The dog I imagined I’d one day have would be at least medium-sized, fast and agile, with sharp, intelligent eyes, and a sleek, flowing mane. A Border Collie ideally, or otherwise a hound of similar classical handsomeness that might bear a striking resemblance to Pierce Brosnan.
My dog wouldn’t have some foofy dog name like Scooter or Beanie or Blue. He would have a 19th century man’s name like Curtis or Grayson or Arthur, and never, would I ever “baby-talk” my regal chum.
Our relationship would be a cherished friendship within the bounds of professional courtesy. I would be Master of the House and he would be my Executive Vice-President.
The dog I actually have is exceedingly small – only about the size of my foot when we first brought her home – and has since reached her adult size of “midget”. White and fluffy, she’s as much an accessory as a dog.
Apparently bred by the House of Zoolander to travel exclusively by handbag, she has round, curious eyes, and has a penchant for face-plants and trying to carry long bones width-ways through narrower door frames. I even baby-talk her against my best intentions. “Heidi…” I’ll begin sternly “You’re very fluffy! I mean, stop eating your own poo!”
Heidi is a Havanese, a terrier-type breed from Cuba and part of a temperament known as “companion dogs”, which means they will shun most manual labor, fail to retrieve any pheasant you happen to shoot, be overtaken by most other land mammals in a dead sprint, and be generally ineffective in battle. Really, they’re born to seek out laps to sit in.
Of course, nearly all dogs have a somewhat obsessive relationship with their human – so happy when you come home, chew all the furniture in sadness when you’re away – but I’d be surprised if many or any can match Havanese for the degree of their enamorment. She’s like Pepe Le Pew. Wherever I am in the house, so is she.
In a typical Saturday scenario where some thought will spark me into a search for something in the guest bedroom, then the main bedroom, then to the study, then outside to pick up a plastic bag I noticed had blown into our yard, then standing confused, back where I started in the living room trying to remember what I was looking for, I’ll have been accompanied every step of the way by an ankle-high, little white cloud, looking up at me with an expression that says “Where to now?!”
To her I’m an endless adventure, and she follows me the way a basic bitch follows a Kardashian on Instagram: If I did nothing of interest in my life, I’d still have an enraptured audience.
Such a trait in a person would be annoying, nay, creepy. But in a dog it’s just nice to simply be adored unconditionally. Leaving aside wolves, all dogs are therapy dogs to someone.
Personally and professionally, 2018 was in a few ways a rough year and, without elaborating on the circumstances behind the sad, I posit there really isn’t very much that can match a happy, hairy face for the sudden release of pressure from around your chest it brings. Whatever your work day was or what tomorrow may be is vanished with a wag of the tail. I boop her nose like it’s my profession.
So when I meet someone who doesn’t like dogs it feels like the Matrix just glitched. What do you mean? Reasonable people like dogs.
The day you bring your dog to the office is the day everyone comes to your desk. People you’ve never seen before, people who work on different floors for different companies come by. News of “a dog at work!” spreads far and fast, even the Singapore office knows all about it.
Science-wise, people with dogs are known to have lower blood pressure, be less stressed, and less prone to depression. Dogs are a walking IV drip filled with dopamine.
President Trump (if you can excuse this abrupt right hand turn off the map) doesn’t like dogs. Doesn’t like dogs. Doesn’t like dogs. Whilst this is disappointing to me personally, it does make me remember that Trump, for all his flaws, has so many more fucking flaws.
Both the Washington Post and Newsweek have covered his anti-dog platform in a tone that belies their serious news pedigree. Trump, the first dog-less US President in 120 years barely seems to know what a dog even is.
Through the first half of his first term he’s stated that his former adviser Steve Bannon was “dumped like a dog” and that numerous other public figures in his orbit including radio host Glen Beck, journalist David Gregory, and former JSOC commander, General Stanley McChrystal amongst others were all “fired like a dog”.
Who would fire a dog?? “Dogs who have jobs” is one of the last pure things on this Earth. Sheep herding, sheep guarding, avalanche rescue, airport beagles, and seeing eye dogs are gifts humanity barely deserves, especially if they have a little uniform to wear.
My grandparents owned a mountainous Bernese Mountain dog called Bernie who was trained as a therapy dog, and would regularly tour hospitals to bring smiles to sick children and the elderly by encouraging them to rub his gigantic, floofy head, stopping only for snacks.
Even my own Havanese, despite their aristocratic pedigree, were supposedly also employed (perhaps post-La Revolución) on Cuban farms to heard chickens. A sentence so adorable, that “Small dog herds chickens” is the title of a Netflix docu-series I wish were real, but alas. Also, I need to buy some chickens.
When Bernie passed away at the age of just eight years old my granddad cried, possibly for the first time since The War. Bernese are sadly and notoriously short-lived, and it occurred to me not long ago that my one-year-old Heidi, all being well, will accompany me through to my middle age but not much further. In the absence of “actual” children in the house, people infantilize their pets, but then have to deal with the pain of outliving their “child”.
If you don’t have a dog it might be hard to imagine, but a dog isn’t merely a dog, it’s not a feature of the house to blame farts on, a dog is a part of the family. You invest so much feeling into them, it becomes irresistibly, love.
Sarah Silverman in her Speck of Dust special for Netflix describes the sensation of knowing her new dog Mary, who replaced her last dog, is also one day going to die, even if it’s two weeks or ten years from now. “The Knowledge” she says looms over her and, as she puts it: “my heart can’t take it.”
The moment I noticed Heidi’s back leg go lame I felt my stomach flip as all the worst-case scenarios flashed through my mind. Paralysis tick! Bone cancer! Ebola but for dogs somehow! One successful surgery to fix a slipping knee-cap later, and I’m acutely conscious of the fragility of her tiny body.
Having Heidi is one of the most relentlessly positive experiences in my life, but because she’s a dog, I know that in the relatively near future there’ll be a day that I wake up, and she won’t be there anymore, or ever again. And my heart can’t take it… 😔
I’m going to go boop her nose some more whilst there’s still lots of time.