We have a three-year-old male dog. Because he was a rescue from an animal shelter, nobody knows exactly what breeds contributed to his mixed nuttiness. He has a medium build, like a spaniel, but the broad chest of a doberman. He has floppy ears like a beagle, but is fluffy like an Irish setter. 90% of his coat is white with a few black splotches. He was always a typical dog—friendly, goofy, loveably dense, always hungry. His singular goal in life seemed to be catching squirrels. Not only do they invade his slice of the world, I imagined he told himself they taste like furry, tasseled, ambulatory prime rib roasts. If only he could catch one. The yard would be safe. The belly would be full.
But lately, he has changed hobbies. He used to watch squirrels obsessively. Now he watches TV.
It started with a screening of Babe. The kids put it on one summer afternoon. The sheepdogs caught his eye, and then the other farm animals. We laughed as our dog barked at the movie star dogs, sheep, and pig on the screen. He seemed extremely disturbed an entire farm was pinned to our wall like one of those window-things delicious squirrels live beyond. Quickly, he grew bored and found other ways to occupy his time, like chewing socks.
I never realized how many animal-oriented movies we owned until the dog started paying more and more attention. Charlotte’s Web, Mouse Hunt, Stuart Little, Milo and Otis, Chicken Run, and many others caught his eye. He’d bark and watch and bark some more. Then, he began to just steadily watch the action without commentary. More than once, I accused the kids of putting on a movie just because it had animals and they wanted the dog to watch, too. They’d feign surprise.
One night, my husband and I were watching Jeopardy. We weren’t alone. Our dog was watching, too. He watched an entire episode. It was a little disturbing. We kept calling his name. He’d look back and then return to his program. I almost expected him to fetch a TV tray and use his little paws to heat a microwave salisbury steak. He knew all the answers but when he goes to take the online audition test, he will fail spectacularly.
Yesterday, after school, the kids and the dog watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. He watched silently until Sally—little sweet blonde Sally—came on screen. He barked and barked at her. When the scene would change, he’d stop. A minute later, Sally was back, this time weighing whether or not to join Linus in the pumpkin patch.
Bark bark bark!
Snoopy did nothing for him. Lucy, yawn. That blockhead, Charlie Brown, didn’t raise any fur.
Sally was evil. He jumped up on his back legs. I thought for sure he was going to launch himself at the VIZIO so we put him outside, away from Sally. He stood at the back door barking to come back inside. We waited until Lucy pulled off Charlie Brown’s shoes and tucked him into bed to allow our dog to rejoin the viewing party. By then, no Sally. Our TV was safe and so was she.
Was it her voice? Her horn-like hair? The color of her dress? Of maybe it goes a little deeper for our super-smart dog: Sally wanted to be with Linus so badly, she agreed to join him in the pumpkin patch on Halloween night. This meant sacrificing trick-or-treating and a party. She wasn’t a believer in the Great Pumpkin, but she believed in him. Sally pinned her hopes that a cute face wouldn’t lead her astray. Her night would be redeemed by his belief in something great. Linus was a false prophet, a cultist determined to be at the right place at the right time, saved by sincerity. Of course, his patch was the most sincere. Don’t we all think our patch is a sincere patch, if not the most sincere?
I’ve solved it! Our dog can’t tolerate misguided stabs at finding meaning.
Wait. Why is he barking at me?