Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Alameda!

I grew up watching cartoons and movies where every pet was a dog or a cat.  Not every family had an animal.  But when they did, it was one of the two.  I, on the other hand, enjoyed the company of a few guinea pigs, a gerbil, some fish, and a short-lived attempt at having a rabbit (it died after three days).  We also had a chinchilla, but it hated us and my parents had to give it away after my brother and I gave up on the thing.  Basically, even though I loved all of my pets in their own special way, I envied everybody that had a dog or a cat.  They grew into becoming almost mythical animals.  The top-tier of petdom. 

Finally, after years flirting with the idea, I can call myself the proud owner of a dog.  Now that she’s done shitting inside, screaming her head off every time I leave the house, and eating every sock she can find, I can firmly say that all of my built-up views of living with the responsibility of keeping a dog alive were completely right.

Alameda’s a lunatic.  A total weirdo.  For the most part, she acts more like a cat than a dog.  All she wants to do is rest on top of a pillow/ cushion/pillow on a cushion.  She doesn’t annihilate all of her food at one time, instead choosing to ration it throughout the day.  She avoids other dogs besides the one she’s now forced to live with.  They’ve actually become friends and play with each other on occasion, even though it’s usually pretty one-sided.  She’s skeptical of new people until they prove that they won’t make any unexpected, sudden movements and won’t beat the hell out of her. 

Also, she doesn’t play with toys.  She only plays two “games,” and I use the term lightly.  One of these games is “String Cheese,” which simply involves me tossing small pieces of string cheese down the hallway which she chases, locates, and runs back to me for more.  In a good game of “String Cheese,” she’ll run back full-speed and rocket herself off the ottoman and onto the couch.  In a bad game, she’ll simply walk back and forth.  Sometimes she’s a little more jazzed up than others. 

The other game is “Come Over Here, Go Over There,” which she’ll only play when she’s extremely happy to see me.  I’ll sit on the ground and she’ll run to me.  Then I’ll say, “Go over there!” and she’ll run into the other room, jump on the couch, and wait.  Then I’ll say, “Come over here!” and she’ll jump off of the couch, run to me, and huddle up.  Repeat. 

Like I said, I use the term “games” lightly.

This, of course, is all the product of being raped in a cage for the first eight months of her life.  I got her from the Humane Society after they helped shut down one of the largest puppy mills in Wisconsin.  The vet told us that he couldn’t be sure, but it looked like she probably already had puppies.  When she was eight months old.  That’s like a twelve-year-old girl having a kid.  Something like that can really fuck you up.

She wouldn’t even walk down the sidewalk for the first week I had her.  I had to carry her like a baby for a few steps and then set her on the concrete until a car would go by, or a dog would bark, or someone was sitting on their porch, or the wind was blowing a plastic bag past us and then I’d have to pick her right back up.  That’s not normal.

But that’s okay.  In fact, that’s why I like her.  Not that she was traumatized when she was young, but the fact that she’s a little strange.  She has an aura about her that seems a little heavier than with other dogs.  She’s weathered.  She’s seen some shit.  It’s like that Jaycee Dugard story.  She had a pretty shitty time for a while and now she gets to coast for the rest of her life.  So get a piece of string cheese, set the pillow on the couch, and keep the noise down for a while.

People say that wiping your baby’s ass isn’t gross because it’s your baby.  Smearing hunks of shit off of them is no big deal, even though it looks absolutely disgusting.  This sounds like a bunch of ridiculous bullshit someone says to try to convince you a bad idea was actually a good one.  “No, seriously.  This raw eel is delicious!” as they slurp down tentacles with tears rolling down their cheeks. 

But now that I have a dog, I’m more inclined to believe the shit-smearing parents.  I am now responsible for disposing of my dog’s shit every single time it comes out of her.  No matter what.  Even if I’m not physically near her, I have to arrange to have somebody there to take care of it.  And if somebody’s not there to take care of it, I have to dispose of it the next time I see her.  That’s my job now.  Forever.  That’s a pretty gross duty. 

But, it’s my dog so I don’t mind it.  This dog has made me do tons of gross things that I haven’t really minded.  One time she puked next to the couch and it looked like a southwestern omelet the size and shape of a Chipotle burrito.  But, of course, it was just a bunch of weird stuff that came out of her stomach.  It smelled so bad that I almost followed her lead and all I had to clean it with were paper towels.  No rubber gloves.  No gallons of bleach.  No car wielder’s face mask.  And it was hot.  Really hot and squishy.  Plus, it was on the carpet so I had to scrape the hunks from the fuzz.  But I didn’t mind. 

Even as I type this, she’s sitting next to me and alternating between snoring and briefly waking up to loudly lick her own asshole.  That’s gross, but I don’t mind.  Because she’s my dog.  So maybe wiping a kid’s shitty asshole isn’t so bad as long as you are the reason that kid’s around.

Aside from not minding really gross things, dogs are great because you always have someone to hang out with, but not someone you really need to entertain.  If I have you at my house, we’ll hang out and it will be cool, but I won’t be able to simply say, “Fuck you,” and fall asleep on the couch.  There’s a clause in the social contract that precludes me from doing that.  But dogs don’t mind it if you’re rude.  The only time my dog got mad at me for being rude was when I tried to lay my head on her and use her for a pillow at four in the morning.  Other than that, she doesn’t really give a shit what I do.  That’s pretty kickass. 

I’ve thought about what I’m going to do when my dog dies.  It usually ends in my just hoping that either she lives to be 75 or I die within the next ten years.  I really hope it’s the former, but it definitely has to be either of those two choices.  If I somehow outlive my dog (which I hope I don’t do), I don’t know if I’ll get another one.  Definitely not another beagle.  I’d just be hoping that the new dog would act just like Alameda, but that definitely won’t happen.  Unless I find another super-abused dog.  Or if I just get puppy and abuse it myself…

Today is her fourth birthday.  It seems weird to me that I’ve seen every anniversary of this dog’s life.  With the calculation of dog years factored in, she is now two years older than me.  She’s my elder.  Who the hell am I to tell her not to bark at the window every time someone walks by?  What right do I have to tell her to stop licking the couch cushions?  That would be like a younger brother telling the older brother to stop driving so fast.  I’m out of my element. 

Over the past two years alone I feel like her and I have become old friends.  We’re one of those old married couples that are a little too comfortable with each other.  We watch each other go to the bathroom, we tell each other what to eat, we go for ritual walks together, we’re getting fat, etc.  I can’t imagine what she and I will be like another four years from now.  Or another four after that (hopefully).  We’ll probably have tattoos of each other’s faces on our backs and be wearing promise rings.  Who knows?  Maybe we’ll even be married.  I mean, they’re letting homosexuals get married these days.  If the republicans are right, we’ll be able to marry animals pretty soon, too.  Fingers crossed for that.

Married or not, Alameda and I are tethered to each other until one of us dies.  Or both of us.  Hopefully we’ll die together.  That way, she won’t have to howl over my gravesite every night and I won’t have to crawl into the incinerator with her at the vet.

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