I think most relationships are bullshit. They all go through the same cycle, I would say life cycle but it happens over and over in most of our lives so unless you like the idea of living with an undead heart and a zombie brain then I’ll just leave it at cycle. By that I mean that as soon as we meet someone we immediately start projecting all these things onto them, sometimes from across the room as they approach us for the first time. We don’t realize it at the time because we’re so carried away with inventing the perfect companion but we’re just planting the seeds of our own destruction. By the time they’ve uttered their first words they are getting busy wrecking everything. Sometimes it takes minutes, sometimes it takes years to undo all the good things we did in the first few minutes. Of course, we had all the characteristics close at hand; we’re busy hoarding them from the first romantic movie we see to the last porn. All piled up inside us waiting to hurl them into whatever unlucky bastard or bitch we come upon.
You can’t really do that with a pet. I mean, some people do. The weak-minded amongst us who are too ugly or too fucked up for a relationship. So because they don’t have someone to put all those wonderful characteristics they’ve been hoarding into, they convince themselves that their dog has them. The dog on the other hand has no such backlog and looks for two things in an owner: someone to feed them and someone to rub their bellies. If you fell over dead in front of them they wouldn’t give a crap if they were confident that someone else would be there to feed them. If they were hungry they would literally eat you.
I guess when it comes to a dog a little projection isn’t such a bad thing. It’s not like they’re going to stumble in drunk one night and say something so horrible and so true that it forever scars you. Outside of biting you they have a limited capacity to fuck up what you think of them.
I read somewhere that it takes 33 muscles to frown, 13 to smile and 0 to not give a shit. I also don’t believe a word of it. I wonder how many muscles it takes to pretend not to give a shit. Probably 47 if you count the heart. I think we try because deep down we’ve learned that whatever person we’re attached to is slowly unraveling in our head anyway so even when we’re smiling we know to keep the frown muscles in top shape because they will be called upon soon enough.
Dogs might be the exception. Because they don’t fuck everything up for us they seem to almost validate these traits we’ve created for them. After awhile we start to believe it even if we aren’t ugly or fucked up and we have other meaningful interactions from time to time. As far as the dog is concerned that is fine with them as long as the food and belly rubs keep coming.
There’s a scene in the movie The Razor’s Edge where the lead character is saying goodbye to a fellow World War I ambulance driver killed while saving his life and I found out later that Bill Murray put the speech into the movie as a way of saying goodbye to his friend John Belushi. I thought the way he handled all the emotions he was feeling was so moving and powerful that I held the image in my head and wanted to someday deliver it with the same eloquence. “What does this have to do with bullshit relationships and dogs?” you are probably wondering at this point of the story.
Because when the time came all I could do was blubber and cry as my dog laid on the steel table and the vet put her down. I wanted to recount all of the times she crapped in the house and how pissed I was that she only lived 15 years and how much better off I’d been if I had originally purchased a tortoise because I’d still have 85 good years to look forward to. I wanted to use those 47 muscles and remind myself if the situation was reversed my dog would have been just as happy with another hand rubbing her belly.
And finally I knew she was gone. Not from cradling her head and seeing her eyes slowly lose their light but the sound of her bladder emptying on the cold tile floor. There couldn’t be one nice moment like in the movies. I couldn’t say one witty thing, just a bunch of meaningless, garbled, strangled, choked fucking noises that couldn’t even be called a sentence.
Dogs don’t even have the decency to lie to us, to allow us to create distance, allowing us to make the little speeches we make when yet another person lets us down and leaves our lives. They remind us that we truly don’t have the capacity to coherently capture a thought that isn’t somehow tied to the petty drama we call our reality. Defined anew every day based on what we’ve read or seen on TV. It could be a dog or a cat or a ferret or any animal that’s furry and even some that are not, these pricks come in and ruin everything.
Dogs don’t allow us to lie to ourselves and believe there wasn’t meaning in the meaningless.