What Is A Dog

My wife thought she wanted a dog.
She wanted what she thought a dog was.
She envisioned a kind of animated plush toy
that would play or cuddle or go for a walk by her schedule
and then it would hibernate while she was at work
or busy with chores or friends
or just not feeling like fooling with a dog.
It took actually having a dog for her to understand
that a dog has a lot of needs
a lot of characteristics and habits
some which need changing
and some which cannot change and must be accommodated.
After a trial period of caring for the sweet young animal
she realized that she was not able to spend
the time and energy required
to afford that real dog a good life
and that making our home a good home for a dog
would also be impractical.
She knew intellectually that dogs pee and poo
and need to be trained where and when to do it.
She knew that even when trained
a dog has a biological clock that may override her plans
and that accidents are almost guaranteed.
She knew about feeding and watering and medical and grooming concerns
but it was vague head knowledge
not the pitiful whining and yelping in the night
the tired rising to the smell of urine and feces
or coming home
to barricades toppled and possessions shredded
by a bored, too-intelligent pet left alone too much.

I had insisted that we were not ready
to outright adopt the beautiful, intelligent and sweet-natured young bitch
so we kept her for a month, until someone who knew dogs well did adopt her.
When my wife realized what a dog really was
It became plain to her that she did not want a dog
but her former inaccurate idea of a dog.

This pattern can apply to
a child, a car, a house or a lover.

4 thoughts on “What Is A Dog

  1. For some mysterious, weird associative reason, this reminds me of Phillip Levine’s “What Work Is,” which is really about what we imagine work is vs. the reality. I generally don’t like animal poems (unless we’re talking about Dickey’s “The Heaven of Animals”), and this one is a tad long and overwritten, but the metaphor is universal. Not sure how it’s “insulting” to dogs (and cars?), but that’s an interesting point of view.

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