Animals in the house: I don’t get it,” said one of my friends when we first got a dog. I tried to explain how rewarding it is to have a dog, this furry creature that loves you unconditionally and fills your life with moments of sudden joy. “They track feces into the house,” he replied. Look, I won’t try to argue with someone who irrationally hates dogs.
But now, nine years later, I’m coming around to the viewpoint of the non-pet people. It’s not that I’m anti-dog, but you might say that I’m anti-dog friendly. If you don’t have a dog and don’t want one, I can certainly understand.
We have two dogs, Manny and Dino, a retriever-ish mutt and a lowrider basset-lab. We also now have two children under the age of 4, and therein you’ll find the headwaters of our discontent. When you have dogs that predate your human children, the dogs develop a rivalry with the kids. The dogs know how much attention they used to get, they see where that attention is going now and they don’t like it. This complicates your life, which at this stage doesn’t need any additional complication.
I think I read somewhere that dogs have the emotional intelligence of a 2-year-old. So if you have two dogs plus an actual 2-year-old, that’s a lot of whining, jealousy and irrational behavior. On top of that, these two toddler-brained creatures also happen to weigh 50 or 60 pounds and have claws and pointy teeth. By about the 50th time that a dog creeps up to snatch food out of your kid’s hand like a shark emerging from the watery deep, you’ll be all set with dogs.
As my friend pointed out, they track mud (and worse) into the house. We used to let them sit with us on the couch until Dino developed a habit of raking his claws across the spot where he planned to sit, as if inspecting it for booby traps. Now we put pressure-sensitive alarms on the couch whenever we leave. The acrobatic jewel thief from Ocean’s Twelve couldn’t get onto that thing without waking up the neighborhood.
At night, Manny licks his lips, even though I’m not entirely sure dogs have lips. In any case, when he’s down there at the foot of the bed air-smooching at 1 am, you want to stuff his snout into a vat of ChapStick so he’ll stop smacking his chops. Meanwhile Dino, despite having nostrils the size of the Ted Williams Tunnel, snores constantly. So there we are each night, Manny licking his lips and Dino violating Bernoulli’s principle while Heather and I cram pillows over our heads to muffle the canine cacophony. Sometimes Dino mixes it up with a midnight stroll around the house, his claws clacking on the hardwood like Shaq playing Dance Dance Revolution in tap shoes.
When Dino barks in your face, you’re pretty sure that his breath comes from somewhere in his butt. Bones seemed to help, but we stopped giving him bones after finding a soggy half-eaten hunk of rawhide stashed under one of our bedroom pillows.
We expected Manny to slow down as he turned into an old dog, but we’re still waiting for any sign of mellowness. Now, at 10 years old, he has no gray fur and is still a hyper freak when the mood grabs him. When he’s off the leash, he likes to sprint full tilt right at you, blowing past just inches away like an F/A-18 buzzing the tower. Unfortunately, the one indication of his dog-year geriatrics is a cataract that’s gradually rendered him blind in his left eye, which makes his precision flybys considerably more perilous. The key is not to flinch after he’s fixed your position with his good eye, but try to resist flinching when Sammy Davis Jr. is riding a dirt bike right at you at 50 mph.
Dogs aren’t cheap, either. Right now, they’re both due for Bordetella booster shots. Didn’t they just get those? Or am I thinking of the rabies shots or heartworm pills or ear medication or special Rachael Ray dog food? Oh, all of the above. Not to mention that when we moved to a new house, we had to have a fence built to keep them in the yard. I buy special heavy-duty trash bags to corral their heavy doodies. Manny likes to eat dirt, which requires me to buy grass seed. There’s dog shampoo, dog nail clippers and dog sitting. The list is endless. Maintenance-wise, it would probably be cheaper to own a pair of classic Ferraris.
Despite all this, I know I’ll be sad when they’re gone. Once that day arrives and the question of animals in the house returns, I’m not sure where I’ll stand. But I hear fish are nice.