Reality Truck: Love Me, Love My Dog

Language burns out with lies, especially to dogs. -- -- William WegmanAs I began my recent downward spiral into writers' block and encountered a concomitant dearth of appropriate subject matter, I realized I had four options: I could get a new job (unappealing); get married (less appealing); have a kid (laughable); or get a new pet (hmm ... ).When I eulogized my cat Steve this time last year, my friend Linda pronounced it hilarious, then sighed wistfully and remarked, "It's just a shame he had to die so you could get that column."In response, I think maybe I'd better clarify that situation for everyone once and for all: I was not DRIVING the car that killed Steve. When he died, I decided to take a breather from the heartbreak of pet ownership. Then scanning the paper about a month ago, I happened upon a Great Pyrenees/Golden Retriever puppy who was advertised as one of those "free to good home" deals. I called up the owners and asked them to define "good." It turns out with a house and a fenced -- in yard across from a park, I qualified.I brought him home and put him down on the deck -- eagerly anticipating some amusing antics that I could dutifully transcribe. He threw up. Hilarity ensued. Of course, I was prepared for that. I also expected the incessant gnawing, chewing, whining, drooling, begging -- I've had a lifetime of experience with boyfriends to draw on. And although dating musicians SHOULD have also prepared me for the inevitable day when he would run away from home and I'd have to come up with the bail to spring him, I was nonetheless hysterical when it happened.That's when I learned I'd joined a weird doggy cult that had completely transformed my personality. Within seconds of discovering his escape, I immediately ran across the street and accosted everyone I saw with his picture.Minutes later, an entire posse had assembled and was roaming the park. There were two things that I found miraculous about this. First, I'm not the type of person to approach people I don't know for any reason. In fact, if I was on fire, I'd be hard-pressed, to ask a stranger to put me out. Second, I really couldn't believe that people would actually help me, just because I asked them to. These are people who've been eating lunch across the street from my house for the five years I've lived there -- we've never exchanged so much as a "mornin' Sam."Next, I called my friend Susan from the car and she quickly constructed Base Camp -- calling all our friends within a two -- mile radius of my house and mobilizing concentric search parties that began in the park and radiated outwards. Within minutes of my call, I suspect a Lost Puppy alert was scrolling across the screen of every television station in town. And I'm pretty sure I heard the Emergency Broadcast/Air Raid sirens go off just as I screeched into an illegal parking space at Kinkos, where I quickly terrorized the staff into "prioritizing" my Lost Puppy flyers.I imagine that by then Susan had fashioned a crude map of the city out of an old origami project -- and was systematically tracking the separate search teams with an array of colored pins. Patton would've been proud.By the time I'd arrived at the pound, the newest member of the Reeves family was awaiting my rescue, and eyeing me reproachfully for forcing him to mingle (albeit briefly) with the great unwashed (not that I know where he gets such snobbery). Now of course he's in puppy school, so we can break him of such dangerous behavior.The first order of business was to teach me dominance -- a class that, by all rights, I should've tested out of. Next, they "socialized" the dogs by putting them all in a large pen while we owners averted our eyes. At the first yelp of pain I glanced over and my little angel had an impeccably -- coiffed bichon frise in his mouth. (My officemate suggested I can now coax him into the car for puppy class with the phrase, "C'mon Travis! We're eatin' out tonight!!" That happy glint in his eye when I get out his training leash probably translates to "MMM! BUFFET!")Then we learned about "praise and rewards" -- an eminently useful school of thought I'm trying to apply in my dating life. I'm just having a hard time keeping straight which pocket has the Dog Biscuits and which pocket has the Cheez-Nips.After class, a nice couple offered to loan me a spare pet taxi to help alleviate Travis's tendency towards motion sickness, and another guy came over to see if I needed any treats to help bribe him back into the car. I told Susan a few more weeks of this kind of treatment, and I'm afraid my columns will suddenly take on a decidedly Capra-esque quality. (Of course I've always misted up whenever Mr. Potter tells George Bailey, "Most people hate me. But I don't like them either, so that makes it all even.")Because now ... here I am, starting to think ... why ... it really is a ... wonderful life. Then I shake it off.Meanwhile, my friend Elle and I contemplated various anthropomorphic secret lives for our pets via email (my ex-cat Leo, for example, was a lounge singer). But it took us a while to figure out what Travis was up to in his spare time. Then one recent brisk night when I was trying to curl up to him for warmth, he kept inching away from me. That's when it hit me: he's just a big, distant, aloof kind of guy who -- no matter how good he has it at home -- will always think he could do better someplace else.Even if that someplace else is filled with nothing but a bunch of scraggly, dirty, ill-bred, mangy, uneducated, flea-bitten bitches (and I mean that in the canine sense of course) ... He's the kind of guy who, no matter how delicious the food on his own plate is, always wants what the other guy is having. My GOD, if he had opposable thumbs he'd be a bass player.

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