Cruel to be kind

By Mir
May 26, 2010

Sometimes I wonder if Licorice feels like she has a pretty good life with us, or if she lies awake at night planning to kill us in our sleep. I mean, I think we’re providing her more or less a puppy nirvana, but what do I know? I’m just a stupid human. And at around twelve pounds, that makes her brain… what… maybe the size of a ping pong ball, if that? It’s hard to know what’s going on in there.

For example: The mystery animal under the house. Otto went under there and sealed up the access points, but whatever it is got back in again the next day, so now we’re waiting for the Unwanted Critters Wrangler to come and set a trap. In the meantime, Licorice remains convinced that the bathroom in my office contains a veritable carnival of doggie treats and wonder to which I am heartlessly denying her access. She continues to spend the bulk of her busy schedule lying prostrate at the door, snout tucked under the corner, waiting for her very own possum to spring forth with rawhides in one paw and a kitten in another. I mean, I assume, anyway.

This, of course, is an Unusual Cruelty. There are plenty of Regular Cruelties happening all the time.

Regular Cruelties include things like the fact that we are forever helping ourselves to FOOD in the KITCHEN and only giving her a single bite or maybe two. Her passion for fruit remains unwavering, so it’s particularly pitiful when you’re attempting to eat an apple or a banana, and she sits at your feet—quivering with longing—hoping you’ll take pity upon her and just hand over your snack.

Late at night when Otto and I have popcorn, she sidles up to me on the couch and places a single paw on my thigh. Just a little bit of, “Hey, I’m over here. Just sitting here. Quietly. Not even begging. But looking kind of hungry, don’t you think? And you don’t seem to be lacking in body fat, missy, I’m just noticing.” And sure, yes, I carefully pick out a couple of kernels to share, but I see her eyeing the bowl, wondering why I get a giant serving and she gets just a couple of bites. (Answer: Because I have opposable thumbs. And because I bought the popcorn.)

And now that the weather is getting warmer, well, it’s a whole new wave of indignities thrown her way.

For one thing, it’s recently come to our attention that some plant out in the corner of the yard makes some kind of little green burr. We never knew this before, I guess because it only does it in the spring, and we’ve never had a dog to go run straight into said plant in the past. So poor Licorice was just romping around the yard, having a good time, doing her thing, and then before I brought her inside she did her standard shake-shake-shake out on the porch, only all of the little things all over her… didn’t move.

Which meant I had to bring her inside and pick all of the burrs off of her. I was thinking something like: Grumble, grumble… this is a total pain in the ass. But I suspect Licorice was thinking something like: Wow, what did I do wrong that now I have to spend an hour having her yank on my fur repeatedly??

And now that it’s warm enough to swim, well, we’re spending a fair amount of time out by the pool, where I heartlessly allow the children to GO IN THE WATER away from where Licorice can sit in their laps. She was so distressed by their repeated departures that we tried to encourage her to enter the pool, herself, but she was completely flummoxed by the pool steps and decided it was all just too scary.

At which point, Otto decided to practice a little bit of tough love and put her in the pool, anyway. She swam straight back to the steps, hoisted herself out, shook off, and then fixed Otto with such a baleful glare I half expected her to actually hiss “SCREW YOU!” And sure, it was 90 degrees outside and she’s a fluffy black dog, but she then sat by my chair shivering as if we’d dunked her into the Arctic just for kicks.

This morning the kids and I took her to the groomer, and this time we were the ones treated to the scornful glare when we returned to pick her up and she was only half the dog she used to be. “Where’s the REST of her?” asked Monkey, deeply concerned.

True, most of these problems aren’t anything that can’t be solved with a belly rub and a chewy treat, but I’m still a little worried that in her mind, we’re torturing her. If only I could explain these things. You know, tell her it’s for her own good, and that too many apples will make her sick, and that it’s only because we love her that we let a stranger dunk her into a bathtub and then shave her butt.

Come to think of it, it could be I’m getting off easy, not having to explain.


  1. Margaret

    I’m a cat person, but I have to respect dogs for just going with it. Our cat, once she’s decided she’s been wronged, finds something to claw to death.

    I don’t know why I keep feeding that b*tch.

  2. Megan

    On the positive side she doubtless, like most dogs, is unbelievably excited and grateful that you do things like getting up in the morning, sit down now and then and provide a lap, go on walks… something so charming about a creature that, when you walk through the room, goes all limp and soppy out of sheer, unadulterated delight that YOU EXIST!

