the smell of my desperation has become a stench

The old man and his pee

During the move as my sister and sister-in-law cleaned floors and dusted baseboards (again, a huge thank you to my family for their support) we all discovered that Chuck had been routinely marking walls and doors. Marking. As in lifting his leg to pee. Inside the house. Are you having buyer’s remorse over that puppy you just adopted? You might want to pay attention to that gut feeling. That gut feeling is otherwise known as Truth.


Before I continue and before you skip the rest of the post to suggest that something is wrong with his health, let me mention a couple of things. Chuck goes on a walk for at least thirty minutes every day. He’s also been to the vet several times in the last year for routine check-ups. They did blood work. They examined stool samples. He’s as healthy as a dog can be. The only diagnosis they could give me is that he’s an asshole. A very healthy asshole.

Okay. So. One, he’s been peeing inside the house when no one is looking. It’s not incontinence. The vet ruled that out. He was walking around the house, most likely when everyone was asleep, and going, “You know what? I’m going to pee on this here wall. Oh. And that one, too. Look. There’s a door. I will give it my pee. Who else wants my pee? I’ve got pee.”

Two. Yes, there is a two. In fact, there is a three but let’s be chronological, please. We must have order.

I almost said chrono-co-logical because it sounds like something Pitbull would just throw into a song, and all of us who are being forced to listen to it are like, why do you think that’s okay? That’s not okay. No one thinks that’s okay. Stop talking, Pitbull.

No, I didn’t get any sleep this weekend. How can you tell?

TWO: during the day when I was working in my office he would go into my bedroom, hop onto my bed and burrow. Over the course of one week he destroyed two sets of sheets, my duvet and its cover, and three pillowcases. He shredded them into multiple pieces. Like some sort of canine Edward Scissorhands. That’s what I’m going to call him from now on: Ed. Eddie. Yo, Edwardo, cut it out.

Add to that pile of ruin every couch and chair in the house. He pretty much scratched holes into every padded seat he could find. I just… Eddie, why can’t you be one of those normal deranged dogs and dig holes in the yard? Why couches? Why chairs? Answer me. Do not look at me like you do not speak English.

Three. We finally made it all the way to three. And three is perhaps the most disturbing bullet point because it disproves that old saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Because three? Three is this: Coco taught Chuck how to eat poop.

No, she didn’t show him how to do my taxes. She didn’t teach him how to load the dishwasher, no. She didn’t even teach him how to fix mama a hot dog. OF ALL THE THINGS SHE COULD HAVE TAUGHT HIM.

The Former Congressman Henry Buck Chucklesworth is a poop eater. This is so much worse than finding out he’s been sending dick pics to his interns.

This move helped me understand the huge scope of the problem, so I went back to some notes I took down when he was trained at four months old. The first thing I did was go out a buy a crate.


I know, you think putting a dog in a crate is barbaric. It’s a cage. It’s confining. It’s worse than writing about holding my daughter’s poop in my hands. Stomp your feet and yell obscenities at me and UNFOLLOW. You, Anti-Crate Person, are entitled to that opinion. I hope you and your perfectly behaved canine live prosperous lives and end up retiring on a tropical beach. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Now shut up for a minute.

The first day the dogs and I were in the new house, I did everything the experts tell you to do when it comes to introducing dogs to a new environment. Despite this, Chuck slipped into the basement where I have set up my office. And he gave his pee to the fireplace in that room. A bucket of pee. Just raised his leg and pissed his name all over that thing. A gift. Of pee.

I had shut the door to my bedroom so that he could not climb onto my bed with its brand new bedding and scratch the hell out of it. But I did not realize that the doorknob to that room was broken and would not stay shut. So after gifting his pee to the fireplace in the basement he went to my room, nudged open the door, climbed onto my bed and scratched the hell out of my brand new bedding. Ed-fucking-wardo.


That night I set up Coco’s crate next to Chuck’s crate in a very open storage room. I ushered them in and then draped a sheet over both cages crates. They have slept there every night since. When I am not at home I put them back in their crates before I leave. Gone are the days when I would leave them to roam the house alone. When I am at home, Chuck is either on a leash by my side or lounging on a dog bed where I can see him.

