The Puppiness Project – Let Your Friends B & M (Bark and Moan)

Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever.

Golden Retriever lying on the rocky beach at Ithaca Falls.

These rocks are very uncomfortable.

Have you ever come home from a bad day at work, started to complain, and found someone giving you advice about how to fix things? Isn’t it annoying?

Sometimes people just need to B & M a little. And dogs do too.

What’s Wrong, Honey?

It’s 8:00 p.m. I’m settling down for the evening but Honey’s just warming up. Her vocal cords, that is.

Now compared to the machine gun staccato of a Yorkie or the alert barking of a German Shepherd, this is nothing.

Woof! A few seconds pass. Woof! Another small pause. Woof! Woof! Woof!

But it’s annoying, you know?

So let’s go down the list:

  • Two long and interesting walks? Check.
  • Two nutritious meals and several small snacks? Check.
  • Time spent training for mental stimulation? Check.
  • A few random games of tug throughout the day? Check.
  • Recently let out to “fertilize” the lawn? Check.

Honey, you have nothing to complain about. You’ve had an ideal doggy day. What more could you want? And why won’t you just be quiet?

Golden Retriever sitting for a treat.

Ok, so you’re my favorite playmate. But do you have to make me jump so high just to get a little morsel?

But one thing was missing from Honey’s perfect day. Because Mike was still at work. And Honey really looks forward to playtime with him. After all, he plays to win. And he’s her partner in causing all kinds of mischief.

I don’t think Honey believed that by barking she’d make Mike appear. I think she was frustrated. She wanted Mike to come home. And she just felt the need to let the world know.

She just wanted to Bitch Bark and Moan a little.

B*tch and Run

This morning, at the halfway point of my three-mile loop along the lake, I was having a great time. I felt lucky that my body is strong enough to run. I loved looking out on the mist over the lake. What could be better?

Then my mind cast back to me running at eighteen years old.

I hated it. And that’s not a word I use lightly.

But here’s the rub. My freshman gym class had fitness goals we had to meet to get an A. One of them was running 1 1/2 miles in twelve minutes or less. The slower you ran, the lower your grade dropped.

All of my friends decided to encourage me. Every night, a different friend went running with me to keep my spirits up. It felt like torture.

Some of my friends were athletic. My roommate was a talented soccer player who loved all kinds of sports. My friend down the hall had been running for years.

Others never ran except to keep me company.

And boy, did everyone get an earful. I don’t think i’ve ever complained so much about anything in my entire life. Let’s just say I was far more of a female dog than Honey.

And yet they stuck with me. One of them even married me. And they never tried to “fix” me. They just let me vent, step after step.

Oh yeah, I got my A. And I learned something else.

Golden Retriever fetching a stick from the creek.

Gee, this water sure is wet.

Complaining Serves a Purpose

I was called for jury duty several times in Philadelphia. There are so many trials that they need every potential juror they can get.

If you’ve never lived in a big city, you may not realize how trying jury duty can be. We arrived two hours early to get through the metal detectors and bag search. You’d be considered for several trials over one day before being either chosen for a jury or sent home.

And the whole time, everyone is whining and complaining about being there at all.

Eventually I realized that the whining was part of the bonding process. It gave strangers, who otherwise had nothing in common with each other, something to talk about. People of all races, ages, income etc. were united by doing something they really didn’t want to do. And complaining about it.

B & M probably kept the crowds happy. At least as happy as they could be under the circumstances.

Maybe Honey just needed an outlet too.

Everyone Deserves to Bark and Moan Sometimes

Honey didn’t want to play with me. She certainly didn’t want me to rely on her willingness to please me to train her to bark only when I allowed her to.

She just wanted to complain a little. Her world wasn’t right because someone was missing from it. And she just had to let it out.

So I remembered my college friends who listened to me whine on those short runs. And I thought of all those complaining people I met on jury duty. I decided that maybe it’s ok to whine sometimes if it gets you through a rough patch.

And, I figured that to be a good friend, sometimes you just listen when someone wants to Bark and Moan a little.

Golden Retriever sitting on man's lap in beach chair.

I’ve got no complaints.

Monday Mischief Pet Blog Hop


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  1. Aww Honey’s so gorgeous. Very wise words in this post! I’ll try and remember this as I raise my little pup.

  2. Permission to bitch. I like it. :)

  3. You’re so right. There is nothing more annoying to me than someone who tries to put a positive spin and give helpful pollyanna suggestions when all I want to do is complain. Complaining is part of life. We usually know what we need to do about a situation all by ourselves.

