Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


My dog the jerk

Looks so innocent.

Around our house, this dog has a great reputation. He’s a real charmer who loves to play, is always happy to see you, and radiates gratitude for walks and attention. As my son says admiringly about this dog every time we take him out around the neighborhood, “He’s a jaunty boy!”

But this morning it occurred to me that he’s actually a jerk.

The reversal in my thinking came on me suddenly today — but that’s after almost four years of being under this dog’s spell. Yes, we knew that he’s clever enough to understand a fair sampling of the human English language — especially his name, and “toy” and “walk” and “Where’s Lamby?” (the name of that favorite toy, which he will wrestle you for). But now I realize very late in the game that this dog is even cleverer than we thought, and he’s been hiding his evil intelligence right under our noses.

I concluded this as I found myself cleaning up his shit from our floor yet again.

My first thought, of course, was, “Well, when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.” No one had been up yet to let him out, so it was our fault. Plus, to give him credit, he’s always thoughtful enough to do it in a secluded spot only we are aware of, and one that’s easily and neatly picked up, cleaned up and sprayed. (In other words, not on carpet.) Then I thought, “Oh, if only he’d go out at 11 p.m. with the other dog, who faithfully does her business out in the back yard every night with no complaint.”

And that’s when it hit me:  He could go out every night before midnight, and I certainly cajole him to do so!, but he refuses. I have tried to drag him from his bed, and yes, he gets an evening walk every day, but he will not go outside late at night. He’d rather stay inside and shit in the house. On purpose.

Not only that! Now that the scales had fallen from my eyes, the rest of the pattern emerged.

My wife works nights. I work days. Our son works swing shifts — sometimes at 7 a.m., sometimes at 7 p.m.; his schedule is utterly unpredictable. But, among the three of us, there is almost always someone up and ready to let this dog out. That means that the dog is waiting for us to be unavailable so that he can exert his will on our floor!

Other details pulled into focus. Wasn’t he the dog who always ripped up Lamby and left poor Lamby’s guts strewn all over the living room floor? Yes. When my poor tired wife has retrieved all those bits and sewn Lamby together yet again, isn’t he the one who can’t wait to perform the same evisceration? Yes. On those walks, hasn’t he always insisted that we go the way he wants to go, with no care for our preferences, or the preference of his fellow dog? When there’s some leftover yolk or something made available, hasn’t he run over as quickly as possible to get the first few laps and then left the merest traces behind in a haughty manner for the other dog? Yes. Definitively yes to all of it.

Lying in wait for my wife.

Let’s speak for a moment of the other dog, who was after all here first. Adopted as a rescue from a mad puppy hoarder who later faced charges, this little fox terrier has a bad rap. On the surface, she seems noisy and excitable, ever suspicious and high-strung. When any living creature comes within half a mile of our house, she tears into the very notion that someone or some thing is approaching. On walks when she comes across even much larger dogs getting their own walk, she can be a terror, snarling in a very unneighborly way to communicate, “You better not come over here! Boy, if I could just get at you, there would be Hell to pay!”

Plus, she sheds. Unlike the other dog.

But this morning, as I was reappraising their two characters, and as some blissfully unaware runner sailed past our house and the fox terrier jolted into high alarm, I noticed the behavior of the other dog, which I will sum up as this:  “Oh, shit! She’s barking at something! I’d better join in so I look useful too!” Completely calculating.

Yes, much like the title character in “All About Eve, ” all of his outward charm is a mask for his insidious scheme to have his way at all times.

Now, as I’m writing this, the fox terrier is in here in the living room with me, standing watch. Meanwhile, the scheming mutt is lying asleep curled up around my wife in bed. She didn’t want him at first, but he won her over long ago, in a playbook right out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” She thought he was funny-looking, bony, and kind of pathetic. Within weeks, she started cooking meals expressly for him. Now, when she’s at work, she wonders what he’s up to. Of course he greets her at the door when she comes home. Even tries to follow her into the bathroom, which she delights in in a mock-outraged voice. He somehow cajoled her into moving his dog bed from the floor up onto the couch! Y’know — where I used to sit!

His name is Thor. We didn’t name him that; when we adopted him from another house that “needed to rehome him” – wonder why???— my wife floated the idea of renaming him Toby. “He just seems like a Toby!” she said. She took him for kind of goofy. But that’s just part of his scheme.

As a playwright, I tend to think I have insights into human behavior. But in retrospect it’s clear that it never occurred to me to apply those skills to these two dogs. Now I see that the one who’s vilified for being a noisy nuisance is doing her best to protect us and gets few rewards for it — and has been warning us about this other dog all along, to no avail. She’s actually the hero of the piece! Meanwhile, the one who likes to “play”? He’s Machiavelli from tip to tail, undermining his rival and pursuing his desires. 

Well, I’m over it. From now on, he’s going out every night if I have to carry him there. At least until he gets my wife to make me stop.

2 Responses to “My dog the jerk”

  1. Joe Stafford Says:

    Looking up from the corner of his eyes- Lamby at his side —- he seems to say, “ … don’t matter what you know, ya got nothin’ on me, see? It don’t matter, and what if it did? …”

  2. Dan Says:

    Sounds to me like that dog is Presidential Timber!

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