11/14/2005

Doggone It! [NOVEMBER 13, 2005]

I never thought that I’d find myself walking down the old, winding streets of a three-thousand year old city carrying a bagful of shit in my right hand. Not only that, but I scoop up the still steaming shit (only the fresh ones will do) from the ancient sidewalks myself and, even worse, I do it practically every day. How low can one man sink? I hang my head as I write this because I’m sure some of you will think I’m finally revealing that twisted fetish you all knew I had, but I assure you I’m not – It’s just that I am now a dog owner.

I’ve never been a big animal lover. Sure they’re cute and I’ll stroke the occasional domesticated critter, but pet ownership was just never for me. I put this down to two things: One, I’m violently allergic to cats. Two, my pet rabbit, Fluffy, jumped off our balcony and plummeted two storeys to his ultimate demise when I was but a wee lad. The authorities at the time, a.k.a. my older brother, concluded that it was suicide brought on by depression as a direct result of my pet ownership abilities (or lack thereof). Whereas I eventually got over Fluffy’s untimely hara-kiri, the cat allergy has stuck with me throughout adulthood and, as a result of these physical and mental issues, so has the aversion to having animals live under the same roof as me.

All this changed, of course, when I started dating my girlfriend. She loves dogs. All Czechs do. They have a saying in the Czech Republic, "If you don’t like dogs, you don’t like people." Frankly, I’ve met plenty of antisocial misanthropic Czechs who absolutely adore mutts but, hey, I’m just a stupid foreigner so who am I to point out these obvious non sequiturs. The one thing that I did have to get used to was that she was a dog owner and so was everyone else in her family. The only relative I have who owns a dog is my retired uncle who lives in the mountains and loves hunting. But that’s what love and relationships are all about. Compromise.

When my girlfriend and I first moved to Spain, she had to make one of the hardest decisions in her life, or so I’ve been told by other dog owners, and leave her faithful friend behind in Prague so that she could travel across Europe with her adventurous boyfriend. This, I’ve been told by dog owners again, proves that she must love me.

After we returned from Prague this summer though, we finally brought her dog with us. The two would be separated no longer. We thanked my girlfriend’s sister for looking after the Labrador Retriever for the past year, put her in one of those airplane dog cages (which set me back over 150 bucks!) and flew her down to sunny Cádiz.


Just chillin' out at home

Ema, the Lab, has been living with us for about two months now. At first, I didn’t want her here at all. A dog in my home? I thought. That means barking at ungodly hours of the night, chewed up slippers left and right, and surprise deposits of urine waiting in the living room corner. But Ema’s been great. She’s completely house broken and trained. The only time I’ve ever heard her bark is when my girlfriend says "Bark!" in Czech. In fact, Ema doesn’t really do anything at home... unless you take sleeping into account. The thing is, she really isn’t that old so I don’t see why she’s passed out and snoring on the floor half the time. I guess blindness will do that to a dog.

That’s right, I said Ema is blind. It’s quite ironic actually. Labrador Retrievers are world-renowned for being used as seeing-eye dogs. Our Lab can’t see another dog’s ass even if it’s an inch away from her face, although she has recently learned how to sniff out that kind of thing a lot better. I guess one day, when we can afford it, we’ll buy Ema a Labrador of her own so that she won’t bump into walls anymore.

In the meantime, we’ve been having a grand old time here in Cádiz. The first few weeks were a bit strange for all of us and took some getting used to but we’ve gotten over those initial stumbling blocks. Just a few words of advice, though, for any dog owners out there who decide to bring their blind four-legged friend – especially if they come from a landlocked country like the Czech Republic – to the ocean. Be prepared for prolonged fits of canine coughing after your first visit to the beach. Your blind dog will think that the big wet thing that just soaked her paws is not the Atlantic but a lake. She will therefore begin to lap accordingly.


You gonna throw it again or what?

Another thing to be careful of is throwing the ball. Everyone knows dogs love chasing after tennis balls and it didn’t take me long to find out that Ema was no exception. Sure, it takes a blind dog a bit longer to find what she’s looking for, be she still gleefully goes on her merry way and doesn’t give up until the ball is firmly fixed in mouth. Throwing a ball to your blind dog on the beach is no problem, but whatever you do – DO NOT THROW IT DEEP INTO THE OCEAN! Ema jumped into the Atlantic the first time I launched that fuzzy green sphere in there and began wading aimlessly towards the horizon. Being blind and all, she had no idea where the ball was so she just kept wading... and wading... and wading. Further and further away. Thank God my girlfriend and I eventually caught her attention by throwing a few stones and yelling at the top of our lungs. If we hadn’t, Ema would be halfway to New Jersey by now.


Look closer... there's a blind dog among the vessels

So far, these brief anecdotes form the limits of my dog experience. I’m told there’s a lot more to expect though. Apparently, she menstruates only twice a year and, either before or after it (I can’t remember exactly), she tries to jump on any erect male that crosses her path. I’m told it’s pretty hard to stop her but I think preventing a blind dog from sleeping around can’t really be all that difficult. I’ve also been warned that she occasionally goes through bouts of farting but I haven’t had the opportunity to smell that yet. Oh, and she’s recently started this whole shedding thing. I thought the dog was going bald when it first happened but I was soon assured that it was all completely natural. My girlfriend, as a result, has had to sweep the floor two or three times a day for the past week but I don’t really see a difference. Ema still just sleeps away in her quiet little corner, waiting for an opportunity to chase after that mangled green ball that sits next to her water bowl.


Doggone it! It's right here you sightless mutt!

As for me and the whole idea of living with a dog, I must admit... It’s really not that bad. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t think of anything nice about walking down the street carrying a bagful of warm excrement or praying to God that Ema doesn’t "take care of business" in front of the busy outdoor café. But every time I come home and that tail of hers starts wagging like mad simply because she’s so happy to see me, I stroke her smiling head, scratch her behind those velvety ears, and wonder why it’s impossible not to love her back.

3 comments:

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Lori said...

That is so true....They're always happy to see you....I had a dog named Salty for 7 years....she looks alot like your dog....I posted a couple of pics of her on my blog...if you want to check them out!!!

Have a great day!!!

hippo_pepperpot said...

I have a yellow lab named Jamie. He isn't blind but has hearing problems, or at least he wants you to think he does. They are great... he is always happy to see us. The shedding is a problem... I sweep it up constantly and still we get covered w/ hair... no black clothes in our house unless you are trying to make a new fashion statement. There is NOTHING worse than having to pick up the poop... esecially when Jamie decides to do his business right outside the chickens school when I go to pick them up w/ Jamie... loverly!