  4. I turned around one day assuming that Boogie was barking out the window but he was facing ME! Boogie had NEVER EVER barked at me before. This is a dog that doesn’t just stand there and bark. He has never been a vocal dog. I guess it’s still too new a behavior for me to find it annoying – I am still a little surprised. This is a great blog post and a reminder that it’s OK for dogs to complain and “speak their mind”! Hey, well, he’s talking to me and I’m listening! :)

  5. I can be a big complainer, I’ll admit it. It’s something I try to keep to a minimum if I can because I know how annoying it can be. But you’re right, sometimes whining just makes me feel better. When in that mode, I definitely don’t want someone coming up with solutions to my problems. I just want them to listen and maybe comiserate. Misery loves company, as they say. 😉

  6. I’m usually the good listener, but I do like complaining to Stetson and Linus who are great listeners and usually just give me the tilted head look when I’m having a conversation with them.

    My favorite line from today’s blog post: “I was far more of a female dog than Honey.” Love it!

    Happy Monday!

  7. Those were some great college friends!

    I pretty much hate to run myself, and since I haven’t been “forced” to since high school, I more or less don’t. I’ve been adding some running with Elka, though, at the park when I’m sure nobody can see us! Hopefully I’ll get more into it, and more into shape, and increase the distance. She seems to like it!

  8. I agree! For me, once I vent it, I can just let it go and I feel so much better. Keeping things bottled up inside of me doesn’t work nearly as well!

  9. I never really thought about how complaining with strangers forms a bond, but you are right. And those first few seconds of barking and moaning are annoying, but then I’ll realize they just want to talk, so I join in with them!! I think the same goes for the howling sessions that happen, they just want to sing and make some noise. :)

    • I used to howl with Agatha and Christie when sirens went off in the neighborhood (and in SW Philly, that was a lot). It was a very good release.

  10. :) We do all need that sometimes don’t we.

  11. Sometimes I say, “I just need to vent. I do not need you to offer me a solution I just need to let this out.” It helps on those days when I really don’t want an answer I just want to complain.

    I think we all need that outlet, and Honey is a very smart girl :-)

  12. I confess I enjoy a good B&M session. And jury duty (especially jury duty in a big city) definitely calls for B’ing and M’ing! It’s the pits. And you are right – I don’t want someone putting a happy spin on it. As Kristine said, yes, sometimes your misery just wants some company!

  13. I think you are right about the jury duty thing. Great observation.

  14. Great post, I agree we all need to complain sometimes

    urban hounds

  15. Wonderful post! You said it in that we all need to bark and moan sometimes. Woof!
    Bella and DiDi

  16. My hubby is the “fix it” man – sometimes I have to remind him that I don’t want him to tell me how to fix it, I just want him to agree with me and say, “I’m sorry honey”. He’s getting better :) He left this morning for a week long business trip and the whole house is out of sorts. Ashley (the cat) walks around crying (he is the one with the perfect lap) and Cali just can’t figure out why he’s not here. It’s especially evident that it upsets everyone now that we both work from home! I love that last picture of Honey and Mike – too cute!!

  17. It’s very true, there’s sometimes nothing that feels better than just complaining. And why shouldn’t dogs feel the same way? Very sweet that Honey needed dad to be home, and that she knew how to express it–and that you understood!

  18. I like to whine. I’m quite sure it’s an endearing habit of mine.
    Sometimes Kelly barks at me for no reason that I can figure out. You were wise to figure out what Honey was looking for. Looks like she got it in the end.

  19. I love this post! I’m sure I’ve been doing my share of barking and moaning of late, so thanks for your indulgence! :)

    So true that people bond over complaining – after all, I know I’ve found myself bonding with coworkers when we had some common thing to moan about!

  20. I tend to bark and moan often. I find it just relieves the stress. t’s like if I say it out loud (and hear how silly it seems) the whole annoyance just seems much less important and can move on.

    Kolchak on the other hand s a VERY VOCAL BOY who could benefit from some self-restraint. BOL, that boy never shuts up! I think he is probably more of a female dog than Honey too.

  21. LOL – indeed it is sometimes necessary.

    I believe the theory is that women communicate to form connections and men use communication to convey information. Perhaps Honey (and other dogs) are trying to do both? :)

  22. I believe a good bark and moan is alright from time to time. I know I have done plenty this past year. It served its purpose. It allowed me to get my frustration out.

    Nice take on this topic. It’s funny, but I can’t even imagine you complaining. You always seem like a wise sage to me. I guess I need to stop thinking of you as the Dali Llama and more of a regular human huh? :)

    I hope Honey got her special playtime with Mike.