The first time I ever heard a dog speak was five weeks after I brought my first puppy home from the shelter. He was eleven weeks old, the most snuggly-soft creature in the universe, and was tired of every game my fiancé and I knew to keep him entertained. At the behest of an experienced dog owner in the neighborhood, we bought our puppy an ‘IQ’ game, a fuzzy box filled with three squeaky balls designed to stimulate his problem-solving instincts. Our dog took one look at the cube, stuck in his nuzzle and pulled out the three balls in one grip.
‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ he said, then rolled his eyes and wandered off to chew a curtain.
Apparently, all dogs talk, but you can’t hear them until you’ve owned a dog yourself, and only then if your dog decides that he’ll let you into the club. Moreover, once you’ve been accepted—deemed capable of handling the secrets of canine creature-hood—your world implodes into a swirling black hole of dignity-sapping dog worship. Your dog will always be better than you.
To illustrate, consider the following situations wherein my dog behaved much like a bitter graduate student from Michigan studying post-colonial literature:
Not only does my puppy speak, he knows how to form complex sentence structures in over 12 languages, including Russian, Hebrew, and American Sign Language. His favorite bedtime story is the Portuguese translation of L’Etranger, because ‘its portrayal of alienation and spiritual doubt’ reminds him of his first weeks on the streets.
After listening to NPR one morning, he asked me ‘if Ira Glass could be more annoying.’ I told him I’d show him annoying and forced him to listen to Stephen R. Covey books on tape for the next two days, a move I now heartily regret since he’s since taken a proactive approach to ankle-biting.
One Saturday afternoon I bought my dog a pair of sea foam green socks from Baby Gap to keep his feet warm during the night. He grew out of the socks by 3 a.m. Sunday morning and had knitted a fashion-forward shawl by the time we took him out for his morning potty break. I was asked to hold the shawl while he ‘took care of his business.’
Last week, while I cradled my dog and sang lullabies into his floppy ears, he grimaced, made the ‘shhh’ motion by holding his paw over his mouth, and then suggested I not quit my day job.
Although he hasn’t publicly complained about his crib, he’s recently been engaged in various late night remodeling projects. Some mornings, I’ll retrieve him from his crate only to find that he’s laid a new parquet floor or installed a hot tub.
My dog has his own account at Amazon.com. According to his most recent purchases, Amazon recommends that he try a Roy Orbison record, an anthology of Charles Bukowski poetry, or an outdoor Weber barbecue grill.
I recently caught him watching C-SPAN.
When playing with other dogs in the neighborhood my puppy typically hams up the fact that he’s the cutest four-legged mammal on the planet, bringing even the most demonic pit bull to its knees in adoration. However, when confronted with other similarly precocious, petulant puppies, he’ll sigh, stick his quivering black nose in the air and declare, ‘God, toddlers.’
My dog once called Thurston Moore a ‘poncy-ass douche bag.’ I immediately washed his mouth out with soap.
My fiancé and I paid a professional dog trainer to teach us how to cope with several habits of a growing, highly-dramatic puppy, including biting, barking, and berating Colin Powell for being ‘such a sour puss.’ After two hours of his learning intense boot camp-like maneuvers, we sat our dog down and explained to him that things would be different from that point forward. He promptly peed on the carpet.