Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Dog Side of the Aisle

Dear Friends,

This month's Hard Taco song is called, "Bezonce." For the Goth types who prefer words in unlinkable jet black, that song, again, is "Bezonce."

In regards to both politics and pets, it's a two party system. Some folks want nothing to do with domestic pets, but the rest of us are either dog people or cat people. If you claim to be anything else, you're throwing your vote away.

I am a dog person, although I'm not as hard-core dog as I used to be. I must say, as I have aged, I've trended more towards being socially dog, but fiscally cat.  I'm not one of those crazy extremists who subscribes to Cat Fancy, but let's face it... I'm not an idealistic college kid anymore. I'm a grown man with a family and a mortgage, and I'm wise to how the world works.  I never thought I would say this, but sometimes cats offer practical solutions that dogs can't.

But you can check my record... I'm definitely still more dog-leaning. A quick Command-F query confirms that I have written 18 Hard Taco Digests that mention dogs, and only 4 that mention cats.

Doggist propaganda by P.D. Eastman

My dog-leaning roots run deep. Have you ever seen "My Book About Me," by Dr. Seuss? Basically, it's boring Mad Libs for narcissistic children. Dr. Seuss wrote stems of sentences and left blanks for kids to fill in with autobiographical information. My parents bought me an off-brand version of this book when I was six. "It's just as good as a real Dr. Seuss," they probably said. "I'm sure you won't even be able to tell the difference." I may have put up a fight about this, but I filled out the book anyway. When I went back and read it years later, I noticed a subtle theme among my responses. See if you can pick it up!

  My name is: ZACH
  I have: ONE sister(s) and NONE brother(s)
  My favorite kind of animal is: DOG
  Last night I had a dream about: A DOG AND IT WAS SCOBY DOO
  I would be surprised if I looked out my window and saw: 100 DOG IN A ROW

I still feel the same way about that last point. 100 dog outside of my window would be an unusual circumstance, regardless of their configuration. 100 dog in a row? Frankly, I would find that combination of volume and alignment to be outright shocking, even after all these year. 

A few months after I was born, my parents got a puppy so they could call someone Abby, the girl name they had picked out for me when I was still an undeclared fetus.  Abby was a stringy black and white mutt about the size of a loaf of bread. I think she was one-quarter shih tzu, one-quarter corgi, and half kangaroo rat.

Abby the Dog, enlarged to show detail.
Poor little Abby. She went to the groomers once or twice a year, and the extreme haircut they gave her would strip any visible remnants of canine ancestry, leaving her rat-like frame shamefully exposed. The groomers delighted in compounding this humiliation by tying a massive pink ribbon around her head, which only made her look like some kind of scrap-booking accident.

Abby was most notable for her self-destructive habit of darting under our feet as we walked by. Inevitably, someone would step on her, and she would let out an endearing, high-pitched, "REEET!" 

I definitely loved that dog. I know this because I feel it, not because I remember many joyous moments with her. Tiny dogs can live forever, but that just gives them more time to be old. In most of my memories, Abby was brittle, arthritic, and exhausted.  In the last decade of her 17-year life, the black patches faded to grey and her fur-shrouded eyes sunk even deeper behind filmy cataracts. When she lost control of her bladder, we relegated her to the kitchen where her messes would be easier to wipe up.

We continued to accidentally step on her from time to time, but she rarely generated a full-blown "REEET!"  It was more like...  reet. She was acknowledging the incident, but in a detached way. The lusty indignation was gone.  

Reet. Still down here, folks.
My friend Jeff liked to say, "All your dog does is stand in the corner and shiver and piss." It was a fair assessment, albeit a bit mean-spirited. (* see footnote.)

My kids have been asking about getting a dog. This morning, I showed my six-year-old son the above picture of Abby, and he said, "Wow. What was it like?" He didn't want to know what Abby was like, but what it was like to be that kid with a dog. I must have given him a sentimental answer, because afterwards he said, "I think my eyes are starting to have some water in them about that story."

Lauren is allergic to dogs, so his dog ownership yearnings are going to remain unfulfilled for a while. In the meantime, he'll just have to make due with writing bizarre autobiographical dog fantasies in "My Book About Me" (or its generic equivalent.)

With warmest regards,

* Muffin, Jeff's bichon frise, eventually died of neck cancer. While this was also very sad, reminding him about it cheered me up a little (and still does, if I'm having a bad day.)