Living in Sin: Introducing Pets to Your Significant Other’s Family in a Way That Doesn’t Scream, “Someone Should Knock Me Up ASAP!”

by Rachel on November 28, 2011

So last week, Eric and I traveled approximately 20 hours between Houston and Kansas with Charleston and Indiana along for the ride.

Bringing the puppies to Eric’s parents’ house was kind of a big deal to me. I mean, I wanted to be prepared enough that they looked at me and thought, Oh, wow, she’s going to be a great mom to our grandkids some day, but I still wanted to be sure to drink enough that they thought, Someday…but not someday soon.

The month leading up to this trip, Eric and I worked even harder to turn our two puppies into two little gentlemen. We took them on longer walks, were extra diligent about housebreaking, and sent them to doggie day camp nearly every weekend so they could socialize with other dogs.

Here are a few things Eric and I did to prepare for the actual road trip.

We bought them sweaters. In general, I’m opposed to dogs in clothes. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think it looks adorable…but then it looks less adorable when you see that the dog looks suicidal. However, I am not opposed to dogs in necessary clothing, and that includes sweaters on small dogs when it’s really cold outside. (And I was ready to tell that to anyone in his family who tried to act like I was That Girl who just dresses up her toy dogs for funsies. Defensive? Yes. But this is just what people assume when they see a pretty girl, a masculine guy, and two small dogs wearing cable-knit sweaters.) So Eric and I bought them sweaters for Wichita’s chilly temperatures, assuming that the first time they felt 40-degree winds would be similar to the first time they walked on grass (which was on our first drive home with them; they were so bewildered and traumatized by the long green stuff and just couldn’t figure out how to walk around on it). Our plan was to only put the sweaters on them when they needed them to go outside, but one cold day, we just left the sweaters on after their first walk. I returned to let them out of their crates a couple hours later and discovered that Chuck had gone all Harry Houdini on his and had completely destroyed it in his effort to escape from it. This is unsurprising, as he’s on his fifth collar now. I like to pretend he’s a free spirit and cannot be contained, as that is the best way to justify behavioral problems that are probably your fault, but I wish his spirt had been contained, because after this incident, he just shivered whenever we went outside. So then I looked like That Girl who wants toy dogs but then doesn’t take care of them properly.

We got them health certificates. Did you know that you’re required to get a dog a health certificate before you take it across state lines? I didn’t either! Luckily, I found this out the week before the trip so I had them certified at Petsmart. I kind of wanted to need the certificate at some point on the trip (“What, officer? Why, yes, these dogs are certified!”) just to show off the fact that I had covered all my bases and had official paperwork to show for it. Similar to how I feel after I get an STD test. Of course, no one asked for the certificates (Who would? When would they? The answer is no one and never.) but it still felt good to have done it.

We strapped their tails in tight. There are few dog-related things that get on my nerves more than dogs who travel unrestrained in cars (actually there is probably only one: people who refer to their dogs as “children” or “babies” or their owners as “mom” and “dad;” every time this happens to me, I just want to act super proud of the fact that I’m a medical freak of nature, a human woman who just birthed a puppy!!!!). Dogs riding free in cars is just so ridiculously unsafe for all parties involved. When I see the world’s cutest little lapdog riding up front on the driver’s lap, all I can think of is that poor little thing getting decapitated by the air bag when someone runs a stop sign. And I my dogs are cuddly but I don’t think they’d make very cuddly projectiles if they were knocked from the back seat into the front (into me in the front!) during a crash. Not to mention that most dogs love people and want to crawl all over their owners like a drunk dude in a bar trying to get all up ons. Would you want to drive with a drunk dude licking your face as he awkwardly gyrates against your leg? No, so you shouldn’t let your dogs do the same. Chuck and Indiana rode in their travel carriers, but I’ve used special harnesses that you can strap to the seat belts with other dogs, and those work really well. There are a lot of options for car restraints; the point is, you should use something.

So was I prepared? Yes, totally. Were the dogs gentlemen? …well, there is some debate over this. I think they were good, given the fact this was their first trip to totally unfamiliar circumstances — which included another dog at the house who was approximately 15 times their size. They weren’t perfect, but they were fine. Eric thinks they were dead-set on destruction from the time we arrived at his parents’ house. We both agree that they have never, ever, ever pooped that much, ever, but we disagree on the reasons behind it (I think it was nervous tummies; he thinks it was part of some diabolical plan to make us look like unfit owners). Hard to say for sure. And yeah, the sweater did get destroyed. But I sort of think they did exactly what I had hoped — made me look good, but not too good. Did I force Indiana to take a dump in the house every five seconds to ensure that no one was eyeing my uterus and thinking it’s open for business? No, I did not…but I’m also totally not sorry that that was the unfortunate side effect of his nerves.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Claire @ Live and Love to Eat November 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm

You are an extremely responsible dog owner. I love my family’s dog to pieces, but had no idea about the health certificate and must say she sat on my lap during a trip to the beach a few years ago. I’ll be more prepared next time!

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2 Claire November 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm

I totally agree with everything you said about dogs. Except I didn’t know about the health certificate. But… calling your dogs children? Having them wear unnecessary clothing? Keeping them in your lap while driving? Recipe(s) for disaster. We actually had our dogs wear argyle vests when they started shivering at night, and while it WAS adorable, it was also necessary, so it was okay.

