(The hardest thing about having a dog or a cat or other pet is you can’t explain things to them. You can’t explain things to babies, either, but you figure they’ll grow out of that eventually. Not so with other animals. I always fantasized about periodically – maybe once a year or so – being able to have a conversation with a nonhuman family member. Just to go over the ground rules, just so he understands that all these seemingly random parameters aren’t just hoops I want him to jump through. Wouldn’t that be great? But the more I think about it, there is much more I’d like to make clear to my dog. Given the opportunity, this is what I’d like my goldendoodle Hugo to understand.)
Seriously, Hugo, grab some couch. There’s some stuff I want to go over with you, stuff I think it’s really important you understand. As befitting your attention span, we’ll do this in listicle format, shall we? OK.
- I love you. I’m pretty sure you know that already, but it never hurts to say it out loud, just to be sure. So, I love you.
- I’m sorry about the leash. I’m not a big fan of it, either. The fact is, I love to see you run. You’re so joyous when you run, it’s exhilarating just to watch you. Your joie de vivre is absolutely infectious, as is your spontaneity. But that’s where the problem lies. It’s a man’s world Hugo, and that’s the sad truth. Men want to order this world, and a dog unleashing exuberance upon it is messy. But it’s cars and trucks that I most fear, because you don’t understand that they’re not as nimble as you, so you don’t understand the danger. The leash, ultimately, is your protection from the wildness of Man.
- How’s the food here? You seem to like the chow I give you, but I can’t tell if it’s because you honestly like eating the same breakfast and dinner every day or if it’s because you’ve got no choice. I know you have a nose for the food I make for myself, but I know your digestive system better than you seem to, so I’ve got to dole that out judiciously. And you’re right. You would love chocolate. Sorry, pal. It could kill you, and that would ruin both our days.
- Speaking of gastrointestinal issues, a word about puking. It happens. Don’t feel guilty about it, I know you’re feeling miserable, and you’re not puking on purpose. But have you ever noticed how the kitchen and bathrooms have shiny floor? And the rest of the house has fluffy floor (I call it carpet)? It’s a lot easier to clean up shiny floor than fluffy floor. Just sayin’.
- Sorry I’m gone all day most of the days of the week. I wouldn’t be if I didn’t have to. I have to go out and do stuff for people, and in return for that I get money. You need money for everything in Manworld, including our house, our food… pretty much anything you can think of, and lots you can’t. The good news is that money also means you get to see Maija while I’m gone when she stops by in the middle of a workday to love you up and take you for another walk. I know that’s not as good as me being home all day, but Maija’s pretty cool, right?
- Remember that time when I took you to the vet, and then I had to leave you in a strange place? And when you woke up you had a big gash on your belly, and it probably hurt a lot? That was my decision, and I had to do it or you would have died. You’d chewed and eaten a ton of stuff that turned out to be bad for you, and they actually had to cut it out of your belly because there was no other way to get it out. Do you remember the night you spent at the vet? I came over to see you with a pillow you like to rest your head on, and I sat on the floor next to you and sang “You Are My Sunshine” over and over again until the staff told me it was time to leave? I barely slept that night I was so worried about you. What worried me the most? I was worried that you might have thought I abandoned you.
- Which brings up the subject, “Things to Chew.” I know it seems arbitrary. But mostly I pick and choose what things are OK to chew on because I don’t want you to have to have your belly cut open again. But also, there are some things we need for uses other than being chewed, and when you chew on those things, we can’t use them anymore. This is why I got angry when you went through your sock and shoe chewing phase. And I’m not saying I love my movie collection more than I love you. But if I come home and find my Criterion Collection 2-disc copy of Les Enfants du Paradis* in pieces on the fluffy floor, well… let’s just say there’s a case to be made for cats.
- Thanks for peeing and pooping outdoors. I really appreciate that.
- The mornings when the alarm goes off and you wake me up by laying your head and paws on my chest? I love that. You have no idea.
- There are sacrifices human parents make for their kids that they’re happy to make because they love them so much. Adult humans give up freedoms, they work harder to make more money to give their kids things they need. Children change a human’s whole life, and that’s a good thing because they can be so enriching and bring so much love that might not be there otherwise. It’s the same with you, Hugo. If not for you, I might be in a condo, cheaper and cozier for just me, and maybe even in the city, where the action is. And though that might have suited me, it didn’t suit us, and us is what I care about. And my life is the richer for it. That’s the kind of pull you have around here, pal. You might think it’s me that does all the “providing” in this relationship. But I get a lot more out of this than I think you know. The affection, the warmth, the thing that mental health professionals call “unconditional positive regard,” that’s what you give me in spades. That’s what makes me grateful you’re in my life.
- Squirrels really aren’t mocking you, and they’re not a threat. Let it go. Crows, on the other hand, you’re right to bark at. A crow will fuck you up.
- In or out. Decide.
*OK, you caught me being a movie snob. How about the copy of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! it took me 20 years to find? That work better for you?