The marking has totally stopped. The burrowing on furniture has ended. A strange, unexpected peace has developed in Chuck’s demeanor. Where once I would find him staring anxiously at a wall he is now napping tranquilly at my feet. I mentioned last week that these boundaries have brought a much needed sense of order to his life, and I’m sorry I was too busy and disoriented myself to implement them earlier.


As for the poop eating? Nothing deterred Coco and nothing deters Chuck. If you google “how do I get my dog to stop eating poop” there will be pages of suggestions that I have tried. None of them work. The solution: I have to make sure there is no poop to eat, so a daily sweep of the backyard got inserted into my to-do list. It’s the bullet point right after the one that says, “Lean down next to Chuck, nuzzle his head, and assure him that we’ll get through this together.”

  • Stacy

    2013/03/18 at 2:31 pm

    Of course I have no clue of the family dynamics but maybe he misses Jon?

  • krislee98

    2013/03/18 at 2:35 pm

    Crates are awesome. Our pup came to us crate trained and we went through about 12 minutes of the “oh poor puppy, so sad in his crate” and left him alone in the house while we went for a walk. Returning to the door being scratched to smithereens, two eaten pillows and a poop on the carpet all lead to the realization that WE were the ones that didn’t like crates. We were totally anthropomorphizing. Our dog loves his kennel. Can’t wait for us to leave so he can go snuggle all safe. So I’m with you. And suck it to those who think they know better.

  • Mo

    2013/03/18 at 2:35 pm

    I just went through this with my dogs. My schedule got busy and the dogs got pissed off so one decided to crap in the office in the middle of the night and one though it would be fun to do it on the rug in family room. I stopped letting them roam freely over night for a while. They were crated for a while, and then leashed when I was hope so they couldn’t skulk down the hall and do unspeakable things. It took a week tops.

    The poop eating, though? Oh my GOD. If you find a solution you will make millions of dollars. It’s so bad that the dogs practically stick their noses up the other’s butt to grab it before it even hits the ground. I can’t even deal. Especially because they’re all about coming in and wanting to kiss me afterwards. I’m sure it’s really a fuck you, but whatever.

  • Megan

    2013/03/18 at 2:36 pm

    Yeah, moving is hard on the beasts. Mine always senses when something big like that is about to go down and starts acting extra crazy just so we know that he knows. Crates helped him later in life even though he was completely un-crate-able as a pup. Good luck!

  • Kara

    2013/03/18 at 2:36 pm

    I have an adopted dog. When I first got him, I was told he was crate trained, and so I purchased a nice large crate for him to call home. He slept in his crate at night and when I was gone. After a few months I thought “My dog is really very well behaved. Perhaps we can get rid of the crate.” His reaction was to mope around the house for a week. He wouldn’t play with toys. I had to *drag* him outside to go on walks. He barely ate his food. I was convinced he was sick. Alas, he was not. Oh no. He simply missed his crate.

    Let everyone hate on you. A dog’s crate is like his bedroom. Maybe all Chuck needed was a room to call his own.

  • Desertrat89

    2013/03/18 at 2:37 pm

    His life was losing its order (turns out dogs hate that even more than humans)… and a crate gives him a sense of order, territory (which was all that marking) and peace. Bravo!

  • Robin Dearing

    2013/03/18 at 2:37 pm

    You got this! You are doing everything just right. (I bet you don’t hear that much, but you totally are). Good job! Keep up the good work.

  • Claire C

    2013/03/18 at 2:38 pm

    Crates a wonderful training tool, and anyone who says otherwise is thinking like a human, rather than like a dog! If dogs are introduced to the crate as a safe place (not a place of punishment), they usually love curling up in their little “dens.” My puppy loves his crate, and I love that it keeps him out of trouble when I can’t watch him. (I sound like a commercial for Crates ‘R Us, don’t I?)

  • Jessica

    2013/03/18 at 2:38 pm

    My mom said the same thing about her dog once she started crate training him! He stopped peeing in the house and has definitely calmed down.

  • Misty

    2013/03/18 at 2:39 pm

    Crates are wonderful. I’m glad he’s finding his way back to normalcy, minus the occasional poop snack.