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3 Jacki November 28, 2011 at 7:35 pm

literal LOL

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4 Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn November 28, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Ahahaha omg. So cute. But so funny. No, you are not “that couple”, I can tell.

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5 Bria @ WestofPersia November 28, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Confession time: I call my my cat my baby, and myself his mommy. Yes, I know, I’m officially lame and weird. ;-)

You, on the other hand, have it together with those pooches, those crates, those certificates. Way to gooooooo, Lady!

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6 looloolooweez November 28, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Traveling with pets can be a pain, but if they’re well-trained and properly cared for it can also be fun. My biggest pet-related pet peeve is folks that drive down the Interstate or major roads through the city with their dogs loose in the back of a truck. That just burns me up. What is going to happen to your dog if you have to slam on the breaks? A friend of mine in middle school lost a dog that way. I mean, if you’re driving 10 mph down a dirt road on your ranch, fine, but we see it all the time here in Houston and I hate it.

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7 Rachel November 29, 2011 at 10:04 am

I know! It makes me SO uncomfortable!!

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8 Aly November 29, 2011 at 11:25 am

Ive seen that a few times (dogs in the back of the trucks on highways) and it always boggles my mind why someone thinks that fine.

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9 Chandra @ShiftC December 7, 2011 at 4:59 am

Is that a Southern thing????! That’s super awful! :(

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10 Lizilla November 29, 2011 at 9:48 am

I feel you on the sweater situation. I have a very tall and skinny weimaraner and live in a part of the country where it is colder than -30 for about 2 weeks out the year (and no it’s not Fargo). I have to put a coat on him or else he could seriously get frostbite but it’s still something I defend as everyone else around here has huskies or german shepards who could live in the snow and do not need coats. The worst was when someone gave us the boots that sled dogs wear as a gift. My dog wouldn’t even leave the house in them he was so ashamed. Although watching him walk in them is good for about 30 mins of laughter.

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11 Rachel November 29, 2011 at 10:04 am

“My dog wouldn’t even leave the house in them he was so ashamed” LOL…poor thing!!! At least he has the good sense to know when he looks ridiculous.

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12 Caity November 29, 2011 at 11:19 am

SO FUNNY. This line had me choking on my tea: “Would you want to drive with a drunk dude licking your face as he awkwardly gyrates against your leg? No, so you shouldn’t let your dogs do the same.” So so true, way to be a responsible pet owner Rachel!

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13 Ashley November 29, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Ahh my mom had my puppy at home this whole week and he had 3 accidents- she was all like I thought your dog was potty trained and I was all like well he is..most the time.

I think it’s just because they aren’t in their space that causes them to pee/poop everywhere. So not cool though.

I will admit that on the ride home I laid in the backseat with my pup on my lap the whole time- hey back seat is better then the front right?

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14 Julia H. @ The Petite Spiel November 29, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Damn those dogs have style! I’m not a big fan of dressing dogs, but I must say, those are some sweet sweaters.

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15 Ashley November 30, 2011 at 9:23 am

I cringe every time my husband calls us the dog’s mommy and daddy — ugh! But I do love dressing up the puggle and the hilarious part is that he LOVES dressing up because it guarantees him more attention. Indy and Chuck look so handsome in their lil sweaters.

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16 Amy R November 30, 2011 at 10:40 am

You crack me up! I’m totally on board with most of your thinking, but I have to ask what you call yourself in relation to your dogs. If you aren’t mom then what are you? Owner? It sounds a little nuts that I’m Buddy’s mom, but I rather that than be his owner. I don’t own him. He’s my family. Much like my parents don’t own me. Ya know what I mean? Maybe we can start a new trend in nicknames for pet parents! With your humor, I’m sure we can come up with something good!

And Buddy has a harness in the backseat that’s just for him! I actually know someone who lost their dog when he jumped out of the window on the interstate and then got run over. :( I can’t even express how sad this makes me. Posts like this one raise awareness of these issues so thank you!

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17 Rachel November 30, 2011 at 5:45 pm

I call myself the owner but I suppose I could see how that gives a certain impression. Now I’m going to have to think of something clever!

If I had to pick an alternative, for now I’d go with referring to us as the dog’s girl/boy. Like, “Indiana, where’s Eric? Where’s your boy?” I think that’s cute because it gives the dog some ownership.

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18 Ashley December 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm

When I was single my cat was my “furry roommate.”

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19 Laura Georgina November 30, 2011 at 10:58 am

I don’t think the visit could have gone better for you guys! Minus the nervous pooping, of course… But really, the fact that they didn’t eat anything valuable at Eric’s parents’ house (and didn’t terrorize their dog) is the main thing.

The first time I took my dog home to see my family, he spent the week grabbing down food and peeing on it, pooping by the stairs (because he was terrified to go up or down them), and driving my mom’s dog to run away (for real–our neighbors found her, shaking and whimpering). It’s all good now and they’ve forgiven him (mostly).

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20 Chandra @ShiftC December 7, 2011 at 4:56 am

Thank you for writing this. You just gave me ammo to fire when my boyfriend starts talking about why we should get a dog. Animals are TOO! Much! Work! Bless you, but I just can’t do it!

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