Dogs cause divorce!

Posted By elaine on October 12, 2009

For any of you that have been accused of loving the dog more than loving your spouse,  or have heard the statement, “It’s me or the dog!”; this Boston Globe article is for you!

DOGS CAUSE divorce,’’ said my friend Eddie, bitterly. He had given in to his daughter and wife’s yearning for a dog – two dogs actually. The wife insisted the dogs sleep in the conjugal bed. When the daughter left for college, the dogs turned on Eddie, sending him to the couch, and out the door.

For decades I had lived with my wife’s cats, each departing this world with care on a par with the finest hospice. Our daughter wanted a pet. After the ritual goldfish, we moved up the food chain to a lovebird. I resisted a dog. One afternoon as I was sleeping off jetlag from China, I was hustled to the pet store to see a “cockerpoo,’’ a fluff ball in white with dark eyes looking up at me. He flipped onto his back, put his legs in the air, wagged his tail. I scratched his tummy. He licked my hand. I asked: “Do you take VISA?’’

“It’s your dog,’’ I said to them, “you take care of him.’’ But the first weekend everybody disappeared. I was left alone with the dog, the geriatric cat, and the lovebird. How could so much poop come out of so small an animal? That night I heard a loud crash and rushed into the kitchen. The bird’s cage was on the floor, droppings scattered, the puppy was worrying the cage blanket, and the cat was clawing feebly at the bird cocking his head at me as if to say: “What kind of bozo are you?’’ A call to my wife did not help. Maybe Eddie was right.

Time passed. The bird flew into the glass slider and died, the cat died, the dog grew and ruled. I write in the mornings, so the dog and I, left alone, soon found our shared addiction: throwing and fetching a ball. I could throw it 100 – say 200 – times, and he would always bring it back, running as fast as he could, big floppy ears waving like wings. If he got tired, he would bring it halfway back and collapse in a heap, panting, until he was ready to go again – a great lesson for a writer. One day, seeing him flying back toward me, I had an epiphany: If I am reincarnated, I want to come back as this dog. I would never be able to cause a divorce.

But then came the second dog – recall that Eddie’s divorce came from two. With dog No. 1 getting older and our daughter applying to college, my wife decided we needed a puppy. Pet store. Cockerpoo. Same shape, but black and white with its “cute-o-meter’’ set at max. VISA. The older dog tried to ignore the puppy but kept up a growl that sounded like an outboard motor left running, punctuated by bark-like backfires.

A few nights later we watched as suddenly the puppy banged her ears back and forth on the floor and made digging motions with her paws and frantically threw herself around the room. Nothing helped. An hour passed. The older dog watched silently. At midnight we rushed her to the animal hospital. As a doctor, I feared a brain tumor, which meant death. By the time the veterinarian arrived, she had stopped her strange behavior. Examination found nothing abnormal. But the vet said it could be neurological, and we had to document further episodes.

We looked at each other. Suddenly this sweet, cute baby was in danger – I envisioned another hole in the backyard, a small one, this little body covered over with dirt. As we drove home we lapsed into a silence, the one of dread, and shared sorrow.

The next day we called the dog trainer from our older dog’s puppy kindergarten. She came over, played with the puppy, asked questions, and said, “Puppy nutty.’’ We asked what she meant. “Puppies get nutty, it’s just what they do. I call it the Puppy Nutties. Nothing to worry about.’’

I asked if it could be neurological. “If it is, it would be a first, for me,’’ she said.

Relief. We hugged the trainer, each other, the puppy, and – separately – our motor-boat-growling old dog.

Eddie was wrong. Dogs don’t cause divorce. Dogs cause cosmic love.

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