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.”

  • Beth

    2013/03/18 at 7:44 pm

    Poor old Chuck. Change is hard. Sounds like you know what you’re doing.

  • Meg H

    2013/03/18 at 7:44 pm

    I ask Rosie if it’s time for ni-night kisses. I kiss her velvety soft ears, she licks my cheek, then she trots into her crate, waits for me to remove her collar (so she can’t take it off and chew it, no, I don’t know how she does it, no matter what kind of collar), and curls up to go to sleep.

  • Janie T

    2013/03/18 at 7:44 pm

    Amen! I had a dog that was crate trained as well. I don’t know why, but it definitely works to calm down destructive behavior. I don’t think it’s abuse at all, we would have had to give away our dog if we didn’t find a solution. Crating works for some dogs. Period.

  • Maggie Spitler

    2013/03/18 at 7:55 pm

    lol! Love it!

  • Leona Laurie

    2013/03/18 at 8:44 pm

    We’re in the midst of housetraining a puppy, so I feel your pain. Thanks for the reminder about crating, Heather. I think there might be one in a certain puppy’s future…

  • Sarah Anne

    2013/03/18 at 9:15 pm

    Absolutely adorable! I may have fudged a little and added an “l” in sleepy to sound less obnoxious. I’m known to say the most ridiculous things to Charlie. “ohhh boo-boo are you seepy seeps? Oh is my boo-boo ready for seepys? I get your bewwy! I GET IT! Oh you want scritches?! BEWEEEE SCRITCHES?!” Thank God there’s not a video camera in my house.

  • supapfunk

    2013/03/18 at 9:50 pm

    My dog loves his crate! It’s his safe place. No cats allowed in there! 😉

  • Ann

    2013/03/18 at 9:54 pm

    Who are these people who say crates are bad? They’re awesome! Well, for dogs, not your children. Perhaps the mysterious “crates are bad” people are simply confusing dogs and children. Although similarly sized, they have different brains and needs.
    My doggie LOVES her crate. Thunder? She runs in the crate. Tired? She snoozes in the crate. Worried because I am packing a suitcase? She sits in the crate. Got a new treat? Eats it in the crate. She loves that thing. If I took it away, she’d have a little doggie freakout. For my dog, crate = feeling safe.

  • Robyn C.

    2013/03/18 at 10:09 pm

    Sounds like you are an attentive and dedicated dog owner! Great job!

  • Jennifer Wijangco

    2013/03/18 at 10:21 pm

    My dog Dylan is seven years old and has been crate-trained since she was a puppy. Last fall, I thought, she’s mature, I trust her, I can leave her out while I’m away. For weeks, she was perfectly well-behaved while I left her for 8-10 hours a day while I was at work. And then Christmas eve, after being away for just four hours, I come home to find that Dylan has chewed up a whole section of my carpet right by the front door. I mean, she ate my floor! For whatever reason, she flipped out. Yep, she’s back in the crate, and she’s perfectly happy. Crate-training is totally the way to go.

  • Barking Dog Shoes

    2013/03/18 at 10:27 pm

    Crates are man’s best friend. I like to think that my Harley is dog-journaling in his head when he has crate time. It’s good processing time for him. He can think about his poop-eating and how it’s wrong.

  • Kim Carter Taveroff

    2013/03/18 at 11:00 pm

    My dogs both eat their shit. We have to watch them every moment we take them out for their potty breaks until they are disarmed. They are in fact, calculating and devious about it. Both of them have their own set of neuroses as well. We don’t crate them at night, but we certainly have to crate them if we go out.

    I haven’t read through the other comments but I’m sure others have suggested that you’ve been through a lot of upheaval and change in the past year and perhaps it’s taking a toll on Chuck as well. In any case, if it eases your mind at all, you’re not the only one with crazy dogs 😉

  • cnico

    2013/03/18 at 11:48 pm

    Perhaps, but I think the move stressed him out too. Animals know when we humans start putting things in boxes that some shit is about to happen… and they of course don’t have any idea what. My dogs get really clingy and anxious when the boxes come out and stuff starts disappearing. I think they get worried I will just disappear. I imagine for Chuck its something psychological, he is a nervous nellie afterall… but I am so glad the crate and being near Heather’s side when she is home is helping him. I love Mr. Chuckles.

