I thought my dog hated me.
You might think a dog could never hate its owner. But then, you never met Tater, the Pekingese pup who rarely ever showed me any sign of affection. At one point, I thought she really hated me.
Tater didn’t want me to touch her.
From the moment I brought Tater home as a wee, little puppy, she didn’t like me to pick her up. When I did pick her up, all four of her tiny little legs would fly out like she was doing some kind of Superman pose—I thought it was the cutest thing in the world.
She kind of looked like a little furry tater tot, so that’s how she got her name.
But one thing was certain; this little puppy had no interest whatsoever in cuddling or being petted. I thought it was odd for a puppy to behave that way. Usually, puppies are super excited about their new mommy. But not this one.
It turns out that what I thought was a cute behavior in sticking her legs straight out when I picked her up was actually a sign. She was resistant. She didn’t lean into a cuddle with me but pulled away from it.
I should have known right away that her personality would not lend to the cuddly, little lap dog I wanted. I really thought my new puppy didn’t like me much.
Tater didn’t listen to me at all.
I should have also known when that little puppy resisted every bit of affection I tried to give it, and this wasn’t going to be an easy working partnership.
From the time Tater was a puppy to the time she passed away, I can count on one hand how many times she listened to any command I gave her. She was going to go her own way and do what she wanted and when she wanted. I’d call her name, and she would look at me, put her head back down, and walk right away from me. It was rather embarrassing.
From what I understand from other Pekingese owners, Pekingese dogs can be stubborn and difficult to train.
Tater also seemed to have lots of health issues. Her hair fell out all the time, no matter what I did. Her skin was always bothering her. When Tater was about 10 years old, we had an episode with her right at Christmas time.
She was having seizures, and I knew there must have been something neurological happening with her that most likely could not be fixed. I sat my kids down and told them that I would wait until after Christmas but that I would have to have her put down.
We all agreed it would be best for her. Mysteriously, the seizures went away, and she went back to being her normal, aloof self, but she was never quite the same after that. She became even less responsive to me.
Tater rarely looked at me.
I always found it a little strange that Tater would never look me in the face. Never a lingering gaze. You know how most dogs give long gazes to their owner’s faces and seem to linger on every word? Tater was the exact opposite of that.
It became clear over time that it wasn’t just me that Tater hated. It was pretty much anyone and everyone. We all kind of joked that she had the personality of that baby Stewy on “Family Guy” and that she was just waiting for her moment to take over the world.
Tater rarely responded when I came home.
I got dogs in the first place because I wanted someone to be excited to see me when I came home from work. My boys were growing up, and I missed them running to my legs when I got home.
My partner at the time was emotionally unavailable, which complicated everything in the home. I just wanted to be loved, and I wanted someone to light up when I came home from work.
So, I got two puppies, and I couldn’t wait to share my extra love with them. But then, Tater never even looked up when I came in the door. She must have been aware that I had arrived home, but she just seemed uninterested.
I wish I had known at the time that it wasn’t that she didn’t care about me…there really was something else going on.
Tater didn’t play with me.
Tater never played with me. Maybe about a dozen times over the course of her 15-year life. She just wasn’t interested. But you can bet those few times that she did play and pat her little feet on the floor in front of me to get my attention, it absolutely blew my heart up with joy. Those moments are treasures in my mind and heart.
To my knowledge, Tater never got close to anyone except that initial puppy that we bought at the same time we bought her. After that dog died, Tater stopped playing.
Of course, we all thought she was sad because she had lost her best friend. I tried to comfort her as best I could, but she really just wanted to be left alone. For the most part, it seemed as if she was just tolerating me.
Toward the end of her life, I realized that it wasn’t at all that she didn’t want to play with me. It wasn’t at all that she hated me or didn’t want to be around me. It was that something was terribly wrong.
I believe there were neurological issues that affected Tater’s behavior.
I loved her dearly, and I really tried to give her the best care that I could. From time to time, I discussed it with the vet, and they dismissed my concerns. It was her breed or her personality, or after her best friend died, they said she could just be sad, and she’ll get through it.
But at some point, it became clear that she was sleeping all the time and didn’t want to wake up to eat or go outside anymore. She began to do strange things like stand in the corner and bark at nothing for a solid hour in the middle of the night.
When we let her out in our big and sprawling yard to go potty, it appeared she had difficulty figuring out how to get back to the house. She once went underneath the front porch because she couldn’t remember where the steps were.
Pekingese typically are long-lived, but I knew it was the end of her life for her. The kindest and most loving thing I could do was take her to the vet and discuss end-of-life options. That’s what I did, and the final decision I made was to have her put to sleep.
Now, don’t give me a hard time about that because it was a hard decision, and though it was over five years ago, I am sobbing now as I type. I knew my dog, and I knew that she was in pain and handling it quietly.
At that point, she wasn’t even eating anymore. I knew it was time, and I learned the truth in the end.
If you think your dog doesn’t like you or hates you in some way because of their behavior — I want you to know that your dog loves you. And I want you to know why I know this.
When I took Tater in to be put to sleep, they asked me if I wanted to stay with her. In my mind, Tater didn’t give two craps whether I stayed with her or not, but I felt like it was my responsibility to be there with her in case she got scared.
The kind vet techs helped to prepare her for the injection, and Tater lay atop the veterinary table with my arm cradling beneath her head.
In that last moment of her life, as the vet tech administered the injection, there was a spark of fear in Tater’s eyes. I expected her to be afraid. I calmed her and petted her.
At that last moment, she turned her head and looked up at me. She looked into my eyes and held my tearful gaze. A lot was said in that brief eye contact. Many words. Years of words she had never been able to communicate to me. And my heart heard them all.
She leaned her head against my chest. Showing affection to me was the last thing that she chose to do with her life.
At that moment, I knew how much she loved me but had not been capable of showing that affection to me. Despite her bad breeding and neurological issues, I’m happy she had a long life and was loved.
If she hadn’t had that, she might not have survived or had a productive life in any way. But that one moment in her life when she gazed into my eyes and looked for comfort and love from me let me know that she knew I loved her. And she showed me at that moment that she really did love me.
Your dog loves you so much, trust me.
Thanks for reading today. I’m sorry if you came here to read a lighthearted post and found yourself crying in your coffee. But there are a lot of lessons here in this story.
Don’t miss the real message in your dog’s behavior.
They can’t speak to us and say, “Mommy, something hurts,” or “Mommy, I can’t think clearly today,” or “Mommy, I keep forgetting where the steps are.”
You may be walking around thinking your dog hates you. It may even seem funny at times. But all you can do is give them the love and support you can and be there for them when they need you.
Believe me, your dog loves you—they just wish they knew how to tell you.
This story is in memory of Tater. You are loved and missed so much.