This Is For My Dog

in Culture by

My dog and I live in the same bubble.

On a typical morning I wake up at 5:30 and brush my teeth. Before making my way downstairs, I open the door to my stepdaughter’s bedroom where the dog has spent the night, under the covers, near her feet. Having awakened when he heard my alarm go off, the dog is usually at the bedroom door already, whimpering and scratching, though sometimes I have to poke my head and whisper his name to rouse him out from under the blanket.

He’s a small dog, much smaller than I would’ve liked. (I prefer dogs you don’t have to protect from other dogs.) He’s almost pure white with a faint lemon patch over one eye and lemon freckles covering his little floppy ears. He’s got long legs, but I figure he’s about a foot and inches from paw to the withers. He’s got a little head and face, giving him the appearance of (on good days) a bunny or (on bad days) a rat.

The girl we got him from on Craigslist told us he’s half Miniature Pinscher and half Beagle, and while we’d normally be forgiven for not believing a person under such circumstances, we have no reason to think the dog isn’t what she said he is. He looks like a Min Pin, albeit a white one, he digs and burrows under blankets like a Min Pin, but he barks and howls like Snoopy (a Beagle). His nose is usually combing the ground, looking for something — anything — to devour. It doesn’t matter what it is — ladybug, ant, bee, leaf, stick, rock, paper, plastic, rabbit turd — if he can chew and swallow it, then it goes in his mouth right away; a lady at Petco said that’s the Beagle in him.

The dog and I make our way downstairs together in the morning, him racing me to the bottom even though I’m taking my time, and we head out into the backyard. He pees and takes a dump, usually in the patch of fake grass we have next to the pool; I’ve already peed upstairs. Then he starts sniffing around to see what he can find, while I’m on my iPad browsing the morning’s headlines in search of interesting or newsworthy items to write about or share on Enclave‘s social media.

We both eat breakfast a little after six. I fill the dog’s food bowl first before I nuke a bowl of oatmeal and put on a pot of Bustelo. The same bottled water that goes into his water bowl is the same stuff I use to make oatmeal and brew coffee. The dog normally doesn’t start eating from his bowl until he sees me eating from mine. He takes in a few mouthfuls and then glances up at me from across the room to where I’m holding my bowl of oatmeal and standing next to the counter, on top of which sits my iPad livestreaming Nevada Public Radio. He’s listening, too, but not to the radio. He’s waiting to hear something to bark about.

On some mornings, either before we eat or right after, I’ll clean his face with presoaked doggy face pads and give him a quick brushing with a brush that’s supposed to collect all the hair he sheds, which isn’t a lot but noticeable. Right when we got him I would take him for a walk around the neighborhood before breakfast, but I stopped doing that in the winter and now I’m just too busy in the mornings to do it. I don’t think he cares that I don’t walk him in the morning anymore, and he probably prefers that I don’t.

After we’re done with our early-morning routines, we both head back upstairs, me with my cup of coffee and the dog with his bully stick or one of the toys we spoil him with. (We spend way too much money on the little asshole.) My partner is usually still asleep, and so the dog will sprint past me into the room and leap up onto the bed and bathe her face with his little pinkish tongue. She hates mornings with a passion, but since she’s obsessed with the dog, she doesn’t mind being woken up in this way; in fact, I think she secretly loves it.

Her obsession with the dog is nearly matched by his obsession with her. She is his favorite person, and she’s mine, too. We share her, which is probably why the dog and I sort of resent each other. When I slump down into my desk chair around 6:30, the dog is cuddling up next to my partner under the blanket, where he’ll stay, in and out of napping, for the next hour or so until my partner finally gets up and readies for work.

The author’s dog, Benny, on a typical morning

As I’m reading my umpteenth article, or crafting my umpteenth sentence or (on good mornings) paragraph, the dog is working away at his chew toy on the floor next to me. Sometimes he’s so intense at it that it distracts me and I have to kick him out of the room. I like it when he’s calm, laying in the patch of sunlight that creeps across the carpet every morning. The dog loves being in the sun, and in this he and I are at odds because, being trigueño, I have to limit my time in the sun or else I’ll end up looking like a charred piece of carne asada.