  3. Jessica

    OMG my dog loves popcorn, carrots and apples without the skin of course. But she will act like we are depriving her of the will to live if we do not share our food with her. She also will drool alittle bit if it is really good chips.

    I have a question though, why is it they can chomp on anything to hear the crunchy noise, but if it is a steak or hamburger they woof it down like they havent eaten for days?

  4. meghann

    We should get her together with my dog. They are kindred spirits, our dog is just about 40 lbs. heavier, but acts similarly. Any time I have to put her flea drops on, she lays on the floor, shaking as if we’re putting arsenic on her. And don’t even get me started on the water thing.

  5. Karen P

    I always shared my popcorn with my beagle. If there was something furry under our floor he would have gone crazy. He would follow the trail of a long gone squirrel out in the yard to find the peanut that had been buried. You could not leave food anywhere. Miss him a lot. Had to have him put to sleep and it ended up that my father died in the afternoon a couple of hours before i had the appt. for the dog. Not a very good day to say the least. (my father was 92 and had lived a very long, wonderful life)

    We have cats, three of them. One goes in and out and the other two are house cats because we have coyotes in the neighborhood. Love cats, but there is something about a waggy tail greating from a dog that cats just don’t give you.

  6. Jenna

    My dog wants to know why we use a refrigerator. Why save it for later when we could just eat it now?!

  7. Tracy

    I often wonder myself what my puppies are thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if they could talk or if we could understand their barks? My Murphy actually carries conversations with you only I have no clue what he’s saying but I’m pretty sure he understands me. It’s a dog’s life, isn’t it? Mine are more spoiled than my children but not quite convinced they are more rotten than my grandboys. Not quite.

  8. Ali

    Buy a couple toddlers to appease her. My dog wasn’t too impressed with the screaming little humans until she realized that they are not so good with utensils. On a positive note, I no longer trip on her when i get out of my chair…

  9. MelissaB

    Our dog Daisy hates the water, doesn’t even want to be close to it. She is happy to lay on the lounge chair and sun herself while we swim. Bubba loves the water, so long as he isn’t actually getting wet. We found a little boat shaped pool float that is perfect. We’ve tried others over the years but the boat works the best. Maybe you could get Licorice her own boat and she can be the captain of the pool? Look for inflatable kid’s boat online, ours was less than $10 at Wal-Mart. You can see an old pic of Bubba in one here: This year he’s swimming in a hot pink boat.

  10. Dawn

    Karen P misses the waggy dog tail with cats. I miss the purring with a dog. If only we could combine the two in one animal, wouldn’t it be perfect?

  11. KarenP


    Yes I think the combination would be great! Although I must say, I was gone last week and my cats were so very happy to see me. They did a lot of purring!

  12. Cele

    Arlo hates water and will not walk in the rain unless drug through it. You can imagine bath days.

  13. Reb

    For a while, my cat would only eat freshly-opened tinned catfood, so I froze most of the tin as individual meals and thawed them in the microwave. Now she gets so excited at the sound of the microwave and I feel so mean when I take human food out.

  14. Katie in MA

    I tried SO HARD not to spray coffee @ “I half expected her to actually hiss ‘SCREW YOU!'” but really, what ended up happening was that the coffee just dribbled out of the corners of my mouth instead, so now I have to explain what the hell happened to my shirt and so really I should have just sprayed the monitor. Thanks, Mir. Thanks. :-)

  15. Kristen

    My puppy LOVES water. To the point that she’ll jump in the shower with me if she can get into the bathroom, and could care less that I’m not excited about her being there. She dumps her water dish (any size, any bowl), splashing around in it at the same time. This week it was hot enough for daycare to pull out the kiddie pool and they all said she just wouldn’t get out – I picked her up still damp twice this week. I think a dog who likes it a little would be perfect, rather than these extremes. (though she is cute when she’s wet – she has hair that looks crimped like a bad 80s perm, and she does dry off quickly but still! I like to shower by myself!)

  16. Wacky Mommy

    dammit i should have gotten a puppy last week and not stupid hamsters. dogs are good cuz when the popcorn spills on the floor, the dog eats it up and you don’t have to sweep.

    (blog looks great, chick — i haven’t been by in awhile!)

  17. Susan Getgood

    She’s lucky and she knows it. Plus short term memory –the insults and indignities are forgotten in a matter of moments. Or when you give her a treat, whichever comes first.

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