Sometimes, things just get out of control. It happens a little at a time, as any boiled lobster will tell you, and pretty soon you notice you’re red and cooked and people are coming at you with shellcrackers in their hands and big, hungry grins on their faces.
It started in 2008. Well, that’s not right. Truth is, it started when I was a little kid and wanted a puppy more than anything in the universe. My sister and I saved our money and my parents bought a little fox terrier puppy named Bouncer. As my sister and I fell asleep that night, with little Bouncer howling in the background, I whispered to her, “This is the happiest night of our lives.”
How to put it gently? That childish, idealistic attitude did not last. Bouncer was a mess. He probably started out with a few temperamental problems genetically, but our family lived in the kind of humid, emotionally perilous household (think Tennessee Williams’ more wrenching plays) where neuroses thrived and flourished into full-blown hysteria and shrieking and long, involuntary hospital stays.
Bouncer often retreated under beds, where he would viciously bite any feet and ankles that strayed too close to him. Much childish screaming and crying and bleeding would ensue and Mother would tell us it was our fault for provoking him. Bouncer was simply “high-strung,” like her. (Being high-strung was used to explain many things in our household, none of them good.) Besides, Bouncer had become her dog, not ours. He kept her company and understood her, she told us.
This all went on for several years and our bloody bite-gashes healed into white scars and we learned to avoid hanging around innocent-looking beds. Then, in 1965, we moved from one West Texas town to another. Bouncer, heavily medicated, was in the backseat with Mother and took a chunk out of her forearm. We were already in pretty foul humors, having to move from one godforsaken hellhole to another, but this put the cherry on the shit sundae. Mother was sobbing, Bouncer was sulking and growling dangerously, and my father almost drove off the road, since he never knew what to to do when Mother was seriously out of control. Some new start in life.
After that, Bouncer didn’t last very long and got taken to the vet to be dispatched. Everyone but Mother was happy about his absence; she spent much of the next two years mourning his loss.
All of which was background to a post I wrote in 2008, mentioning why I don’t like dogs. Ideally, this would have been the end of the story, childhood trauma resolved, demons named Bouncer exorcised. Not so fast. I’m not too big on the concept of that dreadful, overused word “closure,” in the fist place (closure, I think, comes when you’re dead — but maybe not even then). But the 2008 post has turned out to have a four-legged life of its own.
Check the post. Seventy comments, at last count. Seventy! More than my other most highly commented posts, in which I usually wring my heart out and hang it up to dry in the hot sun. Seventy!
First, there was a wave of don’t blame the dogs, blame the owners. I could get into that. Then, Angela, Becca and Heather weighed in about their similar dislike of canines (Angela’s ex-husband, who traveled a lot, left it to her to take care of a dog she never wanted). Then Michelle weighs in to announce she doesn’t trust people who don’t like animals and she corrects Heather’s spelling.
Then, someone announces dogs are God’s greatest creation and Lane says his (or her, I don’t know) life wouldn’t be possible without a service dog named Merlot. Milly wants her boyfriend to give up his dog, so she gets lots of advice about how her boyfriend will never forgive her for this and, on the other hand, why she should dump her boyfriend since he obviously cares more about his pooch than her. Angela says she refuses to date anybody who has a dog.
After that, we get into K-J’s problems with the noisy Great Danes and their owner policeman, and then things get out of control. Someone tells K-J to move, but she says nobody wants to buy a house next to three barking Great Danes. Briel is horrified by the dog hatred and Mel can’t believe she’s lucky enough to stumble across a site devoted to people who don’t like dogs. One commenter says someone else is “upsurd.” One woman has to go to a workplace every morning, where she’s afraid the employer’s dogs will bite her, and Angela is dating someone she has chemistry with, but owns a dog. It is mentioned, too, that Adolf Hitler and the KKK loved dogs.
Emotions are heating up. Judy thinks it’s weird to sleep with dogs and Stephanie says a dog is a big responsibility and you don’t just get rid of a big responsibility. Dump the boyfriends! Dump the dogs! Date your own kind! Dogs aren’t people, so don’t act like they are! Dogs are better than people! Everybody should shut up! There’s too much hatred in the world! What did a dog ever do to you? Dogs are better than boyfriends, so wise up!
Oh, good lord. All I wanted to do was admit my guilty little secret about dogs. Light a match, shed a little light — and look what you get. A conflagration. Bouncer lives.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)