact that Chuck is so protective! I can only hope that our mutt will turn out the same. Right now she has just gotten to the point where she actually acknowledges the fact that we did,indeed, bring a baby home (6 months ago!). I sense we may have a future little-dude-protector.

  • Kazzer

    2006/03/02 at 10:18 am

    I got so excited about the prospect of leaving a message that by the time I had registered and then signed back in….I forgot what I was going to say.

    Oh well, at least I am ready for next time.

    Your site is a daily recommendation…..a bit like vitamins!

  • Karin

    2006/03/02 at 10:18 am

    Your post made me tear up. Our puppy was 3 months old and our daughter about 14 months old and we were taking some photos with the Valentine Lion from Hallmark that makes a purring or roaring or whatever the heck it’s supposed to be sound. This puppy who had barely lived in our house a month put herself between our daughter and that lion and growled and barked and was totally ready to rip ti to shreds and I’ll tell you what, it made my heart swell. Those two love each other and I know the puppy will protect her!

  • Jenie

    2006/03/02 at 10:08 am

    Awww. I heart Chuck.

    I also heart Dooce for having comments again. Sorry though that I’ll be stuck here at work hitting refresh again and again just like old times. ;o)

  • Toyfoto

    2006/03/02 at 10:11 am

    I would KILL to live next to a taxidermist. Not really.

  • Tiggerlane

    2006/03/02 at 10:12 am

    OMG…my employees think I’ve gone mad(der)…as I sit at my computer, laughing hysterically, tears streaming down my face. The description of your evil torment of Chuck with the taxidermist’s latest trophy was CLASSIC!

    And my dog barks at local snowmen. Fierce.

    I’m so proud of Chuck for finally showing his true love for Leta! All that aloof basement-dwelling is just a cover.

  • Max Roeleveld

    2006/03/02 at 10:06 am

    Oh yes, dogs are like that. Ours decided that the doctor that came to examine our son Michael was _not_ to be allowed anywhere near him. Michael was 4 days old then…

    By the way, I think Bronx is the kickest assest name for a dog like that.

  • Kath :-)

    2006/03/02 at 10:08 am

    Yay Chuckles!

    Worth your weight in pop tarts! Or pasta.

  • LeafGirl77

    2006/03/02 at 10:05 am

    I love the visual of Chuck freaking out at the ‘spying snowman’ across the street.

    Go Chuck Go! Protect your family!

  • Jacey

    2006/03/02 at 10:06 am

    My golden retriever is the biggest traitor amongst traitors. I could be raped/tarred n feathered/burned at the stake and she’d happily run away with the guilty party. She uses me for comic relief and doggie treats. Chuck is a powerful good dog for Leta.

  • Beachgal

    2006/03/02 at 10:01 am

    Wow. Lucky Leta. And at least it’s good you figured out what was bothering Chuck. We kind of have the opposite problem with our dogs, I think they plot the demise of our son. At least the one does. My son just wants to play with him, yet she just gets all pissy if he comes by sometimes. She’s about to get shipped out the door, cause we’re afraid she’s gonna bite him. Anyway. Lucky Chuck to have Leta to protect and lucky Leta to have such a great protector!

  • Samantha

    2006/03/02 at 10:03 am

    Oh my God. The visuals! “I roared like a lion being violated by a taxidermist’s arm.” Hilarious! Thanks for the Chuckle (pun intended).

  • delaney

    2006/03/02 at 10:03 am

    My grandparents used to have dogs that would protect us that way – it was always so unexpected. You’re right though, it also always seems like a really big compliment!

  • stephanie

    2006/03/02 at 10:04 am

    …then determined that Bronx was a chocolate treat clad in argyle wrapping.

    hilarious, made my day. i have a 7 month old black pug named moxie, and i’ve never seen a dog so unnecessarily TERRIFIED of umbrellas. we love chuck, and we’re glad he loves leta. after all, someone has to protect the cutest of all treats.

