My friends help me work around my weaknesses
When you have a friend who makes ads for a living, the one-off text conversation jokes operate on a whole ‘nother level.
Another Caucasian, Jerry.
It’s been two years since we brought him home all riddled with worms and bugbites. Two years of stepping on metal pencil eraser housings, of LEGO blocks chewed to Dali-esque dimensions. Two years of him giving a piece of his mind to, well, whatever it is past the northwest corner of the fence.
Two years of gazing longingly at dogwoods, yearning for a love that can never be.
Two years of perfecting his are-you-going-to-eat-that Oliver Twist face.
Two years of jockeying for couch position with the kids. And mostly winning.
Two years of mirroring my own distrust of authority with more forthrightness and courage than I ever showed.
Happy Gotcha Day, boogs. Please stay off the dining room table.
I was a teenager when Norm, our younger springer spaniel, attacked my dad. He had undiagnosed rage disorder and bit my dad on the face while they were snuggling in his chair. Dad threw Norm in the back yard and mom took dad to the hospital. I had to stay behind and listen to Norm, now returned to himself and confused about his banishment, cry to be let in.
He hadn't howled like this before. This was a wholly new sound, different from the sounds of pain and stress and alert that normally came out of him. Listening to it was almost unbearable.
I sat in the upstairs hall and wept. Our older springer Malley padded up close, sniffed me twice, and nudged me. I tried to shoo her away. She normally listened to that, but that night she stayed, and she nosed my hands away from my face again and again until I let them fall. She kissed me and she lay down next to me and did not leave my side until dad came home. We put Norm down the next day.
He used to try to talk. If you were sitting in a chair and reading or watching TV, he would come and sit right in front of you, face like a forlorn Stan Laurel, and wait for you to notice him. If you ignored him, he would scoot a half-step back, sit back down, and huff once. If you continued to ignore him, he'd try to talk.
This was not a bark or a whine. He would open his mouth and start modulating his voice in a constant up-and-down rurring sound that approximated the rise and fall and cadence of human speech. I've never heard a dog do that before or since.
That was one of the things I missed most when we put him down. He was one of us. He wanted to be near us, to share body warmth with us, to be comforted and told that he was good, that we saw him there, that we hadn't forgotten our boy. He was also weird as hell, and I identified with that.
The gist of this article is mostly reasonable. Which makes the clickbait nature of its headline and framing even more tiresome in contrast. Even Norm didn't clown that hard to get our attention. He just tried to talk to us.
That clowning drowns out some of the piece's more disturbing points, like that 40% of women dog owners get more emotional support from their dogs than from their husbands. That's a parasitism that's far more worthy of scrutiny than the question of whether my Mugsy understands selflessness and altruism.
Indeed, there's a case to be made that we're all emotional parasites. That we need affirmation, that we need security both physical and emotional, that we need to feel needed and valued. That others are mostly a means to those ends.
The question of whether dogs love us or merely need us only stops with their species if you don't understand the implications of what you're asking. Pointing out that they train us just like we do them opens us up to much broader and more interesting discussions about the nature of our thinking and feeling existence than a lazy and predictable "everything you know is BACKKERDS" hot take, if we’re listening.
It’s a perfect microcosm of everything I’ve come to hate about the internet I used to love. A big opportunity for meaningful discussion torpedoed by the symbiosis of market considerations, short attention spans, and the need for an outrage platform.
Right now the San Diego Union-Tribune is basking in a viral Twitter fight that raised their ad revenue for a minute. Right now Twitter is screaming DOG HATER about an article they didn't read. Both of them sacrificed something to get what they wanted.
The whole thing makes me tired all over. So tonight I will scoop my little bearded boy up in my arms and carry him up to bed (note: that fucker’s spoilt), and I will ponder for the 500th time as we plod past the stained glass window just what all this says about what it is to have feelings.
Best buds for LIFE
I know it’s summer and he’s two but we went ahead and got his senior pictures done
Checker at Lowe’s: “That’s a sweet dog you have. Is he a terrier?”
Me: “Yeah, we think he’s some kind of ter—“
Jack: “He’s a Bearded Orwellian Snatchhound.”
The lies I tell my children may be catching up to me.
Yesterday at the vet: “You two look nice together with your beards.”
He might have a matching hoodie.
The High Mountain Vest with Hunkerdown Insulation, $87
Available colors: Manzanita Crucifixion, Cerulean Longing, Blood Oath (pictured)
My boy’s guitar face is so badass he doesn’t need an actual guitar
We have returned from vacation and I have fetched the still-recovering boy from his grandparents'.
I have been tempted to whine about the hundreds of miles I've driven the last two days. But I thought of how much he's quietly endured this week, painful heartworm treatments and prednisone and temporary relocation across state lines while I laid on a beach. Yet my boy still cried and damn near threw a hip wagging his tail when he laid eyes on me.
Some say that we don't deserve dogs. I say that we are all home, and that is what I needed most.
We found out today that Mugsy has heartworms. It was supposed to be a quick run for immunizations before we leave town to go visit my parents for Labor Day weekend. A sentence from the vet rather changed the tone of my day and the next couple hundred days to come.
