I have a 20-month-old Maltese named Penny Lane – she’s a Beatles fan. I often look her straight in the eyes and tell her with feigned firmness in my voice: “I own you. You are my dog.” She usually replies with a woof or wag of the tail, but sometimes she just gives me a condescending look that says, “What the hell are you talking about?”
I think it’s funny that I own her. Owning a human – slavery – is no laughing matter, and in fact I plan to use this forum to compare income taxation to a form of modern slavery. Serious stuff. But what I think is funny is that, while I own her and there is nothing she can do about it, she is so absolutely in love with me and couldn’t imagine (can dogs imagine?) a life without me. It’s heartwarming.
On our daily trips to the dog park, she runs and plays and sniffs lots of other canine heinies. But she always keeps me in her line of sight. When a big dog runs toward her and she gets scared, she always finds Daddy. When she’s just having too much fun, she’ll run to me, huge grin on her face, and then trot off to have more fun. I am her best friend even though she didn’t have any choice in the matter.
Which of course gives me a sense of obligation. This shaggy little seven-pound mammal needs me. And it’s my job to make sure all her needs are met. She needs plenty of time to run around. She needs socialization with other dogs. She needs safety and love and warmth. But, most of all, she just needs to play. Sometimes she plays by killing my socks or playing catch with her Hello Kitty plush toy. Sometimes she plays by biting my ankles until I start chasing her around the yard. Sometimes she plays by barking like a crazy animal while I dance to 80s music in my room.
What is always true is that it’s simply impossible to play with a puppy and feel any shred of seriousness. Playing with a dog is absurd. Silly. Ridiculous. It produces no profit. It helps no one’s career. It solves no problems. It is what it is, and nothing more. Penny Lane doesn’t plan for the future – she simply lives in the moment – and she brings me into the moment, too. No matter how focused I am, or how serious I feel, she consistently brings me back to reality: a place where nothing matters except the present. She pulls me away from the illusions of modern society and the false promises of tomorrow. She pulls me into the now, which is perhaps the only thing I truly possess.
So maybe I don’t own her after all. Let’s face it: I am hers. And will be, for the rest of her silly, furry little life.