  • Sara

    2013/03/18 at 2:39 pm

    I read somewhere that dogs eat poop because wolves regularly eat animal intestine. They’re trying to get that gut flora in their diet. YAY POOP.

  • Megan Humphreys

    2013/03/18 at 2:39 pm

    I live in an apartment building in a city where most building managers are very anti-dog, and those that aren’t have oodles of rules about how the dog must be kept/fed/etc. A crate is the only thing that allows my darling Cavalier King Charles “Sparrowhawk” to exist in my life.

    And he’s never eaten the furniture, to boot.

    Crates are the best.

  • laura

    2013/03/18 at 2:41 pm

    Try feeding him zucchini. That should stop the poop eating. I eat zucchini and all the time and I never eat my poop. Seriously though. It works.

  • Suzy Soro

    2013/03/18 at 2:43 pm

    I had a friend with a Jack Russell and a pug. The pug was calm, the Jack was not. So she had a crate for her and when she got overly excited my friend would point to the crate. POINT TO IT. And that little Jack walked over to it, got in, and immediately calmed down. I’m thinking of getting one for myself.

  • Liv

    2013/03/18 at 2:49 pm

    We moved into a horrible rental 8 months ago that was soaked with cat pee. Needless to say, my dog was a nervous wreck for the first couple of weeks. She didn’t mark anything (which she is prone to do WITH HER LEG LIFTED even though she is very much a girl) but she clung to me for days. It was exhausting. We’re moving again this month to a home we just bought and you better believe I have taken her over there multiple times already to get her acclimated to the new place. It’s amazing how much a move affects animals.

    My 2-year-old on the other hand? LOVES IT. A new house is the most exciting thing to her. I should teach her how to pack the kitchen for me.

  • Kristen Strong

    2013/03/18 at 2:50 pm

    I would have guessed that he just wanted/needed attention. I’m glad he feels better.

    (Not sure if you’ve tried it, but my vet recommends sprinkling a little meat tenderizer into the dogs’ dinner.)

  • Kat

    2013/03/18 at 2:52 pm

    My dog (9 years old) loves his crate. LOVES IT. He loves “going to bed” and it allows my husband and I to actually sleep. Crate on, sister, crate on!

  • Sarah Wilson

    2013/03/18 at 2:52 pm

    My dog loves his crate. He stays in it all night, without us even closing the door to it. When we’re on the couch and one of us (humans) says to the other “Are you ready to go to bed?” he jumps off the couch and gets in his crate. We have to get him back OUT to go pee. We do have to lock him in it when we go out during the day or he gets in the trash, the bastard.

  • Rita Arens

    2013/03/18 at 3:01 pm

    My cat was diagnosed with diabetes a few weeks ago and has been having accidents everywhere. I found this uh-maz-ing stuff called Nature’s Miracle. You have to use a shit-ton of it, but it gets the smell out. Just in case he starts being a dick again!

  • JayAre

    2013/03/18 at 3:01 pm

    I have a Great Dane that eats any of my personal clothing items that she can get – socks, underwear, tights (yes, full pairs of tights), and then poops them out in the backyard. I have a Pointer/Terrier mix that then digs the clothing items out of the poop and runs around with them hanging out of his mouth, quite proud of his find.
    So, I voice my agreement – thank you, Jesus on a pogo stick, for giving us crates.
    (There is a pair of hot pink lace panties in my backyard now, having been recently pooped out. I keep pretending I don’t see them and hoping the neighbors don’t realize what they are…)

  • Susanna

    2013/03/18 at 3:04 pm

    after I separated from my husband, my cat – my 20 lbs. orange tabby, who will be 17 soon – completely changed his behavior. He started crying and meowing like someone was skinning him…He developed separation anxiety. Divorce is so stressful and painful, and I think animals, especially the animal companions one has had for many, many years – can experience the pain and stress of such an upheaval. My kitty is doing much better – it has been close to 3 years since the big D – but he is still very needy. Divorce changed him, much like it changed me.

  • Nichole

    2013/03/18 at 3:07 pm

    I don’t have a dog, but I have seen that ad where Pitbull is supposed to be cool and he pumps his weird little fist to the music and he is not cool. I also have a cat who keeps spraying the walls. Maybe I should get him a crate.

