This weekend, I rolled over in bed and caught my dog, Jasper, staring at himself in the mirrored-closet door again. Is he spellbound by his enormous bat ears? Does he think there's another dog in the room, quietly meeting his gaze? Or has he just crashed into the closet door again and paused to stare into nothing and curse his shitty vision?
On a whim, I took him home from the Humane Society a few months back after spending five minutes with him, having never owned a dog before. This is exactly how NOT to bring a dog into your home, I understand, but by some miracle things have worked out well.
I know how to manage cats: buy toys they'll ignore, get a little pet bed that will fill with dust before cat hair and prepare to have every surface you'd like cat-free to have a cat on it anyway
Such was the case with Baz, the huge black kitty I snagged from the Humane Society over the summer.
"Here's a cat bed, dude," I told him. "It's in the sunshine, next to the window, up high like you like. Why don't you hang out in that while I paint the kitchen?"
"How about go fuck yourself," he seemed to say, "And I'll hang out on top of the kitchen cabinets?"
Bossing a cat around is about as ineffectual as scraping an icy windshield with a pancake, so I was pretty excited to get my first dog. I pictured the two of us on long hikes, wandering downtown for a beer and sunshine, and taking long drives together to go camping. I imagined my friends gathered around, cooing over my well-trained mutt as we performed circus tricks — never in the kitchen.
But Jasper's not that kind of dog. I was told he was either 9 or 12 years old, some kind of terrier or pinscher mix, couldn't see great and wandered the streets for a long time before spending more than a year in shelters.
His legs choose no to hiking, he gets nervous in new places, he prefers the quiet of the tent to the camaraderie of the campfire and nobody in the whole entire world is ever going to coo over how well-trained he is — unless their only requirement is never being in the kitchen. (NAILED IT!)
Instead of training, he and I have developed a series of understandings. I understand that the electric blanket is now his, as is 60 percent of the couch. I understand that after we slowly walk to the mailbox and back, he's going to run several joyful laps around the house, pointing out all the things I should've put away by knocking them over. I understand his old man grumbling means I need to adjust his blankets, turn up the heater, or pet his head. I understand my only real job now is to keep him safe and happy and ensure he has the best doggie retirement I can give him. When I think about that imaginary dog I had in mind, he seems far less delightful than the actual buddy I got.
Jasper was probably staring into the mirror after having bonked his face on it again, but maybe he also took a minute to pysch himself up for another good day.