  • jsides23

    2006/03/02 at 10:04 am

    Please never put Chuck in a sweater like that! He is way too dignified to be humiliated in such degrading fashion. Thanks for the funny story! I am glad I am not the only one who has a dog that does strange things. Yesterday I found myself cleaning off the porch where our dog had covertly figured out a way to get into the diaper pail we had put outside to air out. He had then proceeded to tear into the filthy diapers and eat the contents. I know…foul, foul animal. We really should have just gotten a goldfish.

  • Amy Mingo

    2006/03/02 at 9:58 am

    Chuck is impressive with his protective instincts. Do you think he would have been just as protective had it just been you in the house?

  • erin

    2006/03/02 at 9:59 am

    Your writing, as always, conveys the image *perfectly*.

  • Jenny

    2006/03/02 at 9:50 am

    Haha, bless Chuck. I can just imagine it all now. 😛

  • Flatman

    2006/03/02 at 9:51 am

    johnny weir?

  • the other amy

    2006/03/02 at 9:52 am

    Too, too funny. “…a flamboyantly gay ice skater.” actually, Bronx does strikingly resemble that Jonny Weir American Olympic ice skater guy. Coincidence? Probably, but funny nonetheless.
    Heather, thank you for making me laugh each and every day.

  • RzDrms

    2006/03/02 at 9:53 am

    i totally read the line “Thing liked to have scared the shit out of me” with your cute southern accent…made me laugh out loud. 🙂

  • MissKitty

    2006/03/02 at 9:54 am

    Chuck is adorable! We used to have the Chuckacabra desktop on our home Mac for the longest time.. Our terrier, Chunk, alternately loves and hates our daughter, G. He won’t lower himself to play with her or allow her to pet him, but he will threaten to gnaw the extremities off any strangers that get within arm’s reach of her. Not quite as cute as Chuck’s protective instincts.

  • jenlovely

    2006/03/02 at 9:49 am

    when i was growing up we had an old english sheepdog that came before i did, so everyone told my parents to get rid of him before i was born. since he was a large dog they were all worried that out of jealousy he would attack me. that dog was my bestfriend growing up. i would dress him up, run into him with my walker, hit him, smack him, steal his food, basic small child torture to a pet, and he loved me with everything in him. my mom and aunt would go to scold me and smack my hand for things i’d do to him, and he’d show his teeth at them and chase them out of the house. my dad was a cop, his cop friends would show up at the house, and go to pick me up. since the dog didn’t know them well, he bit them. 3 to be precise. i miss him at times.

    emma, my daughter, has 3 cats to chase around the house. sometimes i feel guilty that she doesn’t have a dog to protect her the way i did. i think that’s going to be her 5th birthday present. a puppy of her own.

    i’m glad leta has the kind of friendship that all children should experience. it makes you a better person in the end.

  • moobug

    2006/03/02 at 9:46 am

    Looks like Leta’s got herself a body guard.

  • mm

    2006/03/02 at 9:49 am

    You always make me laugh out loud! You make me miss having a dog…

    I love your site and read it everyday.

    I love having comments on 🙂

  • mm

    2006/03/02 at 9:48 am

    You always make me laugh out loud! You make me miss having a dog…

    I love your site and read it everyday.

  • Michelle_B

    2006/03/02 at 9:43 am

    Oh, snap! Comments are open! This post had me laughing out loud. Your posts often have that effect.

  • ladymadaysia

    2006/03/02 at 9:44 am

    Oh my goodness, that is ultra sweet of Chuck.

    Leta must be one lucky girl that Chuck loves her so much.

  • moobug

    2006/03/02 at 9:45 am

    How precious. Looks like Leta’s got herself a body guard.

  • MommyofOne

    2006/03/02 at 9:38 am

    Thank you for the wonderful way you tell stories about your life. Love you, love your website.

  • Rebecca Jacob

    2006/03/02 at 9:38 am

    I love, love, love your site. It makes me laugh everyday!

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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