the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Taking the crazy out of Coco

When I launched the redesign of this site I alluded to a slew of changes going in my life, a revamped brand that is easier on the eyes just one among many. A ton of change. Bunches of it. A move across town? Sure. A completely rearranged schedule? Yep. New combination of meds? Why not! In fact, I recently left an appointment with my psychiatrist only to turn on my phone and find two dozen text messages from friends asking why someone had tagged me as “in a relationship” on Facebook. You guys! I never thought I’d have to get aggressive with the block button on Facebook, but what do you know. CHANGE.

This new house is approximately 75% smaller than the one before. We each have our own bedroom, but there isn’t enough space in the kitchen for a table. When I braid Leta’s hair before bed each night I have to do so in the hallway outside the bathroom because her hair is so long and the bathroom so small that I smack the wall as I attempt to brush it.

Geometry is hard.

I am not complaining. With smaller spaces come smaller messes and cheaper bills. The girls don’t have as much room to misplace every single one of their possessions. I also don’t have to rent a room in the basement to supplement my rent, and this one change alone has transformed the dynamic of our family more than anything else about the move. Because ain’t no one stealing my Doritos!

I’m joking! She didn’t steal my Doritos. She only ate my chocolate ice cream. Granted, I accidentally drank her orange juice one time, but thankfully neither of us resorted to slapping everything in the refrigerator with a sticky note that said THIS IS NOT YOURS JERK FACE.

And she would never call me a jerk face. She might mutter it under her breath. I’m sure she has more than once. Definitely. And she’s not alone.


I was sad to say goodbye to our tenant and have nothing but wonderful things to say about her. She loved my children and gave them gifts and cards every birthday and holiday. She once attended Leta’s piano recital, and encouraged both girls to continue taking lessons since she herself plays piano for a living. She did, however, insert a certain off-kilter energy into our home by disregarding the rules I have in place about interacting with an unpredictable, high maintenance herding dog who has purposefully jumped fences and scaled brick walls to destroy diplomatic relations with all the Mormon neighbors.

You can’t acknowledge Coco when you walk into the house. Some of you will think I am a monster for suggesting such neglect, but saying hello to that dog upon walking through the door is exactly like plugging her into an outlet. She will squeal an opera so off key and horrifying while jumping and flipping in circles that it sounds and looks like someone has set her internal organs on fire.

And the tenant? She said hello to Coco. Every single time.

Is that not the worst?

I know, it sounds like I’m being an awful person. And I am. I won’t deny that. But Coco would detect that the tenant was pulling into the driveway and would start her self-inflicted electrocution routine several minutes before the woman would walk in the door. If we were enjoying anything in relative peace—watching a movie, eating a meal, figuring out math homework—the walls of the house felt like they were going to crumble on top of our heads when she’d open that door and say in a high-pitched voice, “Hi, Coco!”

I am bracing right now just thinking about it.

The earthquake would continue from the walk through the front door all the way down to her room in the basement, and I was afraid on a daily if not multiple-times-a-day basis that Coco would trip her down the stairs. I mentioned this to the tenant several times, that I was afraid for her safety.

Please don’t say hello to Coco.

But she said she didn’t mind. She also didn’t mind feeding Coco scraps of food.

Insert what I guess is referred to as “neutral face emoji” except that I don’t interpret this as a neutral face in any way whatsoever. I consider it THE EXPRESSION OF MY SOUL.

This should be the most used emoji by any parent if they have texted with a friend about an interaction with their child at all in the last week. Interactions that go like this:

“What did I say would happen if you take your drink into the living room and set it anywhere near your phone?”

“You said I would knock it over and it would spill on my phone.”

“What just happened?”

“I knocked my drink over and it spilled on my phone.”


“Remember when we left the house today and I told you that it was going to rain?”

“I remember.”

“Do you also remember when I said that your feet would get cold in those sandals because it was going to rain?”

“I remember.”

“And why did you have the school nurse call me?”

“Because it’s raining and my feet are cold in these sandals.”


I asked the former tenant not to feed Coco scraps of food. This habit turns dogs into annoying, begging whirlwinds who swarm your feet and whimper whenever you think you might want to look inside the refrigerator. Coco knew that on the other side of the tenant’s door was a possible late brunch, and this turned her into a whimpering, neurotic recluse who paced outside her door all day long to the point of ignoring the rest of the family.

It felt in many ways like we had lost our dog.

I am not mad at the former tenant about this as she found a lot of comfort in Coco’s company, and Coco found comfort in hers. They had each other and I won’t begrudge them that, and I guess I didn’t want to take that away from either of them. That’s why I never really made the tenant follow those rules. I saw the connection they had, and well—a dog’s life is brief. I’m all too familiar with this. They had each other for awhile, and I didn’t want to interfere.

They had each other.

Ever since we moved into this new house, however, Coco is acting like our dog again. And it’s been… strange. We are living with a dog again.

