Earlier this week, I sent my three dogs to a two-week obedience boot camp. Since they are my dogs, it goes without saying that they have never in their lives been disciplined. So, they were understandably confused when my local dog trainer — whose eerie command over the canine world has turned him into a type of messianic cult figure in my town — came to collect them for sleep-away camp and immediately began barking orders at them.
Livia, my female miniature schnauzer, and Nettie, my French bulldog, quickly fell under his spell and eagerly followed him into his truck — a pair of willing devotees, happily awaiting orders to kill on his command. But Fredo, my male schnauzer who was once ejected from puppy school for lifting his leg on the instructor one too many times, rooted himself at my side and refused to budge. He had to be carried, kicking and squealing, into the truck. Then, as the truck pulled out of my driveway, he stared directly into my soul, his eyes filled with equal measures of terror and betrayal.
As I weakly waved goodbye, the tears started, and didn’t stop until I lulled myself to sleep with a medicinal bottle of cabernet.
I awoke the next morning, dog-less for the first time in years. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, my face swollen from a night of weeping and my lips stained from the wine. “So, this is what I look like when I’m in love,” I said to my reflection.
Regular readers of this column (are there any?) know that earlier this year I reconnected with the great love of my life after a 25-year absence. From the moment we reunited, we entered into an impenetrable bubble of enchantment that protected us from any threat to our supreme bliss.
There were no clouds on the horizon! But, then, on the first evening she spent at my house, a small storm began to shape in the distance. As we made our way into my bedroom, we were followed by my tiny pack of ill-mannered beasts. They hopped into bed and quickly formed a dog-wall between us.
“The dogs sleep with us?” she asked, clearly nonplussed by the arrangement.
“Ummm, yeah?” I said, carefully.
This led to our first uncomfortable standoff, with her silently demanding that I order the dogs off the bed, and me internally screaming: “Of course they sleep with me! Where else would they sleep?”
I blinked first.
I very reluctantly led the dogs out of the bedroom and cordoned them off. They howled relentlessly in disbelief and I pouted. Finally, I got out of bed and joined them in solidarity. We spent the night crammed onto a day bed, the dogs sleeping fitfully while I wrestled with my options.
I have a long history of refusing to make sacrifices in relationships. This may explain my stunningly impressive failure rate in this arena. And I certainly had never even considered putting a partner’s needs before my pets’ smallest desires.
I looked down at the dogs, snoring, drooling, and snuffling at my side. Normally I would find this charming. But, suddenly, it dawned on me that I had chosen to sleep in a cot with these disgusting brutes instead of with my nice, clean girlfriend in a big bed with 500-count Egyptian cotton sheets. I slipped out of the room, and crawled back into bed, making a graceful reentry into the happiest relationship of my life.
When I told my girlfriend that the dogs had been shipped off for obedience school, she nodded in approval. Then she asked, “When do you get trained?”
“I think it’s started already,” I said.