I went to a barbecue this weekend and enjoyed watching many people mistake the host’s dog as being unusually rude. You never realize how much heart a person puts into a, “Hey puppy!” until you see their enthusiasm deflate as the dog sashays past them without any acknowledgment of their greeting or general existence.
“He’s deaf,” another partygoer would say to explain the dog’s feline aloofness. Some folks responded by clapping or waving their arms in a vague form of animal sign language, while a few others looked at the dog and spoke with exaggerated pronunciation, as if it had graduated from a gifted obedience school that included lip-reading classes. The dog ignored them all as he sauntered around the party looking for fallen scraps or forgotten plates, and I envied the resolute confidence he showed in rejecting small talk. One of my most picked bones with dogs is their disregard for personal boundaries, so I liked the company of one that was on the other end of any etiquette disorder spectrum.
I’ve met plenty of pets that were missing an eye, ear, or leg, and those cats or dogs always seemed to have a spunky edge to them, too cool to explain the episode that resulted in you being able to look through their eye socket and see out of their ear canal. You just had to have been there to appreciate the danger, bro.
This was the first deaf dog I’d ever met, and based on most folks’ dejected sighs, it might’ve been the most cursed beast to ever trod this earth. I thought of the sound of strangers using doggie talk with every pet they encounter on the street, and I knew there were fates for a dog far worse than being unable to hear human beings. The disinterested, deaf dog at the barbecue had a pronounced version of one quality I enjoy most about pets: escapism. In recent months, I’ve found myself missing the only pet I’ve had, a cat named Obi, after President Obama.
I remember Obi’s companionship during several rough life episodes, such as when my job of seven years suddenly closed, or when I was evicted from my apartment (those two sound related, but aren’t). Listening to his heartbeat or feeling his soft breath against my hand, I was comforted by the authenticity of his existence — how his experience in this world had not been cluttered with worries about paychecks, bills, or any of the other obligatory burdens of being a human.
How blissful would it be to spend an afternoon as that non-hearing dog; to be at a summer social gathering strictly for the weather and food, roaming undisturbed from one nibble to the next; to have no clue about how insane our world has become, or how the likelihood of humanity being destroyed in a nuclear meltdown fluctuates based on the babysitting schedule at the White House. The unstable, pathological liar leading our country, and the millions of people who detach from reality and decency in order to support him, have it feeling like the dog days of democracy.