Animal House

Originally posted in my Alaska Highway News Column May 20, 2015

Ozzie wears a wool beret that rests at a jaunty angle on his wee head. Most days you will see him smoking a cigarillo as he leans back into the couch to study me with his big brown eyes. He has a sour disposition and is incredibly verbal with his needs. As he has aged, he has taken to depositing “presents” on the hardwood floor. I yell at him, “Why did you do that?” and he just turns his back on me, pretending he is deaf. A skin condition, not unlike psoriasis, has robbed him of his beautiful black hair and it now is sparse and almost white in colour. The medication he takes has caused a rapid, extreme weight gain, bloating his once strong, proud body into a caricature of his formal self. When I reach around his belly to help pick him up to place him in bed, he normally passes wind, with a sad “phfewwwwww” noise – loud sharp farting is something that he abandoned with his youth. His head turns and I imagine him saying, “the dog did it”.

Riley, on the other hand, wears no clothes. Instead he wanders naked from room to room listening to the beat of his own heart. His hearing diminished from “selected” to completely gone about two years ago and his eyes appear milky. His OCD, which was charming and funny when he was younger, is now paralyzing. He touches the food to his mouth over and over again before he takes a bite and therefore dinnertime becomes a three-act play and he has grown thin. Fear of bees and bugs and all things flying makes sitting on the sun deck in the summer unbearable. He wants to go in, he wants to go out, he wants to go in, he wants to go out. He is “naked and afraid”.

These are not people. These are my dogs and this is how I see them in my minds eye.

Yes, I anthropomorphize them, but that is what makes dog ownership so much fun! It is not like I dress them up? (okay….I DID dress them up a couple of times, but just for a picture).

These two good-looking men have been in our lives for more than a decade. They are senior dogs and believe that they should be cared for in the manner to which they have become accustomed. When we camp, we bring extra chairs for them to rest their arthritic bodies (guests can sit at the picnic table). We groom them regularly, they visit the doctor more often than we do and we (hubby and I) spend an inordinate amount of time discussing their bowel movements.

We speak to them like we would speak to children. Ozzie becomes “Oh AUUUUUHZZIE!” and Riley becomes, “What’s wrong Wiley-bear?”.

We even apologize to them.

Yes.

Just yesterday I jumped up from my chair (I am clearly embellishing….I haven’t jumped for anything in a long time unless it involved Dairy Queen)….anyway, I jumped from my chair and accidentally stepped on Fatso Ozzie. Phfewwww (gas escaping) was followed by a painful yelp and he ran for safety under the table.

“I am sooooooo sorry!” I exclaim and rush to comfort him. On my hands and knees I crawl under the table to pull him out, but he is clearly fearful and trembling. I am fairly certain that he believes that I did it on purpose.

I am beside myself with guilt and want to make it up to him with cuddles and loves and cooing into his stinky ear, but he won’t come out from underneath the damn table!

I think to myself, “He is doing this deliberately to make me feel badly. I am certain of it. He has always liked to play mind games!”

I climb out from under the table, which involves bumping my head and snarl, “Fine! Stay there! I don’t care! Why were you sitting right underneath my chair anyway?”. I walk away, abandoning him.

Riley, the people pleaser, has been watching the entire exchange and jumps at the chance to make everything “better”. He leaps off the blanket that he was been resting upon and runs up to me. I bend down and he begins to lick my hand as if to say, “We know you didn’t mean it”.

Tears well up in my eyes which could be an emotional reaction to the moment or it could be a physical reaction to Riley’s HORRIFICALLY bad breath.

It doesn’t matter.

These are not dogs, they are tiny humans with big personalities and I love them both.

Even Ozzie.

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