Charlie and Me

Monday, June 13, 2011

I. Be sure to keep food out of range. Beagles will ignore all training for a tasty snack.

Charlie doesn't seem to know the difference between my food and his. He wiggles all thirty pounds of his hairy little body onto my lap, and sits patiently waiting for me to drop a beloved slice of bacon. His long tongue darts in and out of his mouth, watching the steaming piece of bacon rise off the cold ceramic plate. As the pork hovers in the air, Charlie begins fidgeting, the smell of grease and calories too much for him to handle. I am about to pop the bacon in my mouth, when Charlie pounces on me, much like a lion pounces on a timid antelope. Like that same timid antelope, I watch in horror as Charlie the Lion ravages my bacon.

II. In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.

When Charlie was ten weeks old, I began potty training him. Twenty minutes after a feeding, I would take him outside - rain, snow, or shine - and wait until he peed. Most of the time, his deep brown eyes would stare up at mine, pleading to go back into the warm house. Instead of granting him his wish, I would take off my coat and shield his body from the cold or the rain - leaving my own body defenseless. This seemed to comfort him a little, and he would sniff the hard ground, searching for the perfect place to leave his urine. He never would hike his leg. I began worrying that the poor little guy was going to get bullied by the bigger, more dominant male dogs around my house. To solve this problem, I would follow Charlie on his search for a wasteland, then hold his leg up for him. He still never hikes his leg.

III.If you get to thinking you're a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else's dog around.

Charlie is a little rambunctious. His imperfections make me love him even more, and I have given up on training. He listens to me. I say "Sit" and he sits. I say "Down" and he leaves my food alone (most of the time). My friend is convinced she can "whip him into shape" - literally or figuratively I'm not sure, nor willing to find out. She has several dogs who all obey her every whisper, so I invite her over for a meeting with Charlie. She comes with treats for training, and he can sense this the moment she walks through the door. He attempts to dig the treats out of her pocket while giving her his welcome routine (a thorough sniffing). She pushes him away, saying "Leave It" as she breaks their contact. He seems to lose interest and walks away. I know what is going to happen next, but her grin is a little too self-satisfied. I take a seat and watch as Charlie breaks into a sprint from eight feet away, barrels into the Dog Whisperer (forcing her on her back), and chews through her pocket to the waiting handful of cheesy treats.

IV. Dogs love company. They place it first in their short list of needs.

We had dogs when I was younger, but they lived outside and I was never allowed to play with them. Sometimes I would sneak out to our backyard and pet one, but I always got caught. This would lead to punishment, and I would be forced to stay in my room with nothing to occupy my mind except for the small window facing our backyard. From my bed, I could see out that window. I could see the dogs pouting from the same emptiness I felt. When I got Charlie, he was my dog. I could play with him, or pet him, or brush him, or feed him at all hours of the day. I made it a point to save him (and myself) from ever feeling alone.

V. the essential difference between people who are kind to dogs and people who really love them

As I am typing this on my laptop, Charlie has positioned himself on my lap, on top of my computer, completely blocking the keypad. He is sleeping and I don't want to disturb him. Instead, I am punching one key at a time, squeezing my thin fingers under his thick body in search of the right letter. Low grumbling protest are wheezing out of his mouth. I guess I'll stop for now.

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