  • Eve

    2013/03/18 at 3:10 pm

    Sometimes the crate is the only option. I feel the same way about babies in cribs. It gives them the security they need!

  • beckymochaface

    2013/03/18 at 3:12 pm

    Haters may hate, and the Bill of Rights says they can, but I have to agree that crate training really is good for dogs. Also, I have found that giving my dog pineapple once a day has cut down drastically on the amount of poop he eats. Doesn’t mean he won’t every once in a while, but it definitely helps. Something about how dogs like to eat it the first time but they don’t like to re-eat it. Also, when he does eat poop, carrots. They’re a natural breath freshener.

  • Margaret McKay

    2013/03/18 at 3:13 pm

    Crates are very good. Dogs need structure and crates help. Also, you might want to consider a few sessions with a dog trainer just for a refresher for both of you. I”ve found that when my dogs are having issues, some behaviorial changes on my part have often helped. The trainer is invaluable for helping to identify problem areas..

  • Stefanie

    2013/03/18 at 3:13 pm

    Every dog is different, but somehow they are all assholes in one way or another. It’s good you have a sense of humor about it. Some adapt well to the crate, others… not so much. I’ve never had success with crating, so we just don’t even try anymore, but I know they can provide a wonderful sense of order and security to our fur-babies.

    Our puppy recently became a shit-eater. It has to be the most disgusting thing ever. We’ve had moderate success with a combination of a supplement we picked up at Petsmart, scooping more frequently and more closely monitoring his outdoor activities. Part of it is age, at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

  • Tracie

    2013/03/18 at 3:18 pm

    Dogs like to have dens. It’s part of their nature. If done right a crate will serve as a den for a dog. It will become his territory. Now that he has his own den/territory, it makes sense he no longer needs to burrow and mark. 🙂 To the person who said, “Crates a wonderful training tool, and anyone who says otherwise is thinking like a human, rather than like a dog!” — Spot on! (pun intended). 😉

  • Accidental Olympian

    2013/03/18 at 3:23 pm

    People who don’t like crates are insane. Mine will stand in front of her crate and look at you like, “excuse me, I’d like to go in my room now.”

    The worst thing about dogs is we think we’ve got them figured out. We think they’re old, and trained and very well mannered. And then they start doing things like getting into the trash constantly. Or tearing up every single plush item you own.

    All the dog owning readers nodded along through this entire post.


  • Esperanza

    2013/03/18 at 3:24 pm

    With our first two dogs, we used crates. One dog hated it, the other loved it. Eventually, we stopped using them because of the one who hated it. Got a new dog recently who was crate trained. Now, all three dogs use her crate. I think they have some sort of time share set-up. But, it’s the go-to place when some dog needs quiet, is unsure of what’s up, and where the crate-trained one eats her meals. I’d have three crates if I had a bigger house.

  • Julie

    2013/03/18 at 3:33 pm

    Who are these people who think crates are bad? I mean, of course leaving your dog in a crate for the majority of the day is not good (and I have heard you’re not supposed to put them in their crate to discipline them). But my dog loves the crate. She sometimes goes in it of her own volition and just hangs out with the door open….

  • Kate H

    2013/03/18 at 3:39 pm

    Be careful of NM… my nutty cat used to mark and we treated it with that stuff but it never came out of the carpet completely and left big sticky spots that attracted no end of grime. Rinse, rinse, and rinse some more. In my new place she has only peed on the carpet once, and I used water and ammonia and vinegar to soak it out. For everyday barfage, I use Castor & Pollux Good Buddy spray.

  • Jan

    2013/03/18 at 3:46 pm

    We crated-trained our dogs as part of housebreaking them. One of them never loved the crate and was relieved when we moved into a place that just didn’t have a good place for them, so we stopped using them. The other … well, the other set about finding any possible way to re-create The Crate Feeling in any way he could. He finally settled on wedging his 95-lab lab/newfie mix body into that teensy space between the toilet and the tub. Dogs are den animals — they are wired to appreciate safe, cozy spaces.

