Let’s just get this out of the way: I have an unhealthy obsession with my dog. (Luckily, the feeling is mutual, or mine would be a pretty sad situation.)
Winston is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He’s three and a half years old, and he’s my constant companion. He comes to work with me every day. He sleeps in his bed on the floor next to me (he got kicked out of our bed for excessive snoring and unrepentant bedhogging). He sits on my lap when I’m watching TV and dozes half a dozen feet away when I’m writing or sewing.
I was a cat person all my life. I liked dogs just fine, but cats were, if you’ll excuse the expression, the cat’s pajamas. Unfortunately, when I left home for college, my feline immunities collapsed under the weight of a latent allergy. Since then, I still love cats, but I have to love them from a distance.
Four years ago, I got a short-term production on a travel show, which led to a short term job on a dog show. That turned into a staff position, and that meant I immersed myself in the world of dogs — their history, their psychology, their behavior, their communication. And I’m a research geek. When I get my research on, it’s on. I can name all of the 170+ AKC-registered breeds from memory. I can tell you why farmers bobbed the tails of their Old English Sheepdogs* and what is the maximum allowable weight for a Pekingese in the show ring**.
So when I decided to actually get a dog for myself, it follows that (naturally!) I’d know enough about dogs that my dog would be the shining epitome of a well-behaved dog. My dog would make Lassie look like a slouch.
Not so much.
Winston is smart — much too smart for his own good. He learns based on what he wants to learn, and he performs based on what he wants to perform. For instance, he knows how to play dead, if you make a gun with your fingers and say, “BANG!”” But before he’ll “die,” he makes sure you know that he’s not happy about it. He barks at you. He spins (another trick, which somehow became inextricably linked with this one). He drops slowly to the ground, giving you the stink-eye the whole time. Finally, he puts the paws in the air and gives you 0.7 seconds of “play dead.”
He could do it right the first time. He just doesn’t want to. At work, he somehow learned the command, “Go say hi.” It means, “get up from where you are and go to the nearest doorway to let someone give you a tummy rub.” You can say “go say hi” anywhere, any time, and he’s off looking for the doorway. No spinning, no whining, no barking, no stink-eye.
And living with Winston has taught us, too. We now have our own vocabulary. We have learned, for instance, the concept of being “tuck.” Being tuck is a lot like being stuck, except you aren’t actually stuck. Winston gets tuck all the time, mostly on rolling chairs with spinning seats. He loves jumping onto them, because so much exotic food lives on desks. But getting down again is a different story. He’ll sit on a chair and bark for ten minutes, tuck as tuck can be. The only magical way for him to get un-tuck is for me to appear somewhere in visual range — I could be fifty feet away. At that point, the “fasten seatbelt” light in his brain clicks off and it’s safe to exit the chair.
And then there’s “tinky.” Whereas tuck is “not really stuck,” tinky is the opposite, because tinky is “really stinky.” (If you’re tinky, watch out. You’re on the fast track to a bath.)
I could go on forever. I love animals in general, dogs in particular, and Winston in a way that most people think is slightly unnatural.
But I don’t care. All I know is that I’m never home alone. I always have someone to talk to. And if I’m sad, there’s always somebody around to lick the tears off my face (for some reason my husband hasn’t volunteered for the job).
Thanks for reading!
~ Deb Katie
PS – Speaking of dogs, here’s a little video about a famous dog or two.
* for tax purposes, to designate them as working dogs
** 14 pounds
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