Dog’s Got an Attitude

Bob Barker, the Tibetan Terrier who sublets from us, is giving me a bit of an attitude.  My fault, actually.  I left the Times out on the coffee table where he can see it from his side of the couch.  Unfortunately, the Sunday Magazine was on top, the one from last weekend with the cover story about the lawyer suing in NY Supreme Court to grant “personhood” to NY chimpanzees.  No way the dog was going to let that go unremarked upon.  Turns out, worst luck of all, that two of the chimps in question actually live in our little town here on Long Island, at the University.  What are the chances?  So, of course, this initiates a very uncomfortable discussion, which leads to raised voices, considerable barking–you know where this is

I can’t claim that I didn’t see this coming, mind you.  The dog has a pretty high opinion of himself.  Not at all like our last dog, Mack (may he rest in peace).  Mack was a Wheaton Terrier, a terribly bright but completely psychotic houseguest that had the unfortunate habit of launching himself through screen doors if anything moved within 500 yards of our property.  Pretty high strung.  If you’ve ever met a Wheaton, you know what I’m referring to.  When excited (which is constantly), they have this amazing ability to jump straight up in the air to approximately eye level.  Rather unnerving in a forty pound animal with teeth. In twelve years of living with us, the dog never slept.  Wheatons do  become somewhat more mellow with age; which is to say, they settle down about two weeks after they’re dead.

Bob is not nearly as excitable.  Being a Tibetan Terrier, he is much more spiritual than most dogs.  He is always going on about the fact that Tibetan Terriers are not really terriers at all, but were misclassified by some English dog slaver that kidnapped his forebears from their homeland in Tibet, where they were originally bred (he always says “formed,” a la the training of a Jesuit priest) by the Dali Lama himself.  You know how most dogs (every other dog, really) can’t wait to be let outside in the morning so they can run around and relieve themselves?  Not Bob Barker.  This dog must be aroused from slumber each morning and enticed to take the morning air.  Upon finally sauntering outside, he assumes a Yoga pose on the porch, stretching and turning his muzzle to the sun, eyes closed and doing some kind of deep breathing exercise for about twenty minutes.  He may or may not empty his bladder, depending upon the scents he detects swirling in the morning drafts and his overall karma.  When called, he tilts his head and stares at me, but he doesn’t return, instead exhibiting a look of disdain for a moment before trotting off again to roll about in a patch of sunshine.  He is a very strange dog.

Which would be okay.  I wouldn’t begrudge the dog his nearly burning down the house with his incense burning every night, or finding him just staring into the refrigerator at 3 am, then leaving the fridge door open after finally deciding to steal the last beer I’ve hidden all the way in the back behind the milk.  I mean, he lives here.  I get it.  But some consideration is to be expected.  Maybe not taking-out-the-garbage type consideration, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the dog come back from a walk and just saunter right past the empty trash cans without even considering bringing them back.  Don’t tell me he doesn’t know where they belong, the dog is obsessed with those cans when they’re full.

Some quid pro quo is necessary.  If our pets are going to be granted “personhood” status ( ), I expect a little more responsibility on their part.  This isn’t Neanderthal cave living, where just barking a couple of times whenever a saber tooth tiger was in the area was enough to earn your place by the fire and a few leftover bones.  Inappropriate barking at the mailman is not going to cut it anymore.  Don’t give me that crap about instincts, either.  Get over it.  Time to start doing the dishes on a more consistent basis, not just licking the food off the plates after they’re already in the dishwasher.  It’s a dishwasher, idiot–welcome to the 21st century.  And if you’re going to be making brown spots all over the lawn, the least you could do is try peeing on the dandelions every once in a while.  Don’t tell me that takes much effort.  And don’t give me that “can’t see colors” excuse–that got old after you insisted on turning off The Wizard of Oz once they got to Oz just so you could watch the WWF.  What kind of Buddhist watches professional wrestling, anyway?

Oh, and spelling out “union” with your chew toys?  Not amusing.



~first posted 17 Nov 12

Most of the time I’m not entirely sure where I am. I mean, who really is, most of the time? It’s hard enough just to keep track of what I’m doing and why. Usually, even the why is pretty murky. But the where is just kind of taken for granted. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll pull into my driveway and look up in shock at my house, wondering how in hell I got here. And wondering if I stopped at any of the traffic lights between where I was and where I am now.

Is this a problem? Not really. How often does what I’m doing depend on where I’m doing it? Not very often. Oh, occasionally I’ll find myself at the top of a windswept mountain or completely lost in the woods, but not very often. Usually, my surroundings are pretty pedestrian. The house is unremarkable, unless I step barefoot in a puddle of dog vomit. Suddenly, my setting becomes important. My environment has just started to drive my action. Before I stepped in the dog vomit, I was planning on sitting down in front of Meet the Press with a cup of black coffee and a copy of the NY Times. Now, events are dictated differently. Shouldn’t have given Bob Barker all that left over pizza. Remorse. Concern. The pressure-packed search for a roll of paper towels.

Sorry, Dad.  Bad anchovy.

Sorry, Dad. Bad anchovy.

Usually, though, you don’t want to know much about where I’m sitting. You want to know what I’m doing. Perhaps, you’re interested in how I’m feeling, or why I’m doing what I’m doing or why I”m feeling the way I’m feeling. Do you care about the color of the sunset outside my window? Does the hue of my Hawaiian shirt affect your understanding of my mood? I think not. And all the time I spend in deeply nuanced description of setting, ambiance, or weather; whether poetic or pedestrian, is time spent sifting through detritus in an effort to get back to what’s important.

Let me paint the walls if I wish. Most of the time, I’m not even sure there are walls. Roof stays up anyway.