During the day she hangs out next to the front door to monitor the safety of our surroundings—I am not discouraging her when she detects people walking by on the sidewalk outside and barks so ferociously that she cracks my spine—and at night she snoozes at the foot of my bed when I spend an hour winding down. This hasn’t happened in years.

When the girls are at home she is “protecting” Marlo and putting her body in a place where she can keep track of everyone: Leta is there doing math homework (check!), Marlo is over there writing stories in a notebook (check!), and That Blog Woman is over there dancing in the kitchen again (we don’t really mind if she gets carted off by wolves, in fact we might be siding with the wolves).

The miraculous part of this, though, is what is happening when no one is in the house. I will come home from running errands or dropping the girls at school to find Coco in Leta’s bed or just inside Leta’s door. I’m talking about Leta. Leta. I’m talking about Leta and Coco. There’s an oil and water comparison that would work here almost as well as a Liam and Noel Gallagher reference, but I am now giving you a new metaphor to use.

“That’s not gonna work.”

“What do you mean it’s not going to work?”

“It’s like mixing oil and wat—Leta and Coco. That girl and that dog.”

(Please tell me that you got the Liam and Noel reference, please. Please. Our friendship might depend on it.)

We have our dog back.

To reward Coco for weathering this upheaval, I saved something kind of special for her. I knew that I was going to be working with my friends over at CANIDAE® for the launch of the site, and they asked me if I’d be willing to introduce Coco to a different recipe of food. Full disclosure: I’ve been feeding Coco a certain recipe of CANIDAE® since the day I brought her home. She’s eaten nothing else in the entire nine years of her existence, so I had no reservations about switching her to something new. I trust CANIDAE® completely. So much, in fact, that I held off until after the move because I knew she would go bonkers.

And bonkers. Did. She. Go.

I used to think Coco would get excited at mealtime. But I had no idea.

I’d had a bag of CANIDAE® Under The Sun® Grain Free dog food sitting in the back of my car for a few weeks before I took it out and carted it to the area in the basement where Coco eats. The sound of the bag alerted her to all the things DOG FOOD, and as I had her sit and wait for her dinner—I had to cut the bag open and pour it all into a container—she started drooling a puddle as deep as a pond on the tile in the laundry area. She watched each kernel of food fall from the bag into the bin.

Drip. Drip. Drop.

What was this madness? This delightful smell? A treat at dinner?

Is this move and upheaval of your entire life amazing or what, Coco?

With this new recipe CANIDAE® is basically saying, “Here’s everything your dog needs and nothing they don’t need.” No potatoes, corn, wheat, or soy, just tons of fruits and veggies and single animal proteins like chicken or whitefish. My next post will be about how all of us are now eating this dog food and Leta has completely given up her freezer burritos and Marlo doesn’t even use utensils.

I’m a single mom. Efficiency is better than sex.


Also, I’ll say it again: my kids and my dogs eat meat. Does this make me a horrible vegan activist? It sure does! It also makes me a practical human being who is trying to juggle full-time work with full-time single parenting, doing the best she possibly can. And I will say that while bopping you on the nose.

Coco didn’t blink an eye at the new food and devoured it right from the start. I don’t even know if she chewed it. Well, actually, I might. I do, in fact. I routinely examine her poop (this is not a new oddity of mine) and I can tell you three definitive things: It’s lighter in color, she chews it, and you should absolutely examine dog poop.

ALSO! WAIT. DON’T GO! I know I’m talking about poop, but! There’s more! More than poop? Not much more, if we’re being honest. But, she still doesn’t smell like a dog. I’ve said this before, and I’m going to say it again: When you feed your dog the right food, that obnoxious dog smell vanishes. Poof! It just disappears.

Unless your dog gets wet. Then all bets are off.

So DO NOT let your dog get wet. Do we have to watch Gremlins again to relearn this lesson? I’ll do that with you, but only if we’re watching “Stranger Things” first.

I didn’t need to change Coco’s food, but this move was a new stage in life for all of us and it felt right. I’ll feed her CANIDAE® Under The Sun® from now on or until she enters some other “life stage” that requires another food. But I know I can trust CANIDAE® to make a recipe that’s best for her.

Right now, they’re offering dooce readers a $10 coupon off any CANIDAE® Under The Sun® recipe.

What did we learn today? Change is good. You should examine dog poop. And yes, this post was made in partnership with CANIDAE® because I am one very loyal customer.

  • Virginia

    2017/05/04 at 2:54 pm

    I started using Canidae after you wrote about it the first time with Chuck. It truly is a great dog food. Smarty, our now 13 yo Jack Russell, is still going strong and her coat is softer. Before Canidae her fur seemed prickly on my arms. Now it is soft and glossy. Bright eyes and always alert. We love it. I’ll try this now. Many, many thanks.

  • Promkini

    2017/05/04 at 3:48 pm

    I’m so glad you’re writing again. And COCO IS NINE?!?!?!?!

