Despite my attempt at fatherhood, my kids have dogs. I grew up with cats and therefore so did they. But now I’m tired of cats pooping in a box where I live and exhausted by their running in front of me, ahead of me, and stopping right where I’m going to walk to wash themselves in that classic leg-in-the-air pose. Yeah, yeah, maybe they’re trying to get my attention, to get me to pet them, but my focus is on not tripping while trying to get to the kitchen or back to my office. And besides, there’s enough cat hair in my house, so I don’t want to deliberately scoop it off with my hands.
And actually, my daughter, Ricochet, is more like me in that she doesn’t care to have pets at all anymore; The dogs in her house are her husband’s. The sheep-sized one doesn’t seem to care when I come over, but the thing that looks like a haggis with legs will yap at me the whole time I’m there, even when my daughter confines it to a bedroom.
My other daughter, Cocoa Bean, has four dogs, one small, one little, and two that actually look like how I think dogs should look; Medium with long legs and long snouts. The shorter fuzzy ones bluster with barking when I visit, though they do calm down after a while. But the bigger, medium dogs need to jump at me when I arrive, clawing at my legs and stepping on my feet. Then they circle in front of me and slap my shins with their tails. Because of that, I try to remember to always wear what I think of as dog clothes whenever I visit: jeans and work boots. However, I haven’t figured out how to prevent their buttwhips from inflicting future varicose veins on my legs, because jeans don’t really help there. I imagine using the knee-to-ankle guards the batsmen in Cricket wear, but those are expensive. I’d prefer to stop by and sip a drink on the patio and engage in pleasant conversation while wearing the protective gear of police dog trainers, but that is probably even more costly.
The reason dogs have never been a best friend to me is because they always find a reason to bark at my presence. Years ago in Missouri, my wife agreed to take care of the plants and the pet of friends of her parents while they were all gone on vacation. I didn’t agree, but I drove her through the woods and down the gravel roads. I sat in the living room while she did her thing, and when she was done and came back in, a little dog followed her. I stood up to leave, and that minuscule monster went berserk, yapping so hard that he lifted his paws off the carpet. The next time we went there, the dog was waiting for me and yapped as soon as I entered the house, punishing me for sneakily hiding in plain sight on the couch the first time. From then on, I stayed in the car. Much more recently, this last Thanksgiving, we went to my sister- and brother-in-law’s house. They have two dogs, a small one that looks like it came from a holiday plush bin at Exwork, and the other is a Shetland pony with canine features. Shetland started barking as soon as I came in, which got Plush started. Like babies. It took a half-hour for them to calm down. But later when I went outside, Plush ran in front of me and I had to step over him. Well, Shetland thought I was attacking his little buddy and started barking at me, which made Plush start barking, he didn’t know why. It was another thirty minutes before calm prevailed. I dared not move.
I think dogs have only three words. One is a threat to “Get out!” which often has growling as an exclamation point. The second is “Play with me, or I have to use the yard,” which usually includes a whining “…?” at the end. The third, and most common, means “food.” The dog word for that is “bark.”