As I was scratching the dog’s belly today, he squeaked out a tiny fart that I excused him for since, as far as I know, he can’t speak English and isn’t versed in basic human etiquette. I kept scratching and he emitted customary groans that I tend to interpret as vague doggie ecstasy. Sounds coming from both ends, très stereophonic.
Cubby the Wonder Mutt likes to lie on his back, supine, head tossed back, eyes squinched, rear legs spread-eagle, his pee-pee out in all its centerfold glory. He’s a good dog, as they say — always “good,” never “great” or “fabulous,” why is that? — even if he resembles one of those diabolical pygmy hellions, an Ewok. Compare, contrast:
OK, not exactly, but sometimes I glance at him and scream in fleeting horror.
Animals, like ol’ Cubs, are always on my mind. For some reason, I’ve been watching more YouTube junk than normal and it seems like half the videos are prefaced with ads for heart-curdling, soul-gutting animal causes.
They’re the kind that show emaciated puppies and starving bony horses and shivering dogs with so much eye goop they can barely see. It screws everything up. I don’t even feel like watching the video I was set to watch after those damn commercials.
They get me every time. So there I go, helplessly dropping cash into the coffers of PETA, the Humane Society and other groups, like the crazy one for abused donkeys in India and the World Wildlife Fund’s stupendous adopt an octopus program.
And I recently joined the ASPCA’s modest monthly membership, which amounts to an obscenely affordable 63 cents a day. I told them to save resources and keep the free t-shirt, which would only wind up as a dust rag. Pretty soon, thanks to all my donations, I’m going to own about 14 complimentary animal calendars that I really do not want.
I think I’m so nuts about animals and their welfare because I was raised with a rotating menagerie of pets: dogs, cats, rats, turtles, fish, rabbits, hens, salamanders. And I was scarred by “family” films like “Old Yeller” and “Where the Red Fern Grows” that only make you love animals more and hate sadistic filmmakers. Even “Charlotte’s Web” planted a screwdriver into my heart, and she was just a crummy spider. (Even now I don’t kill spiders. I scoop them up and plop them outside.)
I hate to rate my animals, but since Cubby is in the other room probably flashing the neighbors on his back, I present the best dog my family ever had, a black Lab dubiously named Spooker. That’s her below, the one flicking her tongue. (I’m the one with the righteous tiger slippers; my brother Craig sports the scandalous red onesie.)
Usually when I profess my love of animals I essentially mean dogs. I care a lot about monkeys, mice and manatees, but I can’t say I love them. Even as tykes, you can see how much we love our big black Lab, our companion, our third parent, protector and pal. Dogs are furry clichés: loyal, cheerful, eager, bursting with unconditional love, even if that means the occasional, totally misguided leg hump. That’s a pretty good package.
Cubby fits the bill. He sort of represents all animals for me — penguins, porpoises, platypuses, the random narwhal — and so by caring for him I’m embracing the whole animal kingdom.
That sounds super corny, and re-reading that sentence makes me shudder. But it’s true. Cubby contains multitudes. He’s small in body, big in heart. He lavishes affection on us and only asks in return walks, food, and heartfelt belly rubs, the kind that make him groan and wheeze like a 79-year-old with emphysema. Sometimes if you press just right, he produces the tortured warbling of bagpipes. Then he slowly passes out.
A good dog indeed. No. A great dog. How about a fabulous dog.
2 thoughts on “Loving animals, doggedly”
Ahhh the free calendars which flow from making foundation donations. I finally called my local library to see if they knew where I could offload close to 40 of them. Happily, the library director ferried them to the nearby assisted living center and I was so relieved. I hated to trash them.
And then I received another 10 or so.
Like you, I write checks for abandoned and abused donkeys, horses escaping slaughter, elephants hunted for their tusks, re-homed big cats and all manner of dog rescue organizations.
In addition, in my small and ineffectual (but necessary) thumb-of-the-nose to Trump’s abysmal environmental record, I’ve joined the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, National Parks Conservation Association, World Wildlife Fund and others. Let me assure you the calendars they mail out at year’s end are spectacular.
But, yeah, the waste feels painful. And the subsequent mail from sister organizations only gets more intense. Some days I get 10-12 requests for animal “emergencies.”
If my daily deluge is any indication, the animal kingdom is in dire need.
Fortunately, I have an Ewok dog similar to your Cubby. They kind of make everything OK.
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I love this, Anne. Once you open your heart and wallet for our animal pals, it flings open the floodgates of compassionate causes. “Dire need” is right, and we gotta do what we gotta do, no matter the deluge of pleas and cries and mountains of dang calendars. Great idea to donate the calendars. And you got me motivated to pay attention — and cash — to those vital environmental causes. Thank you, Anne! xo
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