  • Kelly Sego

    2017/05/04 at 4:03 pm

    I switched my dogs to Canidae several years ago based on your recommendation … and the fact that they all smelled! Guess what? Odor free. Happy dogs. Love Canidae. And now will try the blend you’ve blogged about. Keep up the great writing. Missed you!

  • Lexa

    2017/05/04 at 5:21 pm

    There is no way that Coco is nine. I remember when you got her and there is no way I have been reading blogs for nine years. Because blogs just started right? Love this food and love donating it to our local shelter.

  • JRSF

    2017/05/04 at 5:30 pm

    Coco is NINE?! How did that happen?! Also, having also grown up in Memphis, basements freak me out. Nothing should be under the earth except lots of water.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2017/05/04 at 5:38 pm

    Haha! I talk about this on this episode of my podcast:

    Basements are indoor swimming pools!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2017/05/04 at 5:39 pm

    She is indeed nine years old. So glad you donate to your local shelter, you’re the best kind of person.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2017/05/04 at 5:40 pm

    The smell is real and, as we both know, NOT NECESSARY! So glad you discovered it. Thanks for having me back!

  • Heather Armstrong

    2017/05/04 at 5:40 pm

    One, two, three… NINE. It happened just like that. BOOM.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2017/05/04 at 5:41 pm

    These are all amazing things to hear, and I know they hear it all the time over at CANIDAE headquarters. Many thanks to you for reading.

  • JRSF

    2017/05/04 at 5:45 pm

    YES. I heard the episode, raised my 38134 solidarity fist to you at the time, and was reminded of the time my friend’s Minneapolis basement sump pump kept drawing this mysterious water out of the air so they didn’t all drown in the basement rec room. Weird, y’all.

  • Rachel

    2017/05/04 at 7:00 pm

    Oh sweet baby jeebus, the smell! My dogs eat a different brand of very good food, but we tried them on a lower calorie version to see if having a more full stomach would make our neurotic former starvation case happier, and they *reeked*. We threw it away after about two weeks, because they were so greasy and gross that we couldn’t stand it. Never mess with a good thing, and never skimp on nutrition.

  • Penelope Luedtke

    2017/05/04 at 7:06 pm

    I feed my Yorkie Tzu Canidae and her shit don’t stink. I’m not just saying that because she’s a Princess, I’m saying it cuz it’s true!

  • Wistfield

    2017/05/04 at 8:56 pm

    I started feeding my now-11-year-old pup Canidae after you wrote about how good it was for Chuck and it’s done amazing things for my old man. That overt doggy smell? Gone. The expected creaky “I’m too old for this nonsense” thing? Nonexistent. He’s spry and happy and love/hates his younger sister (who’s never eaten anything else since she’s lived with us) as much as she loves him. Thank you for sharing Canidae with the rest of us–it’s the best thing ever.

  • RzDrms

    2017/05/04 at 9:45 pm

    Well, okay, so, here’s the thing: I *will* say that I got the “Gremlins” and “Stranger Things” references. Does that count a little bit?!

  • Carla DeLauder

    2017/05/04 at 10:14 pm

    I’m going to put my husband on Canidae’s ‘Under the Sun’ and see if that helps. If it doesn’t, he gets a shovel and a trip to the woods whenever he needs to poop.

  • Michael Mathews

    2017/05/05 at 7:42 am

    I am with you on Coco. The best thing you can do for any pet is to learn how they need to be treated and be very consistent about it.

    I don’t have dogs because I am gone too much, but I have cats and they are all different. One needs affection regularly and loves it when you find him and pet him, the others will come to you when they want it. You cannot force them. The youngest of the three is very prone to anxiety, and she will not eat well. Engaging in the right behavior around her keeps her calm and she eats fine when calm. Sometimes all it takes is staying in the room where she eats until she is done.

  • Meredith Holladay

    2017/05/05 at 1:10 pm

    I decided before I had a dog – before I really even wanted a dog – that I’d feed them Canidae, after reading your post several years ago. It’s all we’ve fed our shelter dog in over 18 months of being with us, and all our puppy has had since he was 8 weeks old. They don’t stink – unless it rains, then they smell like french toast, which is super weird, but whatever – and the shelter guy, who is about 8, doesn’t act a day over 3! 🙂

  • Christine Labourdette Manalla

    2017/05/05 at 1:40 pm

    I’m curious what Candiae product did you switch from? Our dog is on the Canidae Grain-Free Pure food. Words can not describe how much he LOVES that food. I thought maybe he was a little bonkers upstairs cause I’ve never had a dog so in love with his food that he wants to snuggle up to the giant dog food bag and sleep.

  • Richard Morey

    2017/05/05 at 1:58 pm

    We feed our doggy Blue Buffalo and he has never had a problem with smelling unless he gets wet.. or escapes the yard and swims in the nearby swamp..

  • Jeanie

    2017/05/05 at 4:11 pm

    How in the world did Coco get to be nine years old?

  • Janey Macadam

    2017/05/05 at 8:38 pm

    Going to google if available in Canada…

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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