  • 2 Labs

    2013/03/19 at 4:41 am

    Both my dogs go in their crate at night to tell us they’ve had enough and want to go to bed. One opens the door with his nose. The other eats her poop. But not in her crate. Gotta love ’em.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    2013/03/19 at 5:16 am

    True. You can feed your dog filled cow paunch (don’t ask), which you should be able to get in a decent pet store (and maybe canned, as well). It stinks abysmally (don’t even think about cooking it), but it stopped the family dog’s poop-eating.

  • Eunice Probert

    2013/03/19 at 5:40 am

    Well it is understandable after so many changes in his life lately,. Poor old Chuck, he’s just confused and anxious. Letting him “hide” in the crate is a good idea to let him feel safe and secure. The important thing is to remember that he’s not doing this to spite you. He’s doing it because he’s a dog and has no other way to express how confused and frightened he feels.

  • Angela Phillips

    2013/03/19 at 5:46 am

    Amen to crates! They are the “safe zone” it makes them feel secure! I HAD a neighbor (HAD…she is no longer allowed in the house or on the property) who decided it was cruel for us to crate our dog at night so the cats could have the house. She was pet-sitting one weekend…when we came home my very special indoor Norwegian Forest Cat Dr.Tinay had been let out with the older cats so the dog could “be free”. Dr. Tinay was eaten by a bear. Crates are good…haters should be eaten by bears /rant

  • Erin Gill

    2013/03/19 at 6:02 am

    I had a dog that used to poop exclusively at the top of the little rock-feature waterfall that was embedded into a retaining wall above our pool. We’d have friends over for a swim and turn the water feature on and the force of the water would tumble all her poops down into the pool. Good times.

  • MckGagMeWithAWoodenSpoon

    2013/03/19 at 6:06 am

    I have dealt with all of these things too. I have given up on buying any sort of nice bedding because it quickly gets destroyed. And leather couches only in our house, they can’t rip those and can be easily cleaned up. For the poop eating, we got some stuff that you sprinkle on their food. When it comes out the other end it makes it less appetizing for them. It works. The only problem is that when you stop using it, they just start eating it again, so you would have to eat it forever. Tell me again, why do we love them so much???

  • LisaG

    2013/03/19 at 7:03 am

    Yeah, my dog’s name IS Eddie and he is a digger. When he was a puppy, and prior to us learning to use the crate properly, he chewed holes through drywall. We deterred the indoor digging, but he has now destroyed our vegetable garden.
    The crate is the only thing that has saved our lives and prevented him from being sent packing.

  • Stephanie

    2013/03/19 at 7:15 am

    Poor old man. His life was disturbed and you brought order. Crates are good. We use one for our 12 pound terrier and all is well. He likes the crate. He enjoys the peace it gives him. You two will get through this together. And poop eating is so unfortunate. I’m sorry, but I am the owner of a poop eater too. Really is nasty.

  • Abby Phoenix

    2013/03/19 at 8:30 am

    I’ve read you for a long time, and will continue to as long as you write. I love your stories, and mostly, I love the way you tell them.

    But (and this is not a “but” for you, but for the haters) I sincerely wish that the situation was such that you could feel like you were telling a story to friends, or at least to friendly strangers at a party. I completely understand the need to address the haters and to assume that your stories are being shared with a part-(very!)hostile audience — I’m just sad that that situation is what it is, and that it’s all so ingrained that your wonderful storytelling necessarily features the strain of defense.

  • miranda

    2013/03/19 at 9:02 am

    Lock them up, I do and my dogs love me for it!!

  • Allyssa Wheaton-Rodriguez

    2013/03/19 at 9:24 am

    Crates rock. Kids also like to play in crates. Big brothers like to lock their little brothers in crates. Oodles of fun.

  • Alle

    2013/03/19 at 9:36 am

    My dog–a min pin/terrier mix–was not crate trained when I adopted him, but he had been starved, allowed to get a monstrous eye infection and thrown out of a moving car onto a busy street before he ended up at the shelter. So his insane anxiety was totally warranted, but y’know, not exactly optimal for life.

