Happy birthday, dear dumb dog

April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s my dog’s birthday.

(BTW, This is probably the bloggiest kind of sentence I have ever written. Like, who actually gives a shit? Besides the birthday dog’s little brother Zero, that is. Damn thing poops everywhere)

But I digress. Rory, my first dog, is 9 years old, which in dog years is something like 60? I dunno, but he’s getting up there. Which is weird. We got that dog when I was in 6th grade, an impossibly long time ago, it seems, because I kind of don’t remember not having a dog.

We weren’t ever supposed to get dogs. My mom and I are wheezingly allergic to dander, and our allergist warned us from Day 1 not to be tempted by the “non-allergenic” breeds. “You’ll fall in love, and then you’ll have to give up a member of your own family,” he told us, gesticulating with his mysteriously four-fingered right hand. My little sister could hardly stand it, and spent long hours poring over her Dorling-Kindersley dog book and sketched pictures of the hypothetical not-dogs we would never have.

But then we did what we do best as a family, which is whatever-we-want-and screw-the-rest. We found a breeder and drove to Allentown in a thunderstorm to meet a certain Mr. Smiley and his litter of Standard Poodles. We picked the one with the green rickrack around his neck, and he cried a lot and threw up in the backseat of our Volvo when we brought him back. We tried to crate train him, then train him à la the Monks of New Skete, then Puppy-Kindergarten-style with a clicky thing and microwaved bacon cut into chunks (this was a key part of the method), then with the Dog Whisperer book, and then I think we gave up.

Our family friends constantly mock us for our lack of discipline in training the dog. “How,” they say, eyes wide with faux-incredulity, “did the dog open the fridge and eat an entire Easter ham?” We just reply that we don’t know and we’re more concerned about the three chocolate rabbits he’s vomiting onto the Craigslist oriental rug. Rory eats, sleeps, and chews basically whatever he wants. The garbage can is like a gift-wrapped snack. Barking sonorously and frequently at the neighbor-poodles is his favorite pastime. His little brother, Zero The Aptly Named, is his admirer and his accomplice. We, the humans, indulge him, sometimes scold him, but mostly love him like insane people. My parents would (and have) run in front of moving traffic for him and my sister, dizzy with joy at finally getting the dog we were never supposed to have, drew scribbly pictures of him as a mass of black, tangly hair (which is not inaccurate).

Standard poodles live to be about 12. I don’t know how to feel about this. Rory’s spry as ever, sure, but he’s grayer. And I’m not home any more, which means each time I see him is more and more abridged. But dogs have that scent-memory that runs deeper than thought and that love that makes human familial ties look feeble, and I know he remembers me and wants to eat my socks no matter how long I’ve been gone.

Cheers, dog. I’m glad I can breathe around you after all.

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