OK, But It's Still Your Dog

I don’t have a dog anymore, so maybe I have no say-so in this, but I think that some Florida people are taking their dogs way too seriously.

I’ve seen people take them to the mall with them, and I’m not talking about seeing-eye dogs; just regular non-helpful dogs.  I’ve heard them on airplanes and not in cargo. I’ve seen their little heads poking out of the ends of dog-purses a la Paris Hilton. And I’ve seen people holding them like they’ve just rescued them from a burning building.  Last week I saw yet another person walking a dog in a stroller. Please explain to me why a dog would need a stroller. Isn’t the whole purpose of walking a dog so that he gets some exercise? Perhaps not. Maybe I was misguided in my own dog ownership, when I treated my dog like . . . like a dog.

I loved all of my dogs. Seriously loved them. Gave them lots of love and attention and food. And I agree that when a dog licks you it’s like you’ve just been to the psychiatrist. But the amount of love you have for an animal doesn’t affect whether it remains a dog. This isn’t Geppetto’s shoe shop; You can’t love your dog into humanity.

A couple days ago I saw an online article on depression and dogs. It advised pet owners that if they think they’re dog is depressed, they should go straight to a vet and get their dog on medication. “Prozac, phenobarbital and valium, for example, are available for dogs by prescription.” I’m sure your health insurance won’t cover it, though, dang it.

And how can you tell if your dog is depressed? (Hint: It’s not “sad puppy eyes.”  That’s just part of being a puppy. Doesn’t mean they’re sad.) Loss of appetite, excessive sleepiness, atypical shedding, no desire to play. Sounds to me like the typical day in the life of a dog.

I’ll make fun of dog psychiatry to the end of days, but I have a story about a cat whisperer that really is incredible. And I mean interesting-incredible, not malarky-incredible.

My daughter’s old bassoon teacher had a cat named Cloudy, who he had owned for ages and who would perform circus cat tricks, jumping through hoops and such. I spent my daughter’s hour-long lesson every Tuesday either looking for Cloudy or playing with her. I really loved that cat.

The bassoon teacher’s friend got a kitten and immediately had to go overseas (you know these musician types . . .) and asked if he could watch the kitten for a few months.  The kitten was wild and crazy and bothered the shit out of Cloudy. Cloudy was constantly avoiding the kitten and showing signs of extreme feline-anxiety. The kitten was hyper-active, neurotic, manic-depressive, and possibly psychotic in a mostly happy way. But we all know that too much of even happy can be annoying.

The overseas guy came back home and offered to leave the kitten where he was (therein lies the main difference between cats and dogs and their relationship with their owners. A dog owner would never toy with residency and ownership like that) but Bassoon Teacher said, no, he would rather have his old life back where he has one normal cat and no interlopers. He gave back the kitten and Cloudy immediately had a breakdown. She wasn’t eating, she was listless, breathing wasn’t right - clearly a depressed cat.

A cat whisperer was brought in. She wasn’t told any background, just that the cat needed some whispering.

She asked to be alone with Cloudy for a while and when she came out of the room she said, “This cat is really mad at you.  She wants to know, what happened to the kitten?” The bassoon teacher fairly freaked out, since he had not mentioned the kitten. Apparently, as bothered as Cloudy was by the kitty, that was nothing compared to the horror of knowing that her owner could discard one of her sisters, even an obnoxious one. Some messages were passed back and forth and Cloudy eventually understood that the kitten had been just visiting. She cheered up and went back to jumping through hoops and trying to hide from the moms during bassoon lessons.

What does this story have to do with spoiled, Florida dogs? If you’re going to treat your dog like a person, forget the clothes and wheels. Talk to it. You might be surprised at what it wants you to know. It might want you to get a kitten.

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