The Price of Puppy Love

Image-crafting game = strong.

In an episode of perhaps the greatest British sitcom of all-time, Fawlty Towers, Terry, the cockney cook, says to Basil about a dubious piece of food about to be served in the dining area, “Not to worry, Mr. Fawlty; what the eye don’t see; the chef gets away with.”

This adage is true in the world of hospital documentation. “If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen,” nursing supervisors at the psychiatric hospital where I used to work drilled into our heads. Oh; so if something fucked up happened that we don’t want anybody to know about, just… don’t write it down? Great.

This also applies to the world of social media — if something shameful, embarrassing, hurtful, untoward, unmentionable, unkind is happening to you in your life just… don’t post about it. And the chef will get away with it.

You have to know what to post about when you’re a dog owner. Dog posts are tricky, and they can go awry if you’re not careful. Be careful. If it happened and it’s cute, document it. If it’s benignly destructive (shredded toilet paper roll), document it. Watch the Likes and Hearts pour in. If it’s malevolently destructive (involving heirloom furniture, expensive bedding, or blood; human or animal) conceal, don’t reveal. Deny, deny, deny.

Repress.

What the eye don’t see.

You adopt a puppy. From the SPCA. Rescue. Heartstrings. Like, Love, Heart. Another one saved. You’re the savior. Happy Easter. You are Risen. You post. No puppy farms. Like-Farming.

What the eye don’t see is the shredding of things, the constant nipping and mouthing, the tumult and chaos. The chasing through the neighborhoods, breathless — an episode of COPS (NOT one of the best British sitcoms of all time) except the police dog is the one being chased. Your wife’s tears and head-banging against the wall.

This dog you brought home.

You.

Guilty.

You did this.

Every destroyed thing is a mark against you — not her. She’s a puppy. A working dog without a job, the dog trainer said yesterday.

She pulled my wife down during a walk two weeks ago. Knocked over an 85-year-old lady, and attacked another dog. Puncture wounds. $354.00, please. She has hurt my sister-in-law’s dog. She has pierced through our Basset hound’s ears twice or three times — I can’t remember. Basset blood. The howling.

What the eye don’t see.

You don’t post about those things because they are shameful, indicative of your incompetence and inadequacy. You are not up to the task of German Shepherd ownership. You are a fool. You can handle a Basset hound; maybe. But this dog owns you and that has consequences.

It has been six months and we are probably all in love with her, and so she has moved in. When a commercial airplane is speeding down the runway and it has reached a speed where it is no longer possible to abort takeoff, this is known as V1.

“V1, rotate,” the pilot will say, signaling that it’s takeoff time; there is no slowing down; there is no going back — this plane is taking off, come hell or high water.

We are at V1 with Sadie. Rotate. What the eye don’t see the pilot gets away with.

I think about the shame I will feel if a Facebook post went live announcing that we have decided that she is killing us, draining our resources, our money, our patience and our sanity and that we have decided to give her back. People will say that they understand but, really, we will be judged. A friend yesterday was telling me about a friend of hers who has an aggressive form of breast cancer — a young woman, a young mother. And people ask this woman, stricken with an extreme disease,

“Well, did you have a bad diet?”

“Did you wait to get checked?”

“Is there a history of this in your family?”

This is not curiosity. This is looking for blame. A reason. An explanation. Justification.

What could you have done? Did you try this? What about that? Clicker-conditioning. Counter-conditioning. Crate-training. Pavlov. Salivate. Lumps. Surgery. Kennel cough. Cells metastasizing. Falling in love. Teeth. Blood. Malignancy.

V1. Rotate.

If people can ask questions like that to a new mother stricken with cancer, what will they say to me? No, about me. What will they think? The neighbors? The friends? The people with whom I went to middle school? They are all watching. The dog was here, now she’s gone. They failed.

You are not allowed to fail on social media.

When she ran away from me a couple months ago, and I gave chase, panting, my asthmatic lungs burning inside my chest I thought, “If she gets hit by a car, I don’t want to have to write that post.”

What a world. What utter insanity.

After the wife-pulling down, old lady knocking over, dog biting incident, we were referred to a dog trainer who is “the best of the best.” When my wife told me her name, the tears immediately came to my eyes. She is the daughter of an old friend and colleague of mine, a giant of a man, an Israeli psychologist at the hospital where I used to work who towered over everyone, in frame and in spirit.

Israel smoked Marlboro 100’s; kept them in the breast pocket of the oversized, untucked collared shirts he wore. Sandals and jeans. Clipboard in hand. Light beard, glowing eyes. I would talk to him outside while he smoked. It smelled good. Waving his cigarette around in the air while he talked. Israelis talk with their hands and their cigarettes. He loved animals more than people, but just a bit more. Laughing about the fucked up situations we get ourselves into; he’d have enjoyed the predicament I’m in with Sadie.

The last few months I worked at the hospital, Israel had started to walk with a limp. We didn’t know it, but that was cancer quietly saying hello to our friend. They tried treatments, but the disease was already barreling down the runway.

V1.

And now Sadie had brought Israel to our home, by way of his daughter, the dog trainer extraordinaire. We were hoping she would fix our dog, but that’s not her job; that’s our job — just like her father couldn’t fix a mentally ill person; that was their job.

In 2011, I was sitting next to Israel at the Allied Therapy table in the chart-room and I told him that my wife was pregnant with twins, and his eyes absolutely lit up. He laughed out loud and slapped his big right hand down on his clipboard on the table and cried out, in that gorgeous accent,

“AH! You are fucked! No, no — mazel tov, it’s wonderful and great but, seriously; with all due respect; you. are. fucked.”

And now I know what he’d say if he’d lived long enough to meet Sadie.

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Gabe is Editor in Chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries, an online mental health publication. He owns far too many ties.

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Gabriel Nathan

Gabriel Nathan

Gabe is Editor in Chief of OC87 Recovery Diaries, an online mental health publication. He owns far too many ties.

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