I dreamed of owning a dog from the moment I watched my first episode of Lassie. For those born after the series ended in 1973, it was a TV show about the heroic adventures of a Collie named Lassie who was always rescuing people and saving them from misfortune. Lassie was a superhero, but instead of donning a cape, he wagged his tail. I grew up thinking all dogs were like Lassie.
Having recently relocated to Los Angeles and bought my first house, the time was finally right to fulfill my childhood dream. I couldn’t locate my desired Collie breed, so I settled on an English Golden Retriever. English Goldens are much like their American counterparts, except they are white, they bark with considerably more refinement, and insist on tea with their kibble. They also have bad teeth.
I wanted to name my dog Lassie, but figured it would result in people forever telling me, “Lassie was a Collie, you know?” So, I named him Ben Jr., after a friend’s dog in Michigan who inspired me to get my own.
Between you and me, my dog is no Lassie.
For starters, Ben Jr. poops. I watched all 116 episodes of Lassie and never once did Lassie take a poop. He also farts. Did you know dogs fart? And I’m not talking the gentle kind I imagine supermodels like Kate Upton or Heidi Klum might occasionally exude, but the super deadly kind like those of my legendary summer camp bunk mate Brian Danzinger, the undefeated fart champion of Camp Tomahawk for three years running. It’s a big problem when I have company over because not everyone knows that dogs fart, making me the likely suspect. Hardly a surprise that most guests leave before dessert and that I have no friends left except Brian Danzinger.
Potty training Ben Jr. was a nightmare. That’s because dogs practice Buddhism, they live in the moment. You can return home and your dog can be standing next to a mountain of poop on your custom wood floor but there’s nothing you can do because they’ve long forgotten where the poop came from. You have to catch them in the act. This trait is a real boon for male dogs. They can cheat all they want and honestly deny memories of any dalliances if their bitches get wind of their infidelities. Stormy Daniels says President Trump has the same trait, which is surprising because he’s the first president in more than a century who doesn’t own a dog.
Ben Jr. is super smart and don’t take my word for it. They nicknamed him “smarty pants” at dog training school because he quickly figured out their shtick: They demonstrated something, and if he did it, he got a treat. It was supposed to be a 12-week course, but he had to be home schooled after week three because the training center nearly went bankrupt rewarding Ben Jr. treats by the truckload. He still graduated magna cum laude, albeit 20 pounds overweight.
Don’t ever get a smart dog if you’re a first-time dog owner. Dogs know when their masters are out of their depth and they take great delight taking advantage of you. Oh yes, they will behave wonderfully in the company of the $100-an-hour trainer with 10,000 five-star reviews you found on Yelp, but soon as the trainer leaves, they develop comprehension issues.
“Ben, sit!” I’d say 1,000 times (forgetting that the trainer warned me to only say the command once) and Ben would stare me down with a look that clearly said, “You’re not talking to me, are you?”
Things quickly went downhill from there. A month after I got Ben Jr. I was eating from a bowl on the floor and sleeping on the floor by my bed. Adding insult to injury, Ben Jr. would shake his head when I picked up his poop, letting me know he considered me a loser. Given the circumstances, I could hardly blame him.
Most humiliating was picking Ben Jr. up from doggie day care. All the other dogs rushed out and hugged and licked their owners. Not my Ben Jr. The staff had to drag him out. More than once I overheard them say, “I’m sorry puppy, you have to go home with him.” I’m certain Ben Jr. made fun of me while with his friends in the doggie yard. I know this because all the dogs stared at me after loving their owners to near death. One dog even peed on my leg.
My dog parenting skills have improved dramatically, but my relationship inadequacies sometimes cause me considerable angst. Ben Jr. recently stopped sleeping in my room and I thought perhaps it was because I said his new collar made him look fat. But my trainer assured me that Ben Jr. is thick furred and regardless dogs don’t have vanity issues. He said perhaps that with Ben Jr. celebrating his third birthday he’s exercising his independence. Alternatively, the trainer said, it’s possible Ben Jr. just doesn’t like me.
I often fantasize what it would be like if Ben Jr. could talk to me for just two minutes and let me know how I could improve as a doggie parent. But I fear the conversation would go something like this: “You know Eric, you’re a really, really nice guy. But I’m just not feeling the whole best friend thing.”
Dr. Richard Ting
2020 Santa Monica Blvd Suite #530
Santa Monica, CA, 90404