Tag Archives: kindness

How an Old Dog Taught Me a New Trick

Gatsby the Brave

Our dog’s name is Gatsby (yes, after the literary figure and soon-to-be Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle). And like most dogs, our dog does something incredibly annoying. Actually several things, but for now we’ll just focus on the one. And this annoying thing is every time we get ready to leave, he flips out, sprints around the house and runs to a favorite corner of the couch or under the table to hide, making a variety of noises the entire time. When we go to extricate him, he’s usually shaking, sad, and generally worked into a pretty hysterical state. The reason he reacts like this is because he knows that when we leave the house it means that he’s about to go into his crate, and he doesn’t like his crate (this seems to be a pretty universal canine crate trait). Or at least that’s what I thought the reason was. Until I noticed that Gatsby actually didn’t seem to mind his crate that much. It’s got enough room for him to move a bit and lay down if he wants, he gets a little treat when he goes in, it’s even got his favorite blanket in there for him to burrow in to. And when he’s in his crate, he’s actually quite calm — maybe resigned to his fate is the vibe — and exhibits none of the freak-out emotions that he does prior to being put into his doggie domicile. And that’s when it hit me: it’s not the crate he dislikes, it’s the fact that we’re leaving that he can’t stand. Gatsby has a lot of separation anxiety (more so than most dogs) and he loves to be around us (the order in which he likes us is actually hilariously and borderline rudely obvious), so I’m not overstating things when I tell you that us leaving is the worst thing that he can imagine happening. Compounding that dislike into something even more intense is that, as a dog, any time we leave, he literally has no idea when or if we’ll be back. As far as his little canine mind knows, this may be the very last time that he gets to see the people he loves most in the world. Gatsby simply lacks the capacity to spot the differences that indicate either a long vacation away from home or a quick run to the fro-yo joint down the block. So then in this new light, all the sadness, the shaking, the general “my world is collapsing around me!” emotions he goes through every time we leave makes sense. Gatsby might never see us again (as far as he knows) and that’s worth working himself into a lovesick hysterical sadness.

It’s easy enough to attribute a behavior like that to the inferior brain of a canine (you wouldn’t be wrong) and simply brush it off while mentally patting ourselves on the back for having such a supreme intelligence that we can decipher TIME and DISTANCE, etc. But really, we don’t have a superior mind, we have the very same flaw — just on the opposite end of the spectrum. Just as Gatsby overreacts and lets his emotions run wild, so do we err on the side of apathy and taking our loved ones for granted — assuming that there will always be another opportunity to show our affections or express our love.

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The Name Game

All my life I’ve told people that I’m bad with names when I can’t remember theirs.  This isn’t entirely true.  But it’s not entirely false, either.

The “problem” — if one can characterize something so relatively trivial as a true problem in a world flush with famine, poverty, economic woes, WMDs and the constant threat that Robert Pattinson’s acting is lurking around every corner — is that people tend to fall into one of three categories for me: 1) uninteresting, unattractive, not ambitious…in a word, average.  And average isn’t good enough to get your name remembered in the sea of people that we all meet randomly throughout our lives.  If that sounds cold, maybe it’s time to stop listing Nickelback and “hanging with friends” as your only interests when I ask you about yourself.  2) People I pretend to not really remember in order to either sound aloof, secure a higher social footing, or to avoid an awkward situation where I remember them, but they have no recollection of me.  These are usually either people I’d like to avoid and forget altogether, or people that I think should remember me and do the initiating (the implication being that I’m “too good” to start interactions with them…I know, I know, I’m a bastard).  3) The final group is everyone who meets or exceeds that value quotient (e.g. people I look up to or respect, successful peers, fun people, attractive women, etc.) but for whom I still feign ignorance of because I don’t want to come off as the creepy-stalker type or someone who’s overly into them or whatever.  3a) In fairness to myself, I should point out that I do genuinely forget people’s names sometimes even if they don’t fit into any of the aforementioned categories.  Same is true if I’m being introduced to a group…once you’ve said more than two names in a row, I’ve started flushing them to clear out the mental space I need to make a herpes joke.  And herpes jokes take the most mental energy of all the STD jokes.

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