By Catherine Breese
Remember that scene in It’s a Wonderful Life, the one where Jimmy Stewart has come to the realization that Uncle Billy has lost the bank deposit and a huge scandal is a certainty? He comes home shaking and sweating. One child is practicing the piano loudly and badly, and Zuzu is sick. He yells, “Why do we have to have all these kids anyway?” Often these days I find myself saying, “Why do we have to have all these dogs anyway?”
For the record, I love my dogs. I am a dog person. I give to the SPCA annually and adopted both my dogs at the Kanawha County Animal Shelter. Let the record also show that my dogs can’t read and so nothing written here will hurt their feelings.
But really, I am very, very exhausted by all of the joy my two dogs bring me. I know I am not supposed to say this. It’s like saying you are sick of your kids…no, actually lots of people get away with complaining about their kids. But somehow when you complain about your dog, people get all mushy and feel sad for the silly fur bag. It’s more like saying you hate your grandmother. Yes, that’s a better comparison.
I’ve had dogs all my life, and I’ve had some great dogs. These aren’t them.
Henry and Pancake have their own special quirks. Henry’s got some bladder and flow issues. Henry Sprinkler is his nickname, or sometimes The Piddler. He pees when he’s excited, when he’s angry, when he’s guilty, when he meets a stranger, etc. He will pee on any surface but definitely prefers carpet. Loving Henry means loving to clean the floor. Now, Pancake has little man’s syndrome, barking loudly with hackles up at the slightest provocation. And oh the drama! If he’s nervous and any part of his body is touched, even lightly, he cries out in this terrified girlish scream of a Chihuahua in a bear trap. The other day he made this scream when I was wiping his feet. People across the park turn, stare, and gasp in horror. It is terribly embarrassing. When you adopt dogs, you get what you get.
Not that we haven’t tried to train them. Oh, we have. Five years of walking on a leash every single day, but God help us if one of them sees a squirrel or another dog. They will jerk our arms right out of the shoulder joint. They have also never gotten out of the habit of taking off when let off the leash. If the front door is accidentally left ajar, they run away as though they’ve been held and tortured at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. Pancake comes back after a few laps of the neighborhood. Henry has to be rounded up; he has no intention of returning. Henry would happily move into the home of anyone silly enough to invite him inside. Zero loyalty. It’s a fine thanks, since we actually saved his life when we adopted him. They don’t like balls or Frisbees or sticks. They will not fetch, or catch anything that is not a dog cookie. The only game they do play is a game we like to call “Michael Vick Comes for a Visit,” in which they wrestle so viciously that we have to break it up.
They only have one talent, really. And that is looking cute. (Their other skill is shedding, but most people don’t look at it that way.)
Since we have been traveling our wonderful beasts are with us 24/7. Where we go, they go. And I, for one, could use a break.
Recently, they have gotten to hang out with their cousin Erma (a talented red lab who walks herself on a leash–yes, walks herself). Although Erma exhibits all the desirable doggie skills—fetching, playing ball, peeing outdoors—Henry and Pancake have learned nothing by example. It’s sad really. It’s as though they can’t learn a new trick.
Erma has been a generous doggie hostess, sharing her bones, toys, and yard. Yet, Henry and Pancake are much more annoying than they are grateful. After we were here for a few days Henry figured out that Erma is a girl and has been endlessly harassing her. He has neither the equipment nor the skill to knock her up, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying several times a day. In fact, Henry and Pancake are like the New Yorkers on our trip, complaining about everything from the food to the sleeping accommodations. When we take them outside, they make a beeline for the car as if to say, “Time to go home, now.” (They are woefully unaware that their home actually is the blue Ford Freestyle in the driveway.)
They are just really bad house guests, I guess, and by virtue of the fact that they’re with us, that makes us bad guests as well. Um, I’d better stop here. Otherwise I might scare off other friends who have offered places for us to stay. Really, they’re very sweet dogs. I swear.