Dear Noah: Should I get a dog? – Hanlan, Tofino, BC

Dear Hanlan,

Girls like dogs – which is great – unless you find out what they actually like is petting dogs. Which is a little different, OK? And this is actually an emergency, so listen: Dogs are bad people, do you understand? Pick the worst person you know, dial 'em two clicks worse, and that's a dog.

A dog shows you, with its nuanced and highly articulated tools of communication, that it loves you – and then it destroys your shit and shits all over your house. In your home, Hanlan. The only shit it doesn't destroy is its own shit, which it actually creates, in powerful abundance. Are you grasping the depth of the pathology? This is a difficult friend.

A dog tells you that everything's “cool” between you two, and then it stabs you in the back and wrecks everything that you've worked so hard for. A dog lies straight to your fucking face. And it does this with absolutely no compunction – and only after a prolonged period of repetitive condemnation, and expression of your feelings, and your distaste for its behaviour, does it agree, on a tentative basis, to the proposition of a mutually beneficial bribe. Do you understand what I'm saying?

“Maybe for another little piece of turkey, I might begin to consider not shitting in your shoes.”

But no promises, pal. We'll see. We'll see how it develops.

A dog is an unreasonable, opportunistic, bad, self-absorbed person. A dog is sick. A dog is a junkie in your house that is prone to relapse. You provide it shelter. You provide it food. It is incapable of functioning in society. And it spends most of the day on the couch – whatever, it's fine. But you come home one evening – after earning money for it – and your wallet is gone, and it's puking on the floor.

And it's like, “I'm sick! I'm fuckin' dying, man. I was weak! I wanted a taste... of your credit cards and all that weird shit in your wallet!”

And you have to begin again, and build the dog back up, and stroke its fragile sense of self, and reward it and help it understand how to live...

Through the program – at best – the dog may eventually realize that it has a personality disorder, and that its behaviour is hereditarily acquired. Because the dog's mother and father did the same shit too.

You got a junkie living in your house. It has emotional problems. It's dangerous.

Anyways: I had a dog. A girlfriend, too. It was her idea. We went to the shelter, and we picked the dog with the loneliest face. When we got home with it, I understood why it was so lonely. The dog was a piece of shit. It was a misanthrope. The dog was incapable of a relationship.

The first thing Teriyaki ascertained was which items I was most emotionally attached to, which objects in the house triggered the happiest memories of my not-so-happy childhood – the stuff that represented the possibility of positivity and joy in a complex world – and she ate them and excreted them as feces.

Teriyaki didn't want to walk. Teriyaki didn't want to play. Teriyaki barked when she was hungry but provided no warning when she had to hit the john.

I did not know exactly how to proceed. I'm sitting in a puddle of piss on the floor with a water bottle, like, “Guy, I'll spritz your face so bad that the ACLU's gonna knock on the door. I'll turn this place into Guantanamo.”

No effect. I'm drenching this dog right in its face – and its response is to withdraw spiritually to a place of focused inner strength. Growling at me – quietly – with resolve. Like, “Death to the West.”

One morning she chewed through the telephone cable, dropped it to the floor, and stared at me – in a move so shrewd and professionally abusive – like, “Who you gonna call, fucko? Who's gonna help you now?”

Truth is, she was pretty cute. She was fun to pet and she rolled over on her back and liked to have her ears scratched.

But one day she made a snack out of Abby's Lacroix slingbacks and shit was not the same.

Now Abby's slinking into the darkened room and sitting on the edge of the bed with her head in her hands and saying this wildly depressive Bergman-style stuff. Like: “Teriyaki has destroyed our final chance for happiness.”

Meanwhile, I spy her in the morning with a latte giving the interloper a belly rub.

So that's some shit, right?