  • Ginger

    2013/03/18 at 3:58 pm

    Way to not murder the dog. I kind of wanted to murder the dog for you when you got the part about the latch not working on your new bedroom door. From one digger household to another, I feel your pain. Glad you found a non murder solution.

  • Jeanne

    2013/03/18 at 4:19 pm

    My 11 year old dog has always had a crate and she loves it as much as I do. I work at home most of the time and she goes in her crate on her own throughout the day to nap. I say crate before I leave the house and she runs in. When it thunders out and the dog gets scared I put her in the crate and she calms right down. Love, love, love the crate!

  • Katybeth

    2013/03/18 at 4:24 pm

    Congratulations on crating. After every single dog post, I wonder—why won’t Heather just crate. I knew your pups could withstand crating because they had been to a kennel. Most kennels crate at some point. Crates are such a wonderful thing. Every dog needs their own special spot. Thank you–you may lie awake tonight, but I will sleep much easier.
    Sweet of you to reassure him that you’ll both be fine…everyone needs to hear those words.


    2013/03/18 at 4:50 pm

    Dogs eat poop when they eat dog food with lots of grain fillers they can’t digest. The things they can’t digest after the first attempt, they like to try again… Perhaps a different brand of dog food?

  • Heidi Shah

    2013/03/18 at 4:58 pm

    When you mentioned you we’re moving, I immediately thought of those mad critters of yours and wondered if you’d be tormented by an Allie Brosh (Hyperbole and a Half folks, check it out! And Allie, come back we miss you!) simple dog scenario. But of course Chuck the Emo could never be that simple. No, he had to add property damage to it. After all, he’s got a reputation to uphold. And the crate just means now he’s got his own den of solitude to retire to. Hopefully the resulting peace shall be long lived!

  • Stephanie

    2013/03/18 at 5:16 pm

    My ex-husband and I got divorced over four years ago. I got custody of our dog. Once he was out of the house, she (the dog) started peeing on the carpet when no one was watching. She also started licking her paws… licking them so much, and so often she licked the fur right off and her paws were bright red with scabs. I ended up having to go back to square one, similarly to you. Her behavior was pretty whacked out for nearly a year… but now she’s great! Hope the new boundaries and routines cure the peeing and shredding of bedding!

  • Amy K.

    2013/03/18 at 5:17 pm

    “Every dog is different, but somehow they are all assholes in one way or another.” – replace ‘dog’ with ‘person’ & it is still true!!

  • Margie

    2013/03/18 at 5:17 pm

    Speaking of dogs eating poop…that’s how I found out that it’s true, Australian Shepherds really are smart. We house trained our Australian Shepherd puppy to a pee pad (I know, i know, but we both worked and couldn’t get home at noon to let her out) when she was young. We caught her eating poop a few times and scolded her and she acted guilty. Then I’d make a big show of picking up the poop and dropping it in the toilet. One day I walked into the bathroom where her pee pad was, and caught her red-handed — uh, poop-mouthed. I exclaimed. She stood there with the poop in her mouth and looked at me…then ran to the toilet, got on her hind legs, and dropped the poop in the toilet, as if to say, “Hey mom, it’s cool. I wasn’t eating it. I was just putting it away, like you do.” Then she wagged her tail, as if waiting to be praised. She’s seven years old now. No sign of opposable thumbs yet.

  • Allison Wilson

    2013/03/18 at 5:24 pm

    Crates are awesome. My dog Molly earned the title of Molly the Sinner Dog for her peeing shenanigans. And once we started putting her in a crate when we were out and at night, she stopped. It’s like an anti-anxiety box for a stressed dog. Or for my dog, anyway.

    Poop eating is a delicacy among dogs. My brother’s dogs gobble up cat shit like it’s French cuisine, and he calls their behavior “eating Pecan Sandies” – because they’re always covered with sand. My Sinner Dog just likes to find animal shit in our large, wooded yard and roll in it. She literally comes home shit faced.

  • Fragrant Liar

    2013/03/18 at 5:37 pm

    You’re right. Crating is a good training tool. Dude likes his boundaries made exceedingly clear to him. Everybody’s happy now, especially Chuck, looks like. He knows now how much you care. I’m thinking Caesar would get on board with this.

