Living the dog's life: Naked, hungry and huggable

I'm actually a little less satisfied with this one that I should be. My editor loved it. I think it has turned out to be pretty mediocre. For what it's worth, it's about my dog.

May 11, 2004

Dogs live the simple life many people wish they could live. Dogs aren't burdened with things like jobs, politics or romance. Dogs are naked, hairy little beings out to enjoy life and make their masters happy.

Dogs, I've read, became domesticated because of the species' keen understanding of human emotion. Dogs are highly social pack animals and can sense how people are feeling by voice, body language, odor, whatever. This is why, without fail, dog owners will say things like, "Spot is so cute, he thinks he's a human!"

My dog is not like this. I'm not sure if Nino knows that he's a bulldog; in fact, I am pretty sure he has no idea he is from Earth. He may think he's a Martian.

When I come home from work feeling great, Nino is upbeat and happy. When I come home feeling awful, Nino is upbeat and happy. When I take a nap, Nino is upbeat and happy. Nino would be upbeat and happy if nuclear winter descended over the Baltimore/Washington metro area. He's just an upbeat and happy moron of a dog. If he were a person, Nino would be a smiling buffoon staring at a hurricane saying, "I just love the rain."

Of course, my girlfriend thinks Nino is smarter than he is and as crazy as she is. Recently, Nino urinated on my cell phone charger, shorting it. I was angry. My girlfriend, justifying it, assuring me that, "He just misses you. He doesn't understand it's only a charger. He was trying to call you on the phone."

Another time, some men were working on the roof of the building across from our apartment. For some reason, Nino was scared of these people. This is curious, because Nino will defend (read: bark his head off at) our apartment from anyone who walks by. Nevertheless, he was hiding from fear. My girlfriend looked at him with sympathy. "He's confused. He's never seen anyone on that roof before," she said. "He thinks they're superhuman. He's afraid of flying people."

My girlfriend loves his energy (I love him, but wish he were a bit more sedate. I'd prefer he didn't have the energy of a 6-year-old on a methamphetamine. Since she moved here in January, I'm pretty sure she loves him more than she loves me (of course, this makes sense, as he is infinitely cuter than I am). She expresses her love in weird ways, though. While I like to play rough or go on walks with him (he has got to burn off energy somehow), my girlfriend prefers confusing him by calling him names, feeding him everything under the sun and dressing him up.

I'll start with the name calling. While I prefer to call him "Nino," "Neen" or "Boy," she has started to call him a myriad of nicknames including "Pig," which I despise. It all started when she called him "Pigbat," because she thinks he resembles a fictional pig/bat creature when she held his ears a certain way. This evolved into "Pig." I find serious problem with this, as Nino is a dog, not a pig. Naming your dog after another animal ("Bear," "Pig," "Moose," etc.) is the pet-equivalent of a fat guy nicknamed "Tiny." It's bad irony and it's not funny.

My girlfriend also gives the dog any and every kind of food. As most dog owners will attest, dogs will eat just about anything if a human hand-feeds it to them. Nino would probably want a leaky battery if it looked like I was eating it. Case in point: I had leftover matzoh from Passover and it became a near-neverending source of treats for Nino. To get the experience of eating matzoh, I suggest you bake this newspaper for an hour, let it cool and put it in your mouth. Nonetheless, Nino loves it, because he saw me struggle eating it for eight days.

Nevertheless, my girlfriend gives Nino anything she is eating. While we have agreed not to give him chocolate or onions (both toxic to dogs), she finds everything else to be fair game. She has given him fish, asparagus, eggplant parmigiana, rice and peanuts.

Last week, I swear, she was trying to feed him a pear. She wasn't cutting up the pear into pieces he could eat; rather, she was trying to get him to take bites of the pear off the core. I was on the phone with her at the time; she sounded something like this:

"No, Pig, you can't put the whole thing in your mouth, you need to bite off a lit-HEY, OK, better, now take little bites. Bite off a piece, Piggy, just a litt- No, you can't eat the whole thing."

My girlfriend especially likes to show affection to the dog. She does this in two main ways: ambush hugging and clothing him. Because of Nino's excessive energy, giving him a hug is nigh impossible, but my girlfriend is quite intent on giving him a hug. She will slink throughout my tiny apartment trying to get a sneak-attack hug with him. She's become something of a stealth hugger.

This skill comes in helpful when she attempts dressing him up. As the Zelda's Wisdom book series (or those William Wegman calendars) shows, dressing up dog in clothing is, if nothing else, cute. I am ashamed that I may have started this problem with my purchase of Nino's Doggles (tinted dog goggles), but my girlfriend has taken this to new heights. She has, at one time or another, put Nino in a several different hats, antlers, a shirt, and my basketball shorts. This, of course, irritates Nino to no end, but my girlfriend doesn't care. "I think it's funny," she says, "he looks cute in it."

Dogs don't want to wear hats or Doggles or tank tops. Even Martian dogs want to be naked and carefree.

Send comments to