Saturday, November 17, 2012

Is Man Really a Dog's Best Friend?

Pets are an interesting concept. The idea of owning another living being for your own enjoyment is a little strange, especially when you keep that being in a cage. But pets can be entertaining and provide some friendship. And I suppose that friendship often goes both ways.

Pets aren't always treated well, though. If there's a pet afterlife where we'll meet our former animals after we die, then I'm probably going to be facing a herd of emaciated hamsters ("Couldn't you have given me just one more carrot?") and confused fish ("Why did you flush me?").

When I was young, I had a dog named Snoopy. I wasn't too creative in coming up with names. He was a small shorthaired mutt, the kind my friend calls a Neighborhood Special. We kept him outside, but probably shouldn’t have because he was really too small and furless for our harsh winters.

He managed to survive each cold season and was always happy to see me every morning when I'd scrape the ice out of his water bowl and dump a shapeless blob into his food bowl.

One winter afternoon, I wanted to play in the snow but couldn't find anyone to join me. It was a cold, gray, dreary day, and nobody else wanted to go outside. So I suited up and went out by myself and found Snoopy waiting there. He'd been alone all day and jumped all over me. He wagged and snorted—I think that's how dogs laugh. He followed me around while I tried to roll out a snowman. It hadn't snowed in several days and the crusty snow wasn't sticking, so I soon gave up that pursuit.

I tried making little roads in the snow for pretend cars to drive in. The grass under the snow had piles of smelly, decomposing leaves leftover from autumn, so that wasn't fun either. Snoopy enjoyed the smells though. The driveway had been cleared, so there was no ice to slide on. I tried playing tetherball, but the rock-hard ball hurt my hands. I soon realized why nobody else had wanted to go out.

I finally gave up and just sat on the snow under the plum tree. Snoopy jumped onto my lap. I tried calming him down, but his tail just wouldn't stop wiggling. He eventually curled up and I petted him while my butt froze. As he lay there, he kept raising his head to look at me, as though trying to tell me something, or perhaps thank me for spending time with him. Soon my dad came home from work, and I went inside for dinner. I left Snoopy by himself in the cold, dark yard.

After a freezing night spent in his little wooden house, Snoopy was there again in the morning, wagging and snorting like always.

A year or so later, on a warm, spring Saturday morning, I left Snoopy in the yard while I went to get a friend. Snoopy really wanted to follow me, but I closed the gate and made him stay. When my friend and I returned we discovered Snoopy under the fence. He'd tried following me by pushing his way through. His collar had caught on the fence and in his efforts, he'd choked himself.

He died trying to be with me.

I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, "I want to be the person my dog thinks I am." I don't know who wrote that, but if we all had the same goal, I think the world would be a lot better place.

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