Agreed, I have a very anxious dog. Is it genetic you think, this nervousness, or is it learned behavior? My doorman remembers the former tenant of 6K (my boss Joani) and her dog, and he said Amos was very relaxed, snobbish almost, like his owner. What does it say that Linus is a bundle of anxiety, hardly neatly packaged? Let’s face it; he’s unruly.
People do it all the time. Choose a spouse, their friends, even their dogs as a reflection of who they are. Not ‘you are what you eat,’ but certainly there’s some cliché about the company you keep. I suppose some people see their dogs as an accessory, an extension of themselves. Some people begin to look like their pets somehow, the wrinkles, the walk, the crooked bottom rack of teeth. Like children, and Burberry plaid, pets are extensions.
Of course, it’s nothing new to compare pets to children. I’m guilty. Parents get excited at a giggle, even if it’s gas. And I too, love those little things about Linus, yes, even his gas. The sound he makes when he’s crunching his food, his bunny hop, the way he humps the stuffed dog when he’s bored, the slight tilt of his head when he’s curious, how he sounds like Woodstock from The Peanuts when he yawns. Ah, and the Linus stretch, with his front legs on the ground, his tight little rump of an ass waiving in the air. My favorite Linusism is how he weasels his way under me when I’m sleeping on my stomach, and how he must be touching my skin before he can ever really sleep, nuzzling his way into any of my body nooks. And when I’m inaccessible, he beans when he sleeps. He knows when food is for him by just watching how small I cut it, and he’ll stare at me, ears erect, that brilliant rock-star dog of mine, as if to say, ‘Oh yeah baby, I’m ready. I was born ready; bring it lady.’ No, I don’t take Linus to the playground and strap him into a swing or anything (how cute and deranged would that be?), but he does go to the dog run on 72nd street to run in a self-exercising circle, like a herding dog only much smaller. There, he chases a ball and sniffs some ass, then we go home and make out.
Parents care when their children look like ragamuffins before getting on the plane, or are having trouble in school, or do things that make one question their intelligence, like yanking chewed and discarded gum from beneath a desk, and then eating it to see if it retained any flavor. So when Linus’ social or survival skills fall below par and he decides to eat my plant, or when he flies through the air with anything but grace from sofa cushion to ottoman back to sofa cushion again, a furry pinball, what does it say about me? I’m good to the boy, just like a parent. Parents give their children dress coats and new shiny shoes with buckles every year. Dog owners get coats and cable-knit sweaters, and designer leashes and collars, and don’t get me started on the carriers for the little ones. Today even, before leaving for work, I tucked him into a sweater, pushing his little rose petal ears back, and grabbing his little mouth, to stick his head through the sweater opening. Not just any sweater… an argyle sweater with buttons that are usually reserved for blazers with suede elbows. Then he looks up at me, ready for the collar, for the walk, for the pigeons and outdoor stool time. No such luck, instead he gets Smelly & Regis and the daytime offerings of ABC. And then he whines, like a little sissy girl crybaby. Maybe it’s the sweater.
Linus isn’t just anxious and nervous; he’s needy. It doesn’t matter what is in his mouth, a sock, the underwear he stole out of the laundry basket, a toy covered in peanut butter, even a steak… that little dog will follow me wherever I go. Boom. Tap tap tap. His little paws click on the hardwood floor. Tap. He sneaks up behind me, tap, with his head carried low, avoiding eye contact, tap, his tail tight against his bottom. He must be thinking, ‘what can I get away with here?’ Then boom, he’s on my lap, his legs collapse and fan beneath him–frog’s legs–happy as a clam, he chews his greasy bone on my leg. I’m suddenly feeling like Dr. Frankenstein.