The person smooching up to my dog is my sister, Jill, who is nice, but this post isn't about her.
This post is about my dog, and the things he teaches me.
In case you haven't noticed by his finely distinguished grey hair and wise, world-weary expression, my dog is as old as balls. His name is Charlie, and we love him very, very much. Hes almost 15 now, and his years only add to his sense of regality. As dogs go, he is very handsome. I like to think of him as being the Robert Redford of the dog world.
About four months ago, Charlie became suddenly very ill and depressed-looking, so we took him to a vet. The vet was amazed at the physical specimen that lay quivering before him. As Charlie gazed in fear at the vet's gloved hand with the safe knowledge that it was going to tamper with his anus, the vet told us that Charlie, by all rights, should have been dead since 2005.
As a family, we took this information with a mixture of pride and crippling anxiety. We're not the kind of family who you'd imagine are good at keeping pets alive. We're the kind of family who forget to take their lunches with them and who perpetually have stains on their clothes. I can think of at least five electrical goods in my house right now that are only partially working or are fully broken. One time we kept forgetting to acknowledge the clocks going forward, so I was late for school three days in a row. The fact that we managed to keep an animal alive past its natural expiration date without even realising it isn't just amazing, its a friggin' miracle.
On the other hand, however, it meant that Charlie was (and is) a ticking time-bomb. For awhile after this visit to the vet, we cherished our beloved fifth sibling with the care one usually gives a sickly Romanov. Convinced he was going to die at any minute, we wanted to make sure that he knew how we felt about him. We took turns to sit with him, resting his head on our laps while we whispered sweet nothings into his docile ear.
This was a rather limited period in Charlie's life, because he made the terrible mistake of making a full recovery. At 9am one morning we heard the sound of Charlie's regained health. The sound consisted of the metallic flap of the letter box, the thud of paper, and one very senior cocker spaniel losing the absolute plot in barking blind fury.
Charlie has two great joys in life. The first is following my mother around the house, and the second is hating the postman. I don't know if these two great joys are linked. I don't know if Charlie was abused by the postman at a young age, or is just morally opposed to the idea of post in the first place. Perhaps he finds it a dated social concept. Perhaps I'll never know. What I do know, is that ever since we adopted Charlie in 1997, his morning routine has remained consistent. He wakes up at eight and enjoys a leisurely breakfast. He follows my mother around the house for a little. He takes a brief nap, and at nine-thirty, the postman comes, and Charlie loses his shit. One time I ordered a CD off Amazon and he chewed all the way through it, presumably in an act of rebellion against the postmans reign of terror.
|Actual damage from my dogs mouth|
After careful analysis, I'm convinced that Charlie is being kept alive purely by his hate for the postman. His morning rage is almost a religious exercise, a ritualistic cleansing of the previous days stress. When Charlie binges on hatred with a youthful spring in his step, I can relate to it. I'm someone who keeps hatred of ambigous things very close to their heart. When I decide fitfully that I must donate ten whole minutes of my day to hating Natalie Portman, I know that I'm not wasting time. I'm keeping healthy. Hatred is like fibre for the emotional diet. It might seem trivial and boring, but it keeps your emotional movements regular and you get stressed out far less. Just ask my dog.