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Kissing the Dog's Ass

2004-06-14 - 10:36 a.m.

My dad is, in many ways, very similar to Ozzy Osborne.

Both are men who have come up from very poor beginnings to be comparatively wealthy men (although Ozzy, no doubt, is the wealthier). As a result, both live in rather extravagant homes with rather extravagant pools. Both tend to wander around the house in their pajamas, cursing a great deal not out of any sort of anger, but simply as a matter of course (my father, of course, cursing in Spanish). Most of all, both are the loving, over-indulgent fathers of an unruly tribe of pedigree dogs.

I love dogs. I'm sure I'd love Ozzy's dogs. I hate my father's dogs.

Rest assured that this troubles me far more than it troubles you.

Someone once said that if dogs and babies don't like you, you are probably an inherently evil human being. Like many trite offhand aphorisms that I should have ignored, I took this to heart and began to construct something of a belief system around it. I even took it one step further and decided that, since almost all dogs and babies seemed to like me, I was an inherently good person. Grown ups human beings might not be able to see the aura of benevolence that radiates from inside me, but the innocent uncorrupted infants and our four-legged friends could see that I was a truly noble soul worthy to be drooled upon by them.

This has gotten me into trouble on more than one occassion.

Back in high school, I had a HUGE crush on this guy named Clint. He was intelligent and artistic and handsome and, unfortunately for me, very very straight and very very Christian, although not so Christian as to not want to hang out with me. I crushed on him all Senior year (he went to a different school, but we had many friends in common and they enjoyed watching me squirm whenever they brought us into one another's presence) and finally thought I was over him in the spring. That was until I went to his house, and met his dog.

His dog LOVED me. L-O-V-fuckin'-E-D me, okay! She followed me around everywhere. Then, in the kitchen, his mother walked in and saw me petting her and said, "Oh my God! The dog loves you! That never happens! That dog hates anyone who isn't a member of our family!"

At which point I wanted to say, "See Clint! See! The dog knows! We're meant to be together! We're meant to be a brilliant, happy couple who's together forever and who has a family of adopted children together! The dog knows! She wants to see our kids, Clint! You're the only one who has yet to get with the program, and she and I say get your sweet ass up to speed, like, yesterday!"

I didn't

I say all this because I really want to express to you how my relationship with dogs is not a strained one in any way, and that the hatred I bear for these dogs has nothing to do with the species as a whole. In fact, I would argue that dogs, like people, are varied enough in their personalities that no one should be capable of loving every dog except in some abstract, veterinary Mother Theresa sort of way. Therefore, it is entirely excusable that, just as I have met people in my life that I've hated, so do I hate these dogs.

See, these dogs are a trio of spoiled brats. They are always underfoot, and always begging for food. They get out from the backyard and then go harass the neighbor dogs. They rip up plants and anything else that's within their reach. They have mastered the doorknob and therefore require us to keep doors locked at all times. And they bark.

They bark so much, and so loudly, that I have contemplated canicide on more than one occassion.

Before you say ANYTHING about how dog's are the best burglar alarms, let me tell you that you're preaching to the choir. My own dogs barked whenever people were outside, and one time they barked loudly enough to wake up my grandmother (back when she lived with my mom and me) and send her downstairs to find someone prowling outside, who quickly took off when she saw him.

The difference is that these dogs keep barking even after we have entered the house. They bark loud and long even when we let them know by sound and sight and smell that we are not strangers. Whenever I stay at my dad's I can't even come downstairs after 10pm because they start barking like I'm there to steal their food and they wake up the entire house. Never mind me coming home late, especially with friends. Whenever I have friends in from out of town, we stay at my dad's house because my apartment is tiny and has no TV. When we come in late at night, I tell them in the car, "Okay, we have to be very quiet coming in or we will wake up the damn dogs. You need to understand the importance of not waking up the dogs. As soon as we close the car doors--which we will do with the utmost gentility--you cannot speak a single word above a whisper. We have to go in through the gate in the backyard, being careful not to scrape it against the concrete too loudly because it might wake them. Once inside the backyard, step only on the stone pathway, being careful to avoid any lava rocks that may have strayed onto the path, as the crunching sound in well above the established decibel limit. Proceed up the stairs at a rate no faster than 2mph, and wait until I unlock the door, which I will muffle using a preset scarf. Once inside, do NOT make any noises until I close the door AND make sure that the door to the indoor stairwell has been sealed with duct tape. At that point, we may converse at standard volume."

Of course, halfway up the stairs my friend will cough, or sneeze, or exhale in a meaningful way to highlight what they see as my unnecessary paranoia, at which point our totally organic, completely malfunctional burglar alarm goes off in three part yipping yapping harmony (did I mention these were poodles?) and I have to shoot my friend. When my dad comes out to see what's going on, I inevitably say, "Oh, Dad, thank God I heard the dogs, this person was trying to rob us."

"Isn't that your friend who's visiting you from DC?"

"Um, it sure looks like her! Wow! It is! Who knew she'd be willing to rob me? Some friend!"

I lose more friends that way.

This weekend, however, I was free. I was housesitting, meaning that I could open the front door when I came back from a party at 1am and was able to yell "AAAAAAAAAAH SHAAAAADAAAAP!!!" in my best Elaine Stritch impression. Of course, it also meant I had to feed the dogs.

So I fed the two younger dogs, who ate up their Beggin Strips with gusto, and then I tried to feed the older dog, the ringleader, the one who always barks the loudest and longest and who never recognizes friend nor foe.

And he ran away from me.

And he turned back and gave me this look. This please-don't-hurt-me look that made me feel like a complete and utter douchebag.


I've yelled at this dog a lot in my time, because he's spoiled and tends to decorate the floors in brown and gold and he barks like a crackfiend with Tourette's, but the truth is he's just a dog, and even if he can't properly perceive time or an conscious self, he can feel scared and hurt.

So I went up to him, and threw the snacks to him gently. The next time I gave them snacks, I walked up slowly and handed it to him. When I came home next, I laid down on the floor with my stomach facing him, and he and I played together a little with the two younger dogs, and the next time when i fed him he didn't run away.

He barks less. A LITTLE bit less. He still barks way the fuck too much, but now it's only to the same excess to which he barks at everyone else.

It doesn't mean I like him or anything. Nor does it mean I'm a particularly good person.

But we're both a little less likely to pee on the carpet.

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