"What is that? What does it do? Can I eat it? Why are you doing that? Why did you close that door? Can you lay on your back like this? Let's eat this thing; it smells awful! Why are you doing that? Let's go outside! I can pick this up and run away. I never, ever poop on your lawn or anywhere outside. Am I a good boy? What is this? Let's pull it off the table to see if it's food! Can a dog climb completely inside a refrigerator? I can. Don't you love me? I love everything! Let's jump up on the bed! I did it first so the bed is mine. I think I'll lick that pillow..."
This is my life right now.
I have said, "OK, time to go potty!" so many times in the last 48 hours that I'm afraid I'll say it in my sleep or start to mumble it out loud in a work meeting without realizing it.
We had a dog for nearly 17 years. Three days after my daughter was married, our dog, Kallista, lay down and just couldn't get up again. She was gray, old and very tired. She raised our two kids and last April she decided that it was time to go.
We were surprised at how much crying we could do over a single dog; one that never even learned to give us back rubs or fetch the newspaper. We felt like teenagers without cellphones or a postal worker without a line of people waiting.
There was an awful void. Something important was missing.
As it turns out, there are very few people who will give you the kind of unconditional love that a dog will offer you. I have never had a boss jump up and down and run around in circles every time he or she saw me.
(Some have made me run around in circles, but that's not the same thing.)
I once saw an embroidered pillow in someone's house that said, "I want to be the kind of person that my dog thinks I am." We missed that kind of respect and unconditional love so we went out and did something that we never thought we'd do — we got another dog.
We got another Basenji, a breed of dog you don't see every day on the street. Rarely will you find them on a doggie calendar.
We have picked this breed because my wife is allergic to dogs but not to Basenjis. They are very clean dogs and I suspect they'd vacuum our carpets and scrub the floors if they didn't think it would be easier to train us to do such chores.
(The clean instinct apparently doesn't apply to the puppy stage, especially if a puppy has decided it is much more private to go potty in the house than outside.)
Basenjis are known for being intelligent animals who prefer to train their owners. Of course, we aren't letting our new dog, Sundance, train us, but we have had to adjust our behavior a little. For example, I've already learned that if I leave my socks on the ground, Sundance will grab them and fling them up in the air until my wife notices and yells at me.
I put them away now.
It's been a long time since we had a puppy and our new Basenji thinks that just about everything that happens is reason to celebrate. There is no past and there is no future with Sundance — just the glorious now and clearly now is a moment made for playing and chewing.
I've wondered how it would be if our presidential candidates had a little less bulldog and a little more puppy in them. Envision this:
"President Obama, Mitt Romney says you are wrecking the economy!"
Then President Obama would just lower his head and go back in the White House and sulk.
Such criticism wouldn't be coming from Romney, however, if he too were more puppy-like, because he would be having too much fun crawling around under the tables, eating napkins and looking for treats — and I don't mean the multi-million dollar Republican treats that you have to do tricks for either. He'd be overjoyed with someone's leftover pie or even a dead squirrel found in the parking lot.
Can you imagine a birther backstage scolding a happy relaxed Mitt Romney, insisting he drop a sock or a dead squirrel from his mouth before he went on stage?
"Mitt! Let it go! Drop it! It will make you look foolish," the birther would say.
Or imagine President Obama involved in a tug of war with a rope toy and a particularly ornery member of Congress. Picture ops on the evening news would look much different that way.
(Insert your own congressional lap-dog joke here.)
Wouldn't it be cool and disorienting if our drones dropped tons of squeaky toys on suspected terrorists instead of bombs? They could drop the bombs later if it was necessary. It would just be fun to see them rained upon with squeaky toys.
For now, most of you will have to push ahead in this cold, cruel world just with your imagination and the hope of a better day. Not me. I've got a happy, joyous dog to train. But not right now. Right now I think it is time to race down the hall and jump on the bed!
I just need to pick up my socks first.
Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at [email protected]