At lunchtime we wander the backyard again. We spend our afternoons downstairs in the living room, he in his doggy bed and I on the couch reading. My stepdaughter comes home from school a little after two, and the dog sometimes heads upstairs to play or nap in her room but usually he stays with me.

Around three he gets restless, which is when I’ll crack open the back door to let him go out and sit in the sun, usually on one of the lounge chairs. Sometimes I’ll join him in the backyard, carrying around a book or my iPad or just reading in the shade. When my stepdaughter takes the dog for his daily walk around 4:30, and if I’m not too caught up in my reading, too lazy or got stuff to take care of, I go for a run.

After dinner, if my partner and I don’t have work to do, we’ll chat on the couch and watch something on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime. The dog sometimes watches with us from his doggy bed, but most of the time my wife will play fetch with him, which quickly turns into a game of tug-o-war. We’ve taught him “drop it,” but he still likes to test us. As I said, he’s an asshole.

The three of us cuddle on the couch — I with her, and she with the dog. He’s a very jealous dog and will push my hand away with his nose whenever he sees me caressing her. If she’s the one caressing me, then he’ll shove his head in between her hand and me to get her to start stroking him. Min Pins and Beagles aren’t known to be lapdogs, but this dog will fall asleep in my partner’s lap, belly up, with no shame whatsoever.

As a writer who rarely leaves the house on weekdays, I often wonder what the dog thinks of me. Unlike with most dogs and their owners who have to leave for work every day, the dog and I are an almost constant presence in each other’s quiet little lives. You’d think, considering that I’m alone with him for hours, that I’m one of those people who talks to their dog as if they’re people themselves, but you’d be surprised by just how little I do talk to him. I mostly give commands or scold him for being annoying or stupid. (He’s a lot smarter than he acts most of the time.)

That isn’t to say we don’t communicate, because we do, only it’s mostly non-verbal. I usually know what he’s thinking or feeling, so it’s only naturally that I would wonder if he ever knows what I’m thinking or feeling. I’m sure he knows on a very basic level, but he can’t possibly know what I’m really thinking, of course. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m thinking.

Yesterday, after dropping a load on presents for the dog’s first birthday — which is today — my wife and I realized that we would never get another dog; they’re just too much work, and my wife and I are much too self-involved and greedy with our time. (We should’ve spent more time socializing him, for instance, but we don’t even devote enough time to our own socializing.) And since we’re not getting another dog, that makes this dog the one, great dog-love of our lives. The first year was hellish at times — we even considered putting him back on Craigslist — but it’s funny how a few good times can help you forget all the miserable ones.

Benny recovering after getting neutered

At the end of the day, he’s a good dog. He knows all the basic commands, from “Sit” and “Stay” to “Leave it” and “Roll over,” and he’d quickly learn a lot more if we bothered to teach him. He gets along with other dogs (mostly), and he doesn’t like strangers but, generally speaking, neither do I or my partner. It’s unfair to criticize a pet for not being more social than its owners; the dog’s faults are our own.

Anyway, happy birthday, Benny.


Featured image: The author’s dog, Benny


Hector is the founder and editor of MANO as well as the host of the LATINISH podcast. A Chicagoan living in Las Vegas, he's also the senior editor of Latino Rebels, part of Futuro Media, as well as a former managing editor of Gozamos, an art-activism site based in his home town. He was a columnist at RedEye, a Tribune-owned daily geared toward millennials. His work has been mentioned by The New Yorker, Good Morning America, TIME, the Washington Post, and other outlets, and his writing was featured in 'Ricanstruction, 'a comic book anthology whose proceeds went toward recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. He studied history at the University of Illinois-Chicago where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States.

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