    My vet told me that because of his neglected/abused past, he’d probably really like a safe space that was only HIS where he could feel secure. That became his crate. It took a couple of weeks to really get him used to it, but he loves that thing now. He sleeps in there at night, spends time in there when I’m not home and even when I am, he’ll often hang out inside if he needs some time to himself. I’m not sure how many of his specific behaviour problems the crate has helped with, but I know that he’s a much calmer and more confident dog than when he first came home.

  • Becky Lott

    2013/03/19 at 9:57 am

    From one animal lover to another, thank you for taking care of him. It sounds like he needed you.

  • Jackie

    2013/03/19 at 10:58 am

    Agree. I travel for work, and even though my husband stays behind and the dog’s life is EXACTLY THE SAME, the dog freaks out when I pull out The Suitcase.

  • Sommer

    2013/03/19 at 11:03 am

    you gots to do what you gots to do. Chuckie’s a good boy.

  • LoThePhoenix

    2013/03/19 at 11:15 am

    Crates are a good thing. They also have these things called “Belly Bands” to keep male dogs from marking. But it sounds like he’s doing better anyway.

  • Lisa

    2013/03/19 at 11:27 am

    when we were in the process of moving, our dog dug holes in our walls and in our kitchen cabinets. A couch is bad, but they come up with all sorts of things to destroy when they are scared. The cage sometimes is the best bet, and if you decide to let them out of it when they start behaving, just make sure you don’t put it away…they need to feel like they still have a “den”, a space of their own.

  • Sarah

    2013/03/19 at 11:34 am

    Crates our awesome. Our Lab LOVES his. He doesn’t need it anymore but he still sleeps in it every night on his own. It’s his safe place. You are doing the right things – dogs love structure and boundaries.

  • nicetrywiseguy

    2013/03/19 at 12:36 pm

    Crate? Is that french for taser?

  • Lesh

    2013/03/19 at 12:41 pm

    I used to think that crates were terrible until I had a dog that “angry” peed all over the house when we left. Her crate has now become her haven. She feels the safest when in there. She even sleeps in there sometimes at night when we are watching TV. Sometimes dogs need to have a confined space to feel safe and stay out of trouble. I feel for a dog that never gets time out of a crate, but there are many cases when some crate time is the best for a dog.

  • CW

    2013/03/19 at 1:00 pm

    I had a friend that used a shock collar to stop the dog from eating poop. It worked. But now the dog stops and barks loudly at every piece of poop it comes across.

  • Kristin

    2013/03/19 at 1:17 pm

    I wish I could crate my cats to keep them from scratching the furniture


    2013/03/19 at 1:40 pm

    –>Our black lab puppy walks right in to his crate when I say, “It’s time for work!” *fake enthusiasm* He then scowls at the older yellow lab who is un-crated and on the dog bed. She had already done her time when she was a wild puppy.

  • Kelly B

    2013/03/19 at 2:56 pm

    Dogs who suffer from anxiety — and it the internet thinks that was Chuck’s problem — benefit from crating. So do dogs who are den dogs. My 20 lb dog Sydney likes his den, but hates being crated. So we got him an indoor dog house/dog bed. Or he hides under Mom’s bed.

  • Heather O'Connor

    2013/03/19 at 4:53 pm

    Yup. I was a anti-crate person too. Then I met my dog Mini Pooper. Her actual name. She pees, she poops.. whenever, wherever, OH And she loves to eat a diaper upon occasion. Yum! We do the crate thing too when we leave the house & dogs aren’t coming with. I dunno if you tried this.. I added some vitamins to my dog’s diet, for the please don’t eat the poop thing. Vegepet makes it so vegans can have their dogs eat vegan too. We have poop in our yard. No poop eaters, and I check their breath daily, cause they sleep with us and I will not sleep next to a poop eater it just goes against my whole sanity thing. <3 Chuck regardless of his "habits". Glad he's happier!

  • Robyn Beckman

    2013/03/19 at 5:44 pm

    Maybe a boy dog pee’d and marked his territory all over that house and Chuck was just doing what male dogs do instinctively. At any rate – Heather, you are a GREAT dog mom! I effing L*O*V*E Chuckles! Your last sentence nicely tied it all together in this post. I’m sorry he’s been bratty towards you. I’m glad you continued to love him through it all. Coco is a bad girl to teach him such bad manners but you love that little satan as well. Awwwwwww. Hugs to Heather!

