We get attached to our pets to the point of being ridiculous. Many years ago, a fellow employee of mine called into work sick because her cat was ill. As a non-pet owner at that stage in my life, I laughed my ass off at this person and razzed her for treating an animal like a human being. Now, I feel bad for ridiculing this woman. I have two pets now and I can completely relate. The pet person I was striving to avoid being for so many years is now ME.
Pets and their people have a long history together. From the beginning of mankind, the very first couple had a pet—a snake. Adam wasn’t 100% onboard, but his wife insisted and you know how that goes.
How do pets and people work so well together? It’s not rocket science. You live with these creatures and they become part of your family. Most of the pets you own treat you better than your own relatives. They don’t borrow money or require interventions or ask you to drive them to the airport in the middle of commute traffic on a Friday. Your pets maintain a fairly predictable simple relationship with you. You feed them, they appreciate it and worship you (with dogs) or begrudgingly tolerate you (with cats).
We have a little Chihuahua mix and his name is Ratdog. Some people think I named him after Bob Weir’s band, but I named him Ratdog because he looks like a large white rodent. He actually looks more like an opossum. For a while I thought of naming him Pogo, but no one would understand the connection, so Ratdog it is.
His first owner, a friend of mine who has been dead for six years now (a victim to meth) tried to give him to the Humane Society but I stepped in and saved him from the doggy gallows. Ratdog is deaf and yips and yaps all the time at vibrations, like garbage trucks, motorcycles or the wind.
Ratdog doesn’t have corneas or something in his eyes and he’s basically an albino. He would have been a perfect purse dog for Edgar Winter (bad joke). When you take his picture it looks like he has perpetual red-eye.
Ratdog was evidently starved at one point during his life. Consequently, he’s more food-centric than any animal I’ve ever seen. Have you ever witnessed hyenas eat on Animal Planet? Ratdog consumes things most pooches won’t even sniff – like garlic, tangerines, head cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, skate, prawn tails and live snails. He especially loves the “pope’s nose” of a roast chicken. He eats bones completely. As of last year, he stopped eating foie gras, for the ducks at the park.
He loves to be cradled in your arms like an infant, but only by people he knows really well. If another dog tries to mess with him, Ratdog will bite the offending mutt without hesitation. He’s a tough little guy.
He’s older now, probably more than 100 years in canine time. But he still loves his walks, although he has his limits. When we walk past our gate after the first leg of our standard half hour walk, Ratdog stops and plants his dirty little discolored paws in the sidewalk. His walk is over and he’s not going another step. He looks so pleased when I retreat back to home, opening the gate and ending our walk short.
For some reason, Ratdog is also very popular, especially with the ladies. One female friend of mine actually tried to buy him from us for $500! She was writing the check. Can you believe it? My question is: Why are people so attracted to this ugly little mutt? What is it that makes him so darn endearing? Everybody who knows me is always asking about him – How’s Ratdog? What’s up with Ratdog? Why didn’t you bring Ratdog? They rarely ask my other dog Shelly.
What is the attraction? Maybe because he really is the ultimate underdog. His bark is so annoying it makes you want to scream. He’s not particularly attractive. He’s licked his front paws so many times over the years that they’re orange-colored. He’s always a tad stinky, even right after a bath. He’s got “death breath” 24/7 and no matter how many times you brush his teeth, they’re always a shade of light brown.
Last year, my wife and I made a 5-minute movie for a short-film contest here in San Francisco. It was called “Our Last Dinner with Ratdog” and starred you-know-who. The finished product was terrible, it hurts us just to watch it now, but Ratdog was great. Doing the movie was a learning experience to say the least. When we did the film, half the crew was drunk, my spouse got into it with the director and the entire process cost me major bucks I didn’t have. But, Ratdog was awesome. He hit his mark every time and was a real trooper. You can see the film on youtube.com, but if you covet five minutes of your life, pass. It’s the Heaven’s Gate of short dog films.
PART TWO: The “P” Word: Our other dog, Shelly.