Back in the days when gas was cheap, dogs slept in dog beds on the floor, waited for someone to remember to toss them a bone now and then, and had names such as Fido or Pizza. (I once knew a dog named Pizza, if you doubt me.)
Since then, things have swung wildly in the dogs’ direction. Today’s tail-waggers are named Zelda, Brian, and Charlene, and they have been upgraded to sleeping in their owners’ beds. Some go to therapy to help them with their “issues,” which may include being named Zelda or Brian and having to wear miniature Burberry trench coats and Prada sunglasses. Oh, I forgot: dogs no longer have owners – they have “human companions.”
I should know. I’m the human companion to Ken, an 11-year-old beagle/lab mix. When we adopted him as a pup he was equipped with both his shots and his all-American guy moniker. I thought he should have a more canine-appropriate name, such as Buster, but the pet rescue agency staff were alarmed at the very idea. They warned me that changing Ken’s name might create “issues,” even beyond the issue of having a couch that was now missing its left armrest and middle cushion because Ken chewed it up during his first week in our home.
All this comes to mind because Friday, June 22 is the annual Take Your Dog To Work Day® (TYDTWD). Sponsors hope the event will “raise awareness of the importance of the human-animal bond.” This is more than a little redundant in a society that has seen such excesses as “bark mitzvahs,” “barkeries” featuring gourmet “pet”it- fours and doggy day spas.
I already take Ken to work with me every day, and I can assure you that he gets the better end of this deal. For example, even when he’s not napping on the bed in my home office, and I read a draft of my humor columns to him to test audience reaction, he falls asleep again, often during what is intended as a big laugh line. His snores disrupt my creative thinking process and worse, make me want to tuck myself under the covers, too.
I am glad not to have to prove my “canine companion” chops by bringing Ken to a real office on TYDTWD, because he would get one or both of us fired immediately. He would lift his leg on an expensive potted plant, missing the plant but getting the carpet instead; sniff up everybody in sight, lingering a little too long on the boss’ pant leg; and nose through unattended briefcases, happily stealing sandwiches from deep inside. He would snort and perhaps emit noxious fumes during meetings, and would rest his snout on anyone’s lap who was eating a muffin, staring with those pleading eyes for a piece of the action. This might be considered “workplace muffin harassment.”
I’m not complaining, though. Ken has provided vastly amusing material for several columns, and even a quote on a Starbucks cup. The quote said: “Have you noticed that dogs are the new kids? You take a walk with your kid and your dog, but nobody says, ‘What a cute kid!’ Instead they say, ‘What a cute dog! What’s his name? Is he a rescue?’ Maybe if I put a collar and leash on my kid someone will notice her.” No human subject ever brought me such awesome, yet fleeting publicity.
I understand why so many people have become a little dog-crazy. There is so little loyalty in today’s world, either from employers to long-time employees, from baseball players to their home teams, heck, even from spouses to their mates. But dogs are utterly, refreshingly predictable in their loyalty. They are faithful and will love you and forgive you — even if you make them wear a Burberry rain slicker.