  • LouisianaHeather

    2013/03/19 at 10:56 pm

    Don’t know if this helps, but I I was told dogs eat poop for the protein. Mydogs both stopped it when we switched them from processed dog food to raw meaty (soup) bones. Might worth a try.

  • Honeysuckle_Rose75

    2013/03/19 at 11:50 pm

    Oh my! When we adopted our second pup (girl Golden) three years ago, my then 9 year old, PERFECT male golden retriever started the SAME bizarre behavior. Pees in the house and eats her poop (not his) There is not a thing wrong with him. We’ve tried everything possible to stop both bad habits. The vet that he’s had since he was eight weeks old just tells me “Rocket was happier being the only dog”. Well, I’m an only child but I didn’t pee and eat my college roommate’s poop!!! I’m thinking this “animal”, who is my only accomplishment in life…meaning I didn’t give up, love to pieces and kept alive and healthy all these years, has also become an asshole in his old age!!!

  • Caitlin McElroy

    2013/03/20 at 2:12 am

    Our vet recommended a crate to help ease our dogs’ anxiety and it has truly helped our older dog. We picked up and moved around the world from Oklahoma to Japan and nothing helped him adjust quite like the smell of his bed in his crate. The only thing he digs in is his bed which I have to occasionally replace, but it is well worth it.

  • bettylonglegs

    2013/03/20 at 7:42 am

    Dude, crating is a miracle. Most of my dog-owning friends who don’t crate routinely have their furniture torn up or their beds covered in dog piss, and then they subtly imply that they think I’m a barbarian for crating my dog in the morning. I’d rather not have to wash my sheets every night, thank you.

  • REK981

    2013/03/20 at 11:46 am

    Been there. You are SPOT ON with the boundaries. His world, being such a HUGE part of yours, was upended too. It was chaos and disorder. Now, happy and calm again. Every one and every thing needs structure. Glad it is working out for you.

  • Lilly O'Handley

    2013/03/20 at 3:39 pm

    I had a rescue Lab that was neglected as a puppy. We bonded so much that when I went to pee and shut the bathroom door he’d sit outside and whine. And tear at the door. Before the crate, his anxiety was soooo bad when I left for work he’d do unspeakable things to the house (picture a can of Crisco stolen from an 8-foot shelf, eaten and then dispersed through the carpeted portions (YES ONLY THE CARPETED PORTIONS) of an 80% hardwood house in the form of Crisco poops, that he then rolled in—WHAT?????) The crate was such solace to him that HE would get in it when he felt anxiety (doorbell ringing unexpectedly). Yes, I had a family dog that ran from the door. LOL. It got to where he would head for the crate when I picked up my car keys. Our life was then bliss.

  • Erin

    2013/03/20 at 4:34 pm

    I’m sure you’ve read/heard that dogs are denning animals and that the crate is like their den. I have found this to be absolutely true – my dog even crates himself at times; its his safe place. So let the naysayers say “nay.” You are doing right by Chuckles.

  • Pansy Vore Narendorf

    2013/03/21 at 10:23 am

    Divorces are hard on the pups. Crates are not evil (dogs are frickin’ den animals). You are rocking it hard core.

  • Beth Horton

    2013/03/21 at 11:04 am

    So totally true. We have an old dog who was never crate trained, and is fine and never gets into trouble, and a 3 year old dog who did not come to us crate-trained, but we quickly realized that he is the kind of dog who needs a “bedroom”. We have the type of wood crate that looks like a box/table, and every night we close his door, throw a sheet over it, and he spends 5 minutes arranging his pillows and blankets and rattles so much that we call him Houdini. Before we got him this crate, he peed everywhere, any time, no reason. He hasn’t peed inside even once since he got the crate, and the only time we close the door on him is when we are sleeping. Some dogs are just happy with their own private space.

  • Vesta

    2013/03/21 at 12:30 pm

    No advice for the poop eaters but after taking down the live Christmas tree this year I discovered that both of my dogs had been peeing all over it! It was the side against the wall so that was totally fun! Luckily, I do not wrap and put presents under my tree or Christmas would have gone something like this: Oh great! I got new PJ’s. Why do the smell so badly??????

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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