Thursday, September 24, 2009
I’m the owner of two worthless dogs, and that’s the truth.
Phoebe the boxer gets a pass because, as I’ve said before, she’s old and opted for retirement a couple of years ago. Though she knew how to do lots of things in the past, now I only have two rules for her: Don’t die and don’t pee in the house. She’s better at one than the other.
When we go on walks and she jumps on strangers and tries to lick their face, I no longer jerk her chain to pretend she’s in training. Her face is all gray, what could she possibly be training for? So I just shrug and leave the strangers to struggle and gasp. It’s their look out now.
Albert the lab, on the other hand, has no excuse, other than a capacity that has been diminished since birth. I realized the other day, as I told him to heel for the 3 billionth time, this is probably as good as it gets. He’ll strain on the leash, I’ll say “heel,” and he’ll jump back in position with a big dumb smile that answers, “Oh yeah, heel, sorry, forgot.” And then not 5 seconds goes by when he’s not straining again. So I’ve taken to adding a second word to the instruction: “Heel, Stupid.”
Albert can’t heel, guard, or chase rats. He’ll never save me from a burning building or Timmy from the well. He knocks me over when he runs into the house, and knocks me over when he runs out of the house. On command, he can’t sit, lay down, or shake. What he can do is shed. You know that old Peanuts character, Pig Pen, who walked around in a cloud of dirt? Albert walks around in a cloud of black hair and dander. You can wash him (at your peril), but his hair amazingly grows back within minutes. And now the hair is not only in every crevice and piece of fabric in the house, it’s also damp.
My friend Margaret has a dog that is snagging trophies for intelligence and agility. If her Scout were human, he’d be weighing both athletic and scholastic scholarships. If Albert were human, his ambitions would be more modest. I’d have to explain to him why changing oil at the local Jiffy Lube is a beautiful dream, but probably beyond his grasp.
I was thinking about this as I picked up all the tennis balls and plastic bones that Albert had dropped over the partition into the room where my little rescued rabbit lives. Albert constantly rains toys on the poor thing's head, hoping for some kind of quick pick up game, though the little guy has never shown any inclination to play chase, tag, or fetch. Instead, the rabbit just looks up and sighs for the 3 billionth time, “Easy with that baseball, stupid.”