Pet Therapy For Troubled Times

I recently thought I might need some pet therapy. My dogs and cat are just fine, thank you and I don’t need a licensed emotional support animal because according to the quickest of Google searches I can get a “certified support canine” I.D. card for both my dogs for a mere $29.99.

Granted the I.D. cards look about as official as a fake I.D. a college student would attempt to use to get into a bar but still to the less than discerning eye the canine support I.D. might fool you and bonus having you oohing and aahing.

This is because the I.D. has a picture of your dog on it. Thus, rendering it adorable and then there’s the “full access required by law” red, white and blue banner on the card that does give it a dash of official government document gravitas.

But faux support canine I.D.’s aside my pet therapy issue stems from the fact that I think I’ve been enjoying my dogs company far too much. I realize being an almost empty nester (and by “almost” I mean I don’t consider my nest empty until my children have vacated my home and my wallet) I could be projecting the affection I used to lavish on my children onto my pets.

But I fear my affliction goes way beyond that. If given the option of going out or staying home with my dogs, it’s almost always advantage dogs.

I was really worried about myself until I did some research and came up with a theory totally not supported by voluminous scientific data because, well, let’s just say that sounded like a lot of work. My non peer reviewed hypothesis is that the reason more people are favoring animal companionship over human interaction is due to the hostile political climate. (Note: I am referencing all politics – no matter what party you may align yourself with.)

To support this statement, I tracked the increase in pet ownership since the divisive 2016 presidential election. This also turned out to be divisive because the American Pet Products Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association stats don’t match up – at all.

I’m clueless about what the methodology was for each organizations numbers but I think maybe one group must have gone full Dr. Doolittle and talked to the pets and the other group polled humans. This madness forced me to use math (my least favorite thing) and average the numbers that showed pet ownership has, indeed, increased every year since 2016.

I then conducted my own survey and interviewed friends and acquaintances about their social interaction choices. The question I asked was if given a choice would they rather go out or stay home with their pets?

Pets was the top choice more than 70 percent of the time. And because I consider myself a social scientist with about the same level of authenticity as those “certified support canine” I.D.’s I organized a focus group.

The group backed up my hypothesis. The most overwhelming sentiment was that people would rather enjoy the company of their pet than venture out to a social gathering where someone will invariably turn the topic to politics. One woman shared that after attending a black-tie event where a man she didn’t know told her that her political beliefs were “based on false memories” she pretty much swore off voluntarily leaving her house or her dogs.

All my research made me feel not only much better but superior even. Why would anyone choose to leave the unconditional love of their pets  to venture out into the politically charged conversational chaos if you didn’t have too? Maybe by staying home with my canine companions I’m living my best life in an angry world.

 

The Dog Park

If I had to make a top 10 lisdog-humort of my favorite things in life my dogs would be on it. I know I should feel bad that one of my siblings wouldn’t make the list. I also know I should feel fiercely ashamed that Diet Coke would make the list before the aforementioned sibling, but here’s the thing: Diet Coke’s not crazy. I can’t really say that about my oldest brother.

But enough of my family drama let’s get back to dogs – wonderful, amazing dogs. I’m one of those people who if I was forced to choose would more often than not take the company of canines over people. They’re great listeners, non judgmental and don’t talk back. Does it get any better than that? I mean really, who cares how much they shed?

Recently, one of our beloved dogs passed away. Usually when we lose a dog our family tradition has been to have a period of mourning and reflection before getting a new addition to the family. Last month, my husband freelanced on that rule and while I was out-of-town adopted a dog. He assured me that “Tahoe”, a rescue beagle, was as mellow as they come. In fact, he described the dog as “totally chill.”

This stumped me a little because although I don’t know a lot about beagles I was pretty sure the word chill wasn’t an accurate description of the breed. When I got home Tahoe was indeed a most mellow fellow. We found out that next day this was because he had pneumonia. After a hefty vet bill and one week of recovery Tahoe’s personality was in full bloom.

The dog is gregarious and has never met a stranger. He also believes every animate and inanimate object adores him. A walk with Tahoe through the neighborhood feels like he’s campaigning for public office. I’m certain he could get out of the vote for, at the very least, County Commissioner. Due to his exuberant personality I thought he might enjoy the new dog park.

I took my son with me as backup in case Tahoe with acres to roam went, I don’t know, full wolf or something. Once we got inside the park and it was time to let our dog loose I felt like the theme song from Born Free should be playing.

For those you who not familiar with this almost fifty-year-old movie let me tell you all you need to know. A couple raises an abandoned lion cub and then when it grows up they have to release it back into the wild and many tears are shed as Born free, as free as the wind blows, As free as the grass grows, Born free to follow your heart plays over a montage of the lion bounding off into the open African Savannah. (As a child of the 70’s it’s doesn’t have the full boo hoo quality of say a Brian’s Song, but it’s close.)

As soon as Tahoe is leash-less he takes off like a Walmart shopper first in the door at a Black Friday sale. He even gives us an over the shoulder “so long suckers” look. I feared he was a goner. I knew using simple math that it would be quite a feat for him to jump the fence, but never being one to underestimate the brilliance and determination of the canine spirit I didn’t rule out some sort of elaborate tunnel system dug by the dogs, in shifts, when their humans weren’t looking.

I frantically tell my son to start running after Tahoe. He gives me the teenage “no way” eye roll. I quickly explain that I almost certain the dog is going AWOL. He shakes his head at me and matter-of-factly says, “Relax, no one, most especially our dogs, would ever want to leave you.”

I’m irrationally excited by this statement. It might be, perhaps, the best compliment I’ve ever received in my life, but before I can delve deeper for clarification and a chance to extrapolate on the praise (I mean it’s not like I get many accolades from my teenagers. I think the last nice thing my kids said to me was back in 2013 and it was that  “dinner was decent.”) Tahoe comes barreling back towards us like a soccer ball kicked by the love child of Thor and She-Hulk. My son smirks at me and simply says, “See, I told you he come right back.”

“Because I’m awesome right?”

“Well, maybe and it doesn’t hurt that you feed him steak.”

Not quite the continued declaration of my greatness I was looking for, but I’ll take it. If I want real devotion there’s always the superior mammal to turn to – dogs.

*Attention SnaScreen Shot 2014-12-29 at 11.01.47 PMrky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