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4 Things That Shock You About Dogs (If You Never Had One)

When my girlfriend and I moved in together a few months ago, she brought her most treasured belongings, along with some kind of hairy walking creature. It was her dog. Her name's Umbreon. (The dog, not my girlfriend, and yes -- Umbreon as in Umbreon). She's an energetic mix of a schnauzer and, presumably, a second type of dog.

All my life I've lived in apartments that didn't allow dogs, so I've never been able to fully develop a true liking of the animal. But now I've been thrown into a house with a dog, making my life like a season of The Real World if it aired on Animal Planet. I've been around other people's dogs and have enjoyed their company, but, like with kids, it's a whole different thing when they're yours. Suddenly I find myself feeling things toward it. Like emotions and other things that are for pussies.

I'm also learning from Umbreon. I'm learning firsthand the peculiar attitudes and actions of dogs -- things I've never noticed when I didn't live with them. Not just surface-level stuff, like when she licks my face or gets excited when I grab the leash. The stuff that defines the personalities of different animals. There's so much about dogs I missed out on by not having one to call my own. I mean, how was I supposed to know that ...

#4. Dogs Are Motion-Activated

There's no such thing as sleep for a dog. There is only waiting. If you don't believe that, take a look at your dog's eyes the next time it's asleep. Its body language exhibits all the signs of a sleeping animal, but its eyes are open and it's decoding your body language for any indication of movement toward a more exciting place, like the food bowl or a room filled wall-to-wall with dog anuses ripe for a deep, contemplative sniffing.

Human owners have a radius of only about three feet they can move before a dog's internal adventure-sensors blare and it wakes up thinking it's Wendy, you're Peter, and it's time to revisit Neverland. Here's a slick graphic to help illustrate my point:

Take so much as a half step outside of the circle, and she shoots to attention, like I caught wind there's a raging kegger in the bedroom and the dog doesn't want to miss out on the Facebook selfie-fest that's about to go down:

This proves that, in spite of how intelligent dogs can be, they have a tough time remembering how profoundly uninteresting the rest of the house is. If I leave to the bathroom, the dog follows, assuming this is it -- this time a jackpot of squeak toys are going to cascade out of the wall when I flush the toilet. I'm still undecided if this is a part of the legendary dog loyalty everyone's been hyping all these years, or if it's a desperation move made by a creature that is more genetically inclined to roam free in the woods than sit on a couch watching me watch TV. It's no wonder that when I walk around the house ...

#3. My Dog Orbits Me Like a Moon

Dogs are codependent. From room to room, wherever I go, the dog follows. And she doesn't follow eventually. She follows like if she doesn't stay within the three-foot safe zone around me her collar will detonate. There's a weird parasitic relationship dogs develop with their owners that's on the border between adorable and sad. They want you, they need you, they need to be around you for every second of every day, until the Earth collapses and the chunks of land we once called home begin to separate and float off into the cold vastness of space and they have to propel themselves toward your freezing corpse just to be by your side one last time as you both float off into a black infinity. It brings a tear to my eye. So loyal. So loving.

But then, maybe after Hour 7 of my lazy Saturday at home, the companionship starts to get a little weird. There's a desperation in the follow, an anxiousness. It's not so much that dogs love us and want to be our companions throughout every moment in life, no matter how dull. It's that dogs have absolutely no idea what to do with themselves. It's heartbreaking to watch. Why do you think dogs tear things apart when their owners leave the house? They're pissed. They're confused. They're sad. The only way they know how to express their jumbled mash of neuroses is to destroy. When the dog destroys, we yell, "Bad dog!" and move on. If a human did that, we'd call animal control and tell them to bring the darts that can drop a rampaging whale. Dogs are a manic-depressive wreck, and we are their lithium.

That's not to say a dog's constant teetering on the edge of emotional and psychological ruin is a bad thing. It results in a friend that's always there, literally by your side all the time. I'm writing this with Umbreon a foot and a half away, and she makes the often-lonely, isolating act of writing easier to bear. What's especially great about the near-OCD levels of companionship is when I roam around the house a lot and watch her grow to hate me for it. It's torture for her, and it's hilarious. After a few scenery changes in rapid succession, dogs get a little annoyed, like they're being forced to change locations. They just want to settle down and get comfy, but if we move, they have to move too. They huff and puff and glare with eyes glossed-over with annoyance that seem to say:

It's surprisingly fun to mess with those who are prisoners to their own neuroses. But dogs have found a way to bounce their negative emotions back on to their constantly moving owners by ...

#2. Following ... and Just Staring

Imagine if panhandlers on the street didn't hold out a sign asking for cash. What if they followed you wherever you went -- not really bothering you, but not leaving you alone either. Just staring at you, looking their most cartoonishly miserable, expecting something of you, and you aren't sure if it's a couple of quarters or a second chance at life.

If you're a dog owner, you don't have to imagine what that's like. When a dog is hungry or needs to pee it will follow and quickly sit itself wherever its owner is, and it will stare with smugness smeared on its face like it just ate a plate of ribs slathered in the oozy, hickory-smoked sauce of condescension. Maybe it'll even cock its head to the side, which gives a +3 to its Belittling Stare racial ability. And it'll always be sure to lock eyes whenever possible so that it may better project the words ...

... into your brain. When dogs want something, they become passive-aggressive. Actually, that's too simple a term to encapsulate the complexity of their dickishness. They ascend unto a higher plane to become a celestial being that brings balance to the contradictory forces of passivity and aggressiveness and unifies them into the single anthropomorphized form of your dog -- a creature so exceedingly polite and obedient it absolutely has to be some kind of attack. This attitude isn't surprising, when you think about it, considering that ...

#1. Dogs Are the Most Sarcastic Creatures in the Animal Kingdom

The moment a following dog gets comfortable in the room you've just walked into, quickly move to another room so the dog feels compelled to follow. If necessary, move to a third room just as it starts finding a comfortable spot in the second room. When it plops down to get comfy in the third room, the dog will do so with an exasperated sigh, almost like a steam valve releasing pressure. Kind of like this:

Listen carefully to that sigh, though. It's more than a sigh. Like notes of citrus and the earthy taste of soil only a trained tongue can detect in wine, buried somewhere in that sigh is a slight undercurrent of sarcasm. It's the passive-aggressive attitude in another form. Dogs are so respectful toward their owners that they haven't yet developed a more confrontational way of saying "fuck you," so they squeeze out a slightly exaggerated sigh and hope you're smart enough to pick up on it.

If that sound is eerily familiar to you, it's because you've launched your own sighs spiked with a stiff jigger of sarcasm toward the exhausting idiots in your life. Sarcastic human sighs are more advanced. We've got eye-roll technology, and we can drop our shoulder hydraulics down a bit to indicate disappointment in our fellow man. All dogs have is a small sigh that makes their human owners double-take and question if their dog is being an asshole right now. The silliness of the thought causes the owner to brush it away -- exactly as the dog planned. And they're the only animal that does it.

Cats aren't sarcastic when they're annoyed. They're contemptuous and pompous. Chimps and monkeys aren't sarcastic as much as they're assholes who will laugh in your face and then throw stuff at it to make your face angry and therefore funnier to them. After that, we've pretty much run out of animals that can emote. And don't bring up dolphins, because you know when it comes to being a dick they're basically water-chimps.

So, yes -- dogs are truly loyal and are truly man's best friend. That is, until they learn to roll their eyes and say:




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