The Dog Days of Summer

Every now and then I wonder what my life would be life would be like if I got married and had a couple of kids. The only thing I know for sure is my television viewing habits would not change too much. If any of my future children want to spend countless hours in front of the television set I’m going to make sure at least two-thirds of their programming options revolve around World War Two documentaries on the History Channel. Since my days of matrimony and reproduction are not in my near future, I have recently experienced the next best thing: Spending a week with two dogs in the house.

I currently live in a house which, on average, contains one dog. This dog, named Henry, belongs to my roommate, named Scott. One of Henry’s most unique physical characteristics is the fact that he has two different colored eyes. Scott, on the other hand, has two eyes that are, for the most part, the same color. Total strangers often times come up and ask about Henry’s eyes. Rarely do they ask about Scott’s eyes.

But enough about my roommate’s chromatically symmetrical eyes– this is a story about the dogs. Henry has long beige hair that is in a constant state of renewal. While I haven’t submitted the following theory to the rigorous process of the scientific method, I strongly suspect that on an average day, Henry’s body sheds more hair than the local Great Clips. When Henry and I are alone in the house he generally sleeps in the basement all day long. Every now and then, just for a change of pace, he walks up the stairs, looks at me blankly, and then proceeds to lay down next to the kitchen table before falling back asleep. His overall interest in Scott and I only peaks when he needs to go out side, be fed, or be taken on a walk. Henry and I get along quite well this way– we don’t expect a whole lot from each other.

This brings me to the second dog– Murphy. Belonging to my girlfriend Kristin, this dog is half Greyhound and half Black Lab. While her shedding habits occur on a much smaller scale than Henry’s, she does have her own list of peculiar habits. Most notably, she is very skittish. It is quite natural for animals to be scared of things like sudden noises, unfamiliar places, and the actor known as “Carrot Top.” Murphy, however, is pretty much scared of everything that isn’t Murphy. For example, I took Murphy out one night and she ran as far away as she could on the leash from the slight rustling noise produced by a series of plastic flags on the “for sale” sign on the house next door. On another outing she was overcome with fear because a tumbleweed was a few feet away from the sidewalk. I suppose I would have had more sympathy for the dog if the shrubbery in question was actually moving in any way.

Another quirk about Murphy is that she doesn’t want to be more than three feet away from Kristin or myself at all times. This makes walking with Kristin and the dog quite a chore. While Kristin generally refrains from spastically running around me in tight circles, the same cannot be said for the dog. Murphy always wants to be at the exact midpoint between Kristin and I while at the same time running around in circles. The interaction between the three of us is analogous to Luke Skywalker’s two-sunned home planet of Tatooine (but on a much smaller scale.) That would, of course, explain why Luke’s mother and stepfather had such difficult time harvesting crops.

Each of these dogs, by themselves, is generally calm and well behaved. So I figured that bringing Murphy over to my place in Loveland while Kristin was out of town for a week wouldn’t drastically alter my lifestyle. Unfortunately, I didn’t take into effect how the two dogs would interact with each other. The most immediate effect I noticed when I brought Murphy home was what I call “The Canine Cold War Mentality.” It usually starts out with both dogs sleeping peacefully on the floor in the main living area. This is known as Defcon 5 (or mauve, if you are using the new Homeland Security color coding system). If the dogs were the United States and the Soviet Union, this situation would be analogous to the first few months after World War Two or the eight years Bill Clinton was in the White House. This state of peace and quiet is inevitably shattered by a strange noise outside, one of the dogs sneezing, or the random motion of air molecules in the room.

Once this happens, one of the dogs will look up, causing the other dog to look up. (Defcon 3) Not to be outdone, the first dog stands up. (Defcon 2) This escalation procedure continues until both dogs are frantically running around the house barking at the top of their lungs. (Irreversible Intercontinental Thermonuclear War) After a few minutes
they calm down and eventually go back to sleep. (Analogy breaks down here.) While most people would consider this to be a minor inconvenience, I find it quite difficult to lay down on my couch and concentrate on the afternoon episode of “Trading Spaces” with such a racket going on in the background.

Another issue I’ve discovered with Murphy is how she goes to the bathroom. Like human females at nice restaurants, Murphy cannot go do her business alone. Being a smart dog, she knows where the backyard is. Being a smart person, I usually leave the back door open so both dogs can go outside whenever they feel the need. It seems like a simple enough solution, but whenever Murphy’s bladder fills up, she will run through the house until she finds me. Then she sits down and starts whining frantically until I walk with her outside and watch her pee. Which is exactly what I want to do at two in the morning. At least I’m not asleep yet.

Despite these minor issues, we all got through the week without any major problems. Eventually Henry and Murphy
both realized they were going to be living in the same house together. My threats to send them to Tatooine for the summer must have done the trick.