personal, ruminations

The Lives of Dogs

I will admit it: I am not the world’s best dog owner. In an average week, Lucky probably goes on no more than four walks. Surely this record isn’t atrocious enough to merit calling the local humane society, but it’s not too good either.

And I get the impression from Lucky that it’s abysmal. When it’s been more than 24 hours, he starts to follow me around, getting in my way and generally doing all he can to make sure I notice him. When I walk around the house, he runs ahead of me rather than ambling after me.

Generally, Lucky’s a pretty mellow dog. He doesn’t hate lying around on his giant pillow. But when he knows he’s going for a walk, he is probably the single most excitable dog on earth. I’ve never considered this more than a funny problem, after all, Lucky doesn’t weight much more than 20 pounds fully grown.

Where a bigger dog could pull you down the street with his excitement, Lucky is only able to make it clear that he’d like to go a little faster, or that he’d like a little more time to investigate this smell. If I disagree with his request, we still do what I want.

But it’s his excitement about getting a walk that sometimes makes me wonder. After all, the only other high point in the day of an average dog is when he gets fed. I would guess that he enjoys it when people pet him, but I’ve never been able to shake the possibility that he allows that out some feeling of obligation.

Some would argue that he must enjoy it, after all, he often takes the opportunity to show his appreciation by licking any accessible human flesh. But I can’t shake the feeling that he just likes the taste. Maybe that’s why he lets me pet him, so he can lick my arm or face as I do it.

I find it moderately disturbing, this dependence. The dog’s whole life depends on me. He has few joys that I don’t bring him, few disappointments that I don’t cause–usually by accidentally saying the world “walk” when I don’t mean it.

This dependence is even stranger in its reflection not on the dogs, but on dog owners. After all, we owners of animals chose to get them, from the Humane Society or the pet store; these animals make no choice of us.

So what is it? Why do we own dogs? Have cats? I can’t avoid the feeling that we like to be depended upon. After all, even when no one seems to care where you are, your pet has to. His or her existence depends upon yours. And the contingent nature of his existence helps to make your life more important.

I suppose this is why we fear the “cat lady,” why we fear becoming her. She has to reassure herself of her worth because no other human would. No one called to check up on her. Wondered where she had gone.

Or maybe she just likes cats. Maybe I just like my dog.

lists, personal

Tagged! or Eight Things about Me

Glendon, of The Flying Trilobite, was kind enough to invite me to play a little game of tag. Believing that we should play as many games as possible, I’m going to play. But I’ll follow the rules only by half. I am too lazy to ever follow rules exactly.

So, here are the rules, as I read them.

  1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Before I begin, I have to call to mind a quote which seems terribly relevant:

We confess our little faults to persuade people that we have no large ones. — Francois de La Rochefoucauld

And now, eight things. About my childhood and the animals we had.

  1. I am a twin. A fraternal twin. My twin sister is named Julie. No, we do not look the same. Yes we are the same age. I am one minute older, at least according to all I’ve been told.
  2. In the seventh grade I bought a budgie. His name was Petey. He died this past year, and I have to admit to a degree of neglect in his care. We were never very close.
  3. When I was five, my guinea pig died. Because there were a number of other kids in the room when I discovered this fact, my mother told me that he was just sleeping. For better or worse, believing her made it harder when I learned the truth.
  4. In the third grade, I was (de)pan(t)sed (PS: what a strange word…). An older kid told me that he could make me feel like I was flying if I closed my eyes and stuck out my arms. I believed him. And found my pants at my ankles.
  5. We had a turtle once. A red-eared slider. Named Michaelangelo. After the Ninja Turtle, not the painter. We didn’t really care for him well so my parents gave him to some family friends who seemed to be more interested in him.
  6. I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for one year. While I was in first grade. I had glasses for as long as we were there. No one I knew then knows that I don’t wear glasses. No one in my hometown ever knew I wore them.
  7. We used to have a rather large bird. He was bigger than a budgie, but I’ve forgotten what the species was called. He was green. He used to like the Beach Boys’ song, “Barbara Anne,” or was we knew it “bob bobber an.” He’d pump his head up and down whenever we played it for him. So would we.
  8. We used to have goldfish. Every year, we’d go to the school’s fair and get new ones. And every year, there was one big fish. And he’d always seem to last longer than the new ones. We suspected he intimidated them, maybe even attacked them. When he died we didn’t get any more fish.

On Dog Poop

I have a dog. His name is Lucky and he’s the size that strangers consistently say “what a cute puppy” when they see him. He’s at least seven people-years old. That’s 49 in dog years. To the extent that he understands the strangers, he doesn’t seem to care.

You may be thinking that this is the story of how that charming dog came to live with me. This is not that story. This is instead the story of dog poop.

I am, in this area, incredibly inconsiderate. Just ask anyone who’s walking through the park when they see a dog arch it’s back in that certain way that makes it clear that they couldn’t really be doing anything else but what they are. And then they’ll yell, “I hope you’re going to pick that up!”

To which I give the only reasonable response, nothing. And as they walk away, I do too. Without a bag of warm excrement in my hand.

I realize that leaving my dog’s turds in public is not appropriate. But sometimes I just can’t stoop down to pick it up. Especially when it looks like Lucky had a little too much to drink last night. Or especially when someone reminds me of my ‘responsibility.’

It’s not that I never pick up the dog poop. If the conditions are right, and a bag is close at hand, I’ll do it. But even then I can’t escape the feeling that it’s a rather silly thing to do.

There a number of reasons that picking up dog poop is absurd. For one, horses, whose poop is much larger and much more solid, are allowed to leave turds wherever they want. Their owners seem to feel no need to clean it up, even if it was lain in the middle of a perfectly good hiking or biking trail.

Further, dogs are, to my knowledge, the only animals that poop outside that we are required to clean up after. Surely inside-pooping cats get their poop cleaned up, as do gerbils, rabbits, and guinea pigs, but this is because they’re pooping in our homes.

The where and how of dog poop is much more like the where and how of squirrel or wild/feral rabbit poop. And it’s not as if dog poop is a danger to the environment. All they eat is grain and some rare meat proteins, nothing terribly foreign or worrisome. In fact, it probably makes pretty good fertilizer for all the foreign substances (like grass) that we plant everywhere.

So next time you’re walking your dog, and someone asks you if you’re going to pick that up, do the right thing. Say yes and walk away. Leave the excrement where it falls.