I could spend hours fighting Pal. This baffles people, mostly because I have at least 6 feet and 240 pounds on my dog. But Pal required a lot of attention, sometimes it was pills, other times his teeth needed brushing. Yes, his teeth needed brushing. What Pal lacked in size and reach he gained in a psychological edge. When you know your opponent is worried about inadvertently snapping you in half, you’ve already won. And so Pal and I would fight for hours. I would yell and cuss. He would screech and scowl. On the living room floor, on the couch, in the room far enough away from the neighbors to stop them from calling the police because of the wailing. On and on. If you can imagine a silverback gorilla trying to give a Tic-Tac to an indifferent teacup pig, you’ve got the right idea.
The fights became been more frequent in the last four months. Once Pal got diagnosed with cancer, specifically a soft tissue sarcoma that caused a tumor to grow in his jaw, that meant a pretty aggressive pharmaceutical diet each day. The drugs could only do so much, but I knew, after years of cartoonishly drawn-out battles, that Pal would not go quietly. He really didn’t do anything quietly.
I like to call Pal a “tough old bastard.” He was basically a tiny Walter Mattheau, albeit with four legs and a tail, and minus one mustache. The default for Pal? Surly. Because when you are a dog smaller than most cats, with little appreciable fur, a diminished desire to make friends, and a snaggle tooth grin, you should probably have an attitude.
So Pal did not play, or do tricks. He did not like to be touched, or looked at. More often than not we had to tell people “don’t worry if he yelps when you touch him, he’s a little sensitive.” In other words, Pal did things according to a set of rules that were largely known only to him. He had different ways of showing affection. If he liked you he might sniff your eyeball. If he was fond of you he might try to hump your forearm (small dogs gotta be strategic when they get busy). If he liked you enough he would get close and promptly nuzzle his head in your chest. But the most love and gratitude he could show? Pal would hop in your lap, jump up, throw his paws on either side of your neck and go in for a hug. It was a terribly cute gesture for a surly little dog that did not care for cuteness.
As much as Pal and I fought, I knew he liked me well enough. He had a funny way of sleeping, laying in our bed, head on a pillow with the rest of his body under a blanket. He thought he was people that way. But I knew Pal cared, or at least didn’t actively despise me at times, when he would switch up his nighttime routine. With enough whining, shifting and annoyed glances, Pal would get me to raise my arm just enough so that he could nest his head in my arm pit.
If he hated people, which is open for debate, he was bad at showing it. Here’s the thing that scared him the most, more than trips to the vet or losing more teeth: Not having someone to hang out on the couch with. If Pal had a factory setting, it would be sleeping on the couch. And god help him if he was going to sit there by himself. You have never heard a dog cry so loud and long as he would to get someone to chillbro with him. He would get visibly anxious and develop a special kind of tiny fidgety tick, and the pacing and whining wouldn’t stop if you were busy working, cleaning, or cooking. The sleep was his religion, and the couch was the only church he knew. He was ardent in his faith: Pal could get lost on the couch, sleeping with a blanket over his head for hours. Lazy Sundays, thunderstorms, even parties. This is a dog that weighed less than 12 pounds, would be comfortable in a bread box, and he had at least six blankets that were expressly “his.”
Basically Pal was the world’s most eccentric roommate. He ate our food, put us out so he could sleep, didn’t pay rent, and occassionally peed on things. He could be a jerk. There were times when he was a stubborn pain in the ass who didn’t communicate well, who was stingy with his affections and sometimes seemed to prefer the company of himself to the tedium of others. Maybe the reason I called him names, and got so frustrated all those fights, is because he reminded me of someone: myself.
Inventor of SnapChat, daring the world to prove him wrong.
[ via NYT: “A Growing App Lets You See It, and Then You Don’t”]
I had to talk Dennis off the ledge over at Brannigan’s Law. He has a case of The Fear over whether new Community (sans Dan Harmon) will be as good as old Community. (Check your local listings)