I am restraining the urge to get sloppy here. I have written about what he means to us before, so I won't retread that here. Suffice it to say that my mind is currently churning on the topics of fragility and emotional need.
This goddamn dog that I almost didn't want to adopt because I would have preferred a rescue who was house trained, yet here I am prepared to burn your house down to save his life.
We'll soldier through. But today is for spoiling him (more).
Tom Hardy's dog died, so he dropped a tribute video and an open letter to his good boy. This marks him as a quality human worthy of a dog's care.
Please note that Woody was named after both his penis and his fondness for eating poop.
Every few months, I look at Mugsy and four words leap unbidden into my brain: You can never die.
He managed to escape the yard today and roam for god knows how long. Then straight up killed a chipmunk and made me chase him down to get the poor li'l dude's body respectfully disposed of.
This fearsome warrior. This noble descendant of the goddamn wolf. This John Wick of dogs.
A jailbreak, a sojourn through the wastes of the Forbidden Zone, and a hot-blooded murder. Now he requires only a baptism in the tears of his enemies. And a snuggle with Monkey.
I got Mugsy an Easter Peep out of the stuffed toy bargain bin. He mostly uses it as a Realdoll.
Right now he's worn out after an all-too-brief tussle, so they're spooning instead.
It's the quiet, intimate moments that build the brightest memories.
The trainer said we had to
We were forced
We did not do this because it's adorable and also carry your own poo bags for a change
Definitely had nothing to do with OUTWARD HOUND
I programmed my work Slack awhile back to post a random pic of my dog if I type the words "Mugs me". I am using it a lot today, like a healing balm or a high-quality lubricant
We got a dog this year. Most of you know we got a dog this year, and half of you are expecting me to say "we got a dog", so guess what, I don't want to disappoint: We got a dog.
He is small, bearded, not-un-Morgan-Freemanish in appearance, if not demeanor. He does not have the bearing of a person who might narrate a jailbreak or try to keep Brad Pitt from opening a box. He prefers a bouncier insouciance and general love of eating poop, two things Morgan Freeman is not known for.
Mugsy has upended things in the best way possible. He forces me out for exercise at least once daily. He demands that we take time to play, that we remember to lay hands on each other as much as we can. And he's a walking object lesson in the fragility of our circumstances.
Let me explain. Yesterday, my son asked me if I thought he would make a difference in the world. "Sure", I said. "Any time you touch a life, you make a difference in the world." I knew what he meant, but I wanted to make him push toward his real question, which was this: Will I be important?
That's an echoing hallway of a question. So I pointed to Mugsy, and I told my son a story he already knew, the story of a bearded baby pup who wandered a graveyard looking for food. Covered in bug bites, gut full of parasites. Someone saw him there, a woman saw him. A woman who cared.
That woman took him home and cleaned him up and fed him and took pictures of him with a ball and a sombrero. She put those pictures on a rescue website. I found those pictures. I texted them to my wife with a photoshopped speech bubble that said "i love u jennifer" in tiny letters, knowing that this was the most reprehensible kind of manipulation. And only because all of those things happened, because that manipulation worked, we brought him home.
"That dog", I said to my son, "lives better than half the people in the world now. Because somebody cared." Then, because everyone loves dad lectures, I pushed on.
I reminded him of Mr. MIchael, his Cubmaster. Mr. Michael got into an argument with a friend on Facebook over Syrian refugees, an argument that led him to get on a plane and fly to Greece. There he met children who had seen their parents beheaded. He raised money to build them a school. Now he's trying to get their camp better sanitation.
People stand on the sidelines and lob lazy criticisms at him for doing this. They want him to stop, but he keeps at it. Because he cares.
That, I said to my son. That is what making a difference means. You pull a puppy out of a culvert. You feed a kid. You touch a life, and you change a life. You change a life, and you hope that that change will be fruitful and multiply. No one will erect a statue of you for this. But many will bear witness to you.
I've tried to tell my children that Important is a pretty coat and Useful is what we reach for when we need to be warm, but I know how well I would have listened to that at their age. Why should they listen to me? I barely do. So I touch their lives, and I hope. Sometimes we parents cling to that.
And then there's that dog. The bug bites are gone, the gut situation mostly rectified. He's gotten comfortable with leaving exuberant chaos in his wake like so many crayon-studded dog flops, as if his own usefulness is to remind us that the current moment is all we have in this world. That the only question worth worrying over is this: What can I do today?
We joke about how lucky that stupid dog is, how well he landed. I've called him Little Arfin' Annie. But I'll tell you a thing: that little dude pulled a third-act Grinch on our respective heart sizes, so he's earned his place. He's a living reminder that there are plenty of others out there, others on four legs and two who haven't had a kind lady happen across whatever cemetery they're foraging in. We can't give them all sombreros, but we can keep our eyes open for opportunities.
We can ask: What can I do today? When we find out, the answer transforms us.
There's a song I can't let my kids hear until they're a bit older. It's full of cussin', which I enjoy. I listen to it at least once a week, and it ends like this:
There is no chosen one
There's no such thing as magic
There is no light at the end of this tunnel
So it's a good thing we brought matches
We got a lot of matches around our place. More than we need. If you need a few, or even just a word, I'll repeat what I told you last year.
We are here.