Sunday, April 10, 2011

Puppy

The puppy is from my wife to keep until she moves into a new place, he is only one month old. The others who live in the shared apartment have agreed to let him stay for a couple of days. He is the perfect puppy, loving, playful, gentle, quiet. He follows me from room to room, stays where I stay. He sleeps on the floor mattress stretched out beside me, or on my pillow, or with his head on my feet. I am living like a dog in this house distinguished by the weeks of dirty dishes stacked up high on the living room table, on the kitchen counters, in the sink, clothes strewn everywhere, articles abandoned by past residents including a pool table, sound amplification equipment for bands, a racing bicycle that belonged it is said to someone's father, mostly emptied paper and plastic food and drink containers of all description. The place is a dump, but if you ever have had a wife who liked to put you in your place for not keeping everything in its place, there was freedom in knowing you couldn't do anything wrong. Or so I thought.

The puppy liked to lie next to me on his side, eyes wide open, looking at me lying next to him. We look at each other, one creature in transition to another. He trusted me enough after two days to let me pick him up when stretched out asleep, and carry him without he even changing his position, lowering his head to go back to sleep in my arms.

If I am living like a dog in this dump, this dog definitely is living as a kind of perfection, forget comparing him to a human. There is none of the specifically human ugliness we all know and love, the aggression, hatred, violence, resentment, all that repetitive ongoing stupidity that makes going on so difficult sometimes.

And of course, of course, the puppy and me even here in this house of students and ruin are not going to be free of it for long. For by the third day, the student roommate who is leaving the next day confronts me in the kitchen, as I prepare the puppy's meal, with his demands that I stop being cruel to the little dog by feeding him human food, feeding him too much and too often, for not exercising him enough, and other failures. I tell him calmly I believe he is wrong, he insists he is an expert by virtue of his grandparents being dog breeders. He demands I feed him the dry pellets he has bought. Since he is leaving anyway I pour some in a dish, and he goes away. The next morning of course the puppy