This is one of the few posts I wrote more than four years ago which I occasionally republish without changes. For some reason, this one seems “just right.”
My favorite cartoon – by George Booth — was originally published in The New Yorker. It shows a man sitting in front of a typewriter. Dogs are everywhere A woman, presumably his wife, watches from the doorway. The caption reads “Write about dogs.”
My home is full of dogs. Anyone who comes to visit must compete with the dogs for the comfortable chairs and the best spots on the sofa. (Come to think of it, we have to fight them for the best seats too.) That’s the way it is. The dogs are family.
If we have guests who are old, frail or allergic, we do our best to accommodate their needs. We put the most rambunctious, smelly, and hairy dogs out of the way if we can, but that depends on the weather. Basically, if you don’t like dogs, you’ve come to the wrong house. People who don’t like dogs are not frequent visitors.
That’s fine with me. I prefer the company of most dogs to most people. There are lots of reasons to prefer dogs. But the two big ones are love and honesty.
Dogs love you completely, totally, and without reservation. They don’t care about your social status or education, whether you are young or old, ugly or beautiful, rich or poor. They love you completely.
Your dog will never betray or abandon you.
Dogs are terrible liars. Not that they don’t try. Every dog will do his or her best to convince each human to give them treats. Your dog will tell you she needs a biscuit now or will collapse from hunger. This is not particularly convincing when the canine in question is a beefy pooch who has obviously never missed a meal. Eternally optimistic, all dogs figure it’s worth a shot. It’s a dog thing. You never know when a biscuit might fall your way.
When the performance our furry kids put on in hopes of getting a tasteless dry biscuit is especially hilarious, we relax the rules and give them a little something. After all, they don’t have hands and can’t grab one for themselves. Now and again, they need to get lucky because they’re cute and we love them.
Dogs lie, but their lies are simple and transparent. There’s no malice in them. They just want a biscuit or maybe have you throw that ball. If they don’t get what they want, they love you anyway.
When it comes to love, dogs are the best. They “get” love and think you are wonderful. They think you are wonderful every day of their lives. When they are dying, the last thing they will do is look at you with love in their eyes, wag their tail one final time and try to give you a kiss.
I have spent my life lurching between my quest for God and an equally ardent quest for the best dog food at the most reasonable price. When times have been hard and we’ve had to choose between food for us and food for our furry children, the fur kids always win.
Our dogs do not suffer from angst. They don’t worry unless supper runs late or biscuits are forgotten in the bustle of a day’s activities. If such a catastrophe should occur, they know exactly where to present their grievances and apply for redress.
Dogs live close to their deities. They hang out with their gods on the sofa. They get biscuits from them in the morning and evening. If life is circumscribed and a bit confined, it is nonetheless good.
Sometimes one of their gods gets angry and yells at them. That might make them unhappy for a few minutes, but the gods of their world don’t stay angry. Our dogs have kindly and loving gods who are inclined to scratch them behind the ears and talk to them in soft voices.
We are gods to our dogs and as such, we set laws for them to live by. Don’t poop or pee in the house.
Do not chew things not given to you for chewing, especially not anything containing batteries. Don’t jump on old people or babies. Don’t growl at delivery people. Don’t stay up late barking. Abide by the law and all will be well.
When rules are clear and understood by all, life runs smoothly.
The human side of the contract is more complicated. It’s harder being god than dog.
We pledge to care for them all the days of their lives. We keep them healthy. We love and nurture them. We feed them properly, make sure they get exercise – though they don’t get enough of it and neither do we. We keep them warm and dry in winter, cool and dry in summer.
If we force them to go outside to do their business, it is because they are, after all, dogs.
Every evening, for at least a little while, their gods climb down from heaven to play on the floor.
Our dogs don’t fret about the future. They live in a joyful present. When their time comes, we will make sure they pass gently out of this world. We promise to keep them as free from suffering as is within our power.
That is our solemn contract. We live up to that pledge because we really are gods to our fur children and must never let them down. Pets teach you a lot about the divine contract.