(originally posted 8/20/2014)
Every year the realtor that sold me my house goes around the neighborhood on July 4th and plants a little plastic American flag in front of each mailbox. It makes the street look all patriotic and although I’ve never given it much thought I guess it’s a nice thing for him to do.
My dog doesn’t agree.
My dog is afraid of flags.
I found this out July 4th as I took her for her daily walk.
I’ve been told, I don’t recollect by whom, that goldfish have the shortest memories of any animal. I’m not sure I believed it at the time but it stuck with me. Obviously the conversation had hit rock bottom and it probably goes a long way in explaining why I don’t remember who told me. That might have been the little nugget of information that pushed me over the edge and led me to cut off all further contact from whoever it was.
Or I read it on a Snapple cap.
Who can keep track of such things?
I’m not sure if memory and attention span are considered the same things but if they are, then my dog can give any goldfish a run for the title. She will literally leave the room, turn and come back in twenty seconds later and act as though we have been separated for months. The joy exhibited at my presence makes me feel guilty that there isn’t a more sound reason for her reaction. Her tail will wag with such intensity I sometimes worry that it will snap right off and go hurtling through the front window.
Her face clearly has “Oh rapture!” written all over it.
After dinner she takes it up a notch. Once the two cups of dog food have made their way successfully through the plumbing she realizes it’s time for her walk. She will then locate me wherever I might happen to be in the house or yard and begin staring at me with such intensity that all but those with a keen understanding of dog psychology are left to assume that little Timmy has once again fallen down a well and is in need of immediate assistance.
I know better.
It’s time for her walk.
July 4th I slapped on the ol’ leash and away we went. That’s when I learned that my dog was afraid of flags. She dragged me through the front door with an urgency that suggested that the house was engulfed in flames and made her way to the mailbox to see which of her canine counterparts had been by recently to sprinkle their hello.
One brief gust of wind later the flag planted nearby had the audacity to quiver ever so slightly and, upon seeing this, my dog’s legs almost gave out and she reacted as if a yawning hole in the earth had suddenly opened before her and exposed Hades itself, complete with all the fire and brimstone a dog could ever hope to see.
I’d never seen an animal react with such stark terror and I am nothing if not a full-blown addict for TV shows where one larger animals spends considerable time stalking another animal with the intentions of nothing less than murdering and consuming that animal and, when the trap is finally sprung and the animal that is playing the part of sustenance in this little drama realizes what fate has in store for them, the look of surprise and dismay that crosses their face still doesn’t hold a candle to the expression of all-consuming horror that overtook my dog at the sight of the small plastic flag waving ever so slightly by my mailbox.
A scene that was repeated at each and every mailbox up and down the street. It seemed that just as she composed herself and decided to soldier on despite the shock she’d just experienced, there was another star-spangled antagonist that sent her spinning into another fit of panic. It became absurd. I worried her heart would give out at each of these new red, white and blue demons tormenting her up and down the block. When the wind would stop and they would hang completely limp on their sticks she would approach slowly and each time get within a few inches before a light breeze would again animate these miniature versions of Old Glory and send her scampering away in a stomach-turning display of cowardice.
Every new yard a fresh hell for her because as soon as she was out of sight of the last flag she seemed to forget all about the previous encounter and then plunge headlong into the next one of Betsy Ross’ fluttering disciples.
I’m sure my neighbor’s hearts were warmed watching me drag my traumatized dog from one house to next screaming “It’s a fucking flag, you idiot!” By the end of the week parents “What kind of a dog is scared of a fucking flag?” were scrambling to get their kids inside “You’re embarrassing me!” and out of earshot as soon as we poked “Dogs are not the preferred prey item of flags you moron!” our heads out of the house. To make matter worse, this will be going on for the foreseeable future because the damn flags are plastic and usually make it to about Labor Day before looking so faded and crappy that people begin to pull them up and toss them in the trash.
It’s going to be a long summer.