  • ɯoɔ˙ɹǝƃƃolquǝʞoʇ

    2013/03/18 at 5:39 pm

    You should see the size of crate I have in my house! Oh, yeah! Sterling puppy (Irish Wolfhound/Greyhound) is crated whenever we leave because she can’t be trusted not to eat the sofa (she’s 6mos old as of yesterday). We still have to put the Minkins (Jack Russell) in a crate when we’re gone because she will not wait for you to come home and let her out. Surprisingly, it’s Lily (Great Pyrenees) who is the most trustworthy!

    Love the unpacking nubbin. ;o)

  • Kelly

    2013/03/18 at 5:52 pm

    I got our Jack Russell at the local shelter. I found him on a Tuesday and I wouldn’t be able to take him home until the next Tuesday when they neutered the dogs that were adopted. I visited him every day, sometimes twice. He is really MY dog. He likes him husband and our adult sons but he LOVES me. I bought a crate before I even brought him home. The door is locked at night and I would lock it when I would go out when I first got it. Now, if I am cooking, cleaning, or doing something other than giving him all my attention, he is in his crate. If I leave and my husband is home, the dog will be in his crate. He doesn’t even come out to eat. It’s his home, his security. He will eat the cat’s poop and roll in his own and other dog’s poop. The rolling is grosser than the eating. Not sure how to get him to stop. Have to get back into training. I had to stop due to a back injury. I could not bend down to do the treat based training. I’m going to go back and try clicker training. Good luck to you, the girls and the pups. I hope everyone is acclimated soon.

  • Brandy Kangas

    2013/03/18 at 6:10 pm

    The only way we could get our boxer to stop eating poop is by making sure there was none also ….one site told us to try Tabasco sauce but it turns out she thought that was pretty damn tasty too 🙁 as for crating I have a older beagle and if we don’t crate her at night she pees all over the house crates are a lifesaver and honestly dogs very rarely mind them half the time my cats are trying to sneak in there at night so they can sleep with the dog . We love the crate 😀

  • Sarah Anne

    2013/03/18 at 6:16 pm

    Dogs like crates. They make them feel safe and protected and anti-dog crate people can suck it. My dog has a ridiculously expensive dog door now that only lets him inside the house and leads into my laundry room.. I’m sorry.. HIS room. He spends most of his day outside digging holes and only comes in to eat as far as I can tell but at night? My 80 pound 11 month old puppy climbs willingly into his sleepers (crate, cage, wtf ever you want to call it!) and looks impatiently at me until I lock him in. No whining, no fussing, no panic-stricken escape attempts… he lays down on his pillow and passes the hell out in 2 minutes flat. He then snores all night and groans and sighs like a sad little toddler when I wake him up in the morning to go back outside before I go to work. God forbid I wait until after 9:30 to put him in his sleepers, he will paw at me (which would be adorable if he didn’t have giant bear claws) and whine until I ask him if he’s ready for sleepy-ni-nights. Also, yes, I talk to my dog like he’s a human. So sue me.

  • Ari

    2013/03/18 at 7:04 pm

    Dude, seriously, a crate is a cage, sure–so is a room, so is a fenced yard, so is a crib, so is a house. Having order and territory and shelter are important things, and in the right alchemical mix with freedom and love and hot dogs, we build happiness out of them. You obviously love and care for Chuck and look after his happiness. Anyone making hateful remarks to you about that PROBABLY NEEDS SOME TIME IN THE CRATE, RIGHT?

  • Ari

    2013/03/18 at 7:08 pm

    White vinegar is kind of amazing for cleaning terrible pet (and child) messes. We do NM usually followed by white vinegar, sometimes baking soda paste for the worst offenders.

  • Lesley

    2013/03/18 at 7:23 pm

    Behavioral peeing needs behavioral solutions. Period. Crates and leashes and routines forever!

  • Emily

    2013/03/18 at 7:34 pm

    Nothing wrong with the crates. And I’m not intending to judge harshly here. But you divorced and moved house within the last year. Dogs get stressed too, and they don’t have words for it. The leashing and visible bed thing works because you’re giving him the attention he’s been asking for all along.

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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