The dog's pissing and shitting all over everything I hold precious, I'm spritzing it, I'm spritzing it, I'm spritzing it. I'm trying to help it understand what it means to engage meaningfully with society, and to reason and to have empathy for those it may not see eye-to-eye with – and Abby's weeping against a moonlit window with a high-heel in her lap, telling me the dog vacuumed the dust of her soul – but then, you know, giving it nose kisses and smoochin' it on the mouth.

A couple of weeks and a Blahnik later, things had reached a critical stage. Over dinner, Abby said to me: “What if we make the dog... go away?”

There's no point in telling you that I sensed any ambiguity here. She was trying to do doggie in like Paul Castellano. She was gonna bring this mutt her fuckin' shine box.

I had to teach Teriyaki some manners.

But it was right around then that the dog put me on the pay-no-mind list. Probably because I was the one trying to drown it with a plant mister. Which wasn't my intention, obviously – but to a dog, this isn't a hair worth splitting. The dog sees me coming and it burns rubber. Abby's standing across the room; she pets it and mushes its face and calls it Schmoopie. Then it shits on the floor, and I clean it up. Many days pass like this. And at night, when the dog's asleep, and I'm soaking my hands in battery acid, Abby's got a few concepts she'd like to kick around: We could simply return the dog to a shelter. (Not the shelter that we got her from – this was too embarrassing, after all the questions she'd asked. Another shelter. Like returning a sweater to a different Gap.) I pointed out that most shelters would euthanize a dog like Teriyaki, who was already beginning to pass her puppyish prime. Abby was pretty comfortable that the ethical burden had shifted sufficiently to the shoulders of the gas chamber operator. Granted, I don't have fancy shoes like hers – but Jesus Christ. Next – and this one was my personal favourite – we could “leave her on the steps at the police station.” The proverbial “bastard in a basket.” Or bitch, or whatever. What? We're gonna do a “ring and run?” A “knock down ginger?” Could you imagine the cop that's gonna open the door? Not to delve too deep, but I've screamed “HELP ME” at the top of my lungs on a crowded train with blood pouring out of a sucking neck wound, and two cops got up and moved to a different car. So this guy on desk duty at the 94th Precinct is gonna see a border collie and do what, exactly? Scour the earth for a great and wealthy and learned man to take it in and rear it as his own? You think this dog is gonna be president? This dog will be a wastrel. It's gonna be sub-Dickens for this thing. Anyways ...  last, we could give it to Jane. Jane had just split up with her live-in boyfriend, and Abby thought that the company of a canine might be a “nice” and “unexpected” present – which, of course, was precisely half true. Jane, wherever you are, you owe me big-time.

I wanted more than anything for the dog to understand me, but we did not speak the same language. I'm not even sure that Teriyaki spoke the same language as other dogs. When I imagined her interacting with others of the species, it conjured one of two scenes: The first was a story of European classism. She was mocked condescendingly, by these greyhounds with macchiatos, for her country-ish, unintelligible pig dialect. In the second, she was basically just a little less verbal than Helen Keller. And I guess I was Miss Sullivan, trying to show her how shit worked – with a fucking water pump.

“Teriyaki,” I'd say, in our moments alone – me in one corner of the room, her in the other, shitting. “Abby doesn't respect you. I don't think that Abby respects dogs in general. She likes to pet you, sure – but who's gonna clean that up for you when you're done? Who gives you the turkey? Who attempts to instill a sense of self-worth in your dog emotional-thing whatever? You're being used, Teriyaki. You're a pawn in her game. And though I understand that for the most part you keep your head down and focus on what's left of my stamp collection – which is fine, I'm learning how to get over it – I want you to understand that there are sinister machinations occurring all around you, and you have to be careful whose palm you're licking...”

I never really convinced Teriyaki to see things my way. Ironically, Abby eventually became so angry that I wouldn't co-conspire in dumping the dog along the Belt Parkway that she moved out – and took the dog with her.

What did that mean? Either her screws were looser than I thought, or she loved me more than anyone's ever loved me. I don't think about her too much anymore, but I do wonder what ever happened to Teriyaki.

Unfortunately, I think she probably killed her.



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