My Friends are Dumb: “Man’s Best Friend”

When I was a wee chonky lad, there was nothing I wanted more in life than to have a dog. Oh sure, I had gerbils growing up, which served as a loosely passable replacement. Incidentally, their names were Harry and Marshmallow: Harry, because I was something of a Harry Potter fanatic, and Marshmallow because he was white and fat and kids aren’t particularly creative (my nickname in elementary school also happened to be “Marshmallow”). There was also a third named Stuey, who was the spiritual predecessor to Marshmallow, but within the first month of bringing him home, he bled to death in my hands. Yes, my tears fell harsh and fat that day for the young mammalian rapscallion that I would never truly get to know. But that’s a topic for my therapist.

While Harry and Marshmallow adequately served my parents’ purpose of distracting me from large canids, it turns out that gerbils, unfortunately, have a relatively short shelf-life (and in the case of Stuey, a *remarkably* short shelf-life. R.I.P. bud – In my darker moments, I like to think that your blood still stains my palms). Meaning, that when they too went the way of Stuey (Both to pretty nasty tumorous lumps on their stomachs – honestly, who the hell thought gerbils were the best first lesson in mortality to children?), my obsessive-compulsive mind once more turned towards the sort of life-long love and companionship that can only come about after 30,000 years of intense domestication.

At first, as in the many years prior, my mom was simply not having it. But now in my late middle school/early high school years I had a few things that elementary school Tom lacked. Namely, a slightly more developed frontal lobe, a working understanding of Microsoft Office, and the misguided belief from a well-meaning teacher that “If I just put my mind to it, I could do anything!” And boy did I put my mind to it. Looking back, I’m fairly certain that had I put even one tenth of the time and energy I sunk into convincing my mom to get a dog into, say, further developing my burgeoning love of writing, I would be writing a sequel to my New York Times bestseller right now instead of this blog to 3 of my friends. *But* I also would never have gotten a dog – so in the end, we’ll call this a well-placed investment.

Yes, after doing hours of research, building literal dozens of slide decks detailing the relative pros and cons of each respective breed, and tracking down several local breeders that could deliver our family the right four-legged companion, my mom finally caved, and we went to pick up our new dog – Seamus.

Now, Seamus will be the focus of another post (Or several. Or dozens. He’s the best.) But all I’ll mention of him here is two things. One, he was well worth the wait. Everything I would have wanted in a dog was made uniquely manifest is this ornery yellow instigator, and if the price of having him was a spot on the bestseller list, then so be it. He’s given me 14 (14!) years of friendship, love, and non-stop shedding overly literally everything I’ve ever owned, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world (*Note: One of my central arguments that ultimately worked in getting Seamus was that he *would not* shed. While I admittedly was shown to be wrong in this instance, the mistake was sincere and well intentioned. Sorry, mom.*) But second, not everyone loved Seamus the way I did. And to be fair, not all of it was undeserved. He was loud. He’d jump on people when they’d come in the house. He’d pull on his leash while walking. And he’d beg for food like a particularly flagellant monk would beg for his *Penance*.

Namely, while I loved (and still do!) Seamus with all my heart, I’m rational enough now as an adult to understand why some of those around me maybe…didn’t, so much. Which brings me full-circle to the primary topic of today’s post: Two little Cujos by the name of Ollie and Rugar.

For context: Ollie is a spring-loaded paw-puncher of unfortunate stature and unusually good aim. Rugar is a self-loathing scuttle-goblin with a penchant for peanut butter and destruction. Both are Australian Shepherds. Both belong to a blonde blanket demon named Danielle. Both have never been overwhelmingly fond of me.

To be fair, some of this is entirely my fault. Rugar, for example, is something of an emotionally distraught soul. He finds more comfort in the shadowy recesses under the kitchen table then he does in any sunlit open space. Like a centipede squeezes itself into the cracks in the wall to escape the coming of the light, so too does Rugar scurry to the first dark crevasse he sees to flee the bright, shining rays of friendship. He shakes with epileptic rigor whenever a stranger approaches him, hisses like a wounded snake when you attempt to touch his paw, and is on such a constant stream of drugs and medication that he is now biologically classified as an offshoot of the cannabis family. But in the end, like begets like, and Rugar’s *special* concoction of fear, drugs, and unusually snake-like attributes pulled my own uniquely damaged soul to it like a magnet.

And while I wouldn’t normally consider myself much of a sadist, something about Rugar’s cowering ways and diminutive nature brought out the schoolyard bully in me. Was it nice of me to chase him around the house screaming? Not particularly. But it also wasn’t nice of him to bark at me like a psychotic banshee whenever I would walk in the door. Was it well-mannered of me to speak to him in threatening tones as I stroked his head menacingly? Of course not. But I wouldn’t have even thought to do it had the sad little Cerberus not stared daggers at me from the comfort of his mother’s lap as I attempted to watch TV unmolested.

And then there’s Ollie. This tubby sack of dough has a vim and energy that serves as a stark contrast to his unrestrained girth and rotundness. Mild stimuli are his primary bane, and any sound, movement, or general state of being will set off the sick siren call of his whiny and aggressive bark. His secondary bane is the…well…the earth I guess, as he’s deathly allergic to just about every aspect of the natural world. Grass? Hives. An oddly weird and specific subset of vegetables? Vomit. Other dogs? Coughing fit. Yet despite these…eccentricities….the most trying thing of all is the uncanny way in which his bony paws can find their way to my genitalia when greeting me at the door. This is not your light jab from a well-meaning and inane, but ultimately impotent, child. This is the sort of sucker punch done with the sick intention of not wanting me to have children and backed by the heft and sheer momentum of his blubbery girth.

So, who can blame me for wanting to ruin him emotionally, and rebut any attempts at canine-related friendship?

“Oh, you brought your toy to me! How sweet! (*Takes it from him and sits on it*) There, now go away”.

“You want a bite of my food? (*Picks up fork and stares him directly in the eye as I take a bite, spit it out, and throw it away out of spite*) Damn, thought I’d like that more than I did. Anyway, go bother someone else.”

“What? You want to come sit on the couch with me? (*Stretches out legs and gently (yet entirely unnecessarily) nudges him in the face as I do so*) Ugh, sorry bud. Been kind of a long day, and I *really* need the room to stretch out. Maybe next time.”

I would like to say that our relationship has improved over time, like a fine wine or Parks and Recreation after Season 1. But sadly, I find it devolving more with each passing year, like a rotting piece of meat or Scrubs after Season 5. In my head, I imagine all three of us thinking through the things we’d like to say but finding ourselves unable to actually say them; I see us wanting to *make it right* and laying it all out there for us to talk through, so we can salvage what could be an otherwise strong and vibrant relationship. But in reality, our own guilt and egos continue to get in the way. We fail to bring forth the sort of candor and vulnerability required of such an effort, and thus do our bonds of unity (and my sperm-producing capacity) continue to deteriorate. And all their owner can do is look sadly and sleepily over from her den of blankets at a friendship gone awry.

In the end, I will always be a dog person. I will always think fondly of my childhood-yearning for a furry partner in crime, and the years of companionship I’ve been able to experience with Seamus. I’ll continue to aggressively poach the love and affection of random street dogs, and attempt with unrelenting enthusiasm to pet every dog in Milwaukee. And who knows? Maybe someday when my testicles have long since lost all functionality, and Rugar has become less scared of his own shadow, there can be a chance for us to bridge the gap that divides me from these two furry gamete graters. Only time will tell.

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