A dog’s very presence constitutes a reproach.
Why are you just sitting there, when the whole rest of the world is right outside?
Another cup of coffee, really?
Why can’t you anticipate my needs better? Or does it amuse you to wait until I am literally dancing with discomfort to take me out for a goddamn piss?
Why aren’t you rubbing my belly right now?
When I was a kid, dogs were still largely kept in dog houses. Even Snoopy, the most anthropomorphic dog before the debut of Family Guy, lived in a dog house. They got scratched behind the ears now and then if they were lucky. “You want to go for a walk? Knock yourself out.” Now they are members of the family, like five-year-old children who never grow up, until one day they die and leave a gaping hole in your life. It seems down-right anachronistic that their day-to-day behavior is still driven by centuries of breeding for utilitarian tasks: to herd, to guard, to catch rats, to retrieve the still-warm bodies of dead ducks from shallow water.
Canela, the dog I’m currently sitting for my brother’s family, struggles with the last of these inborn inclinations. I watch her sniffing and straining against the leash on her twice-daily walks, whining out of her deep need to locate and retrieve, to mouth, to bring back. Because the rest of her pack disappeared while she was out on a walk, she looks for them up at the other house as often as I’ll let her, tugging me up the hill, and appears to believe they might be hiding anywhere on the mountain. We make great circles around the ground zero of their disappearance. In search of clues, she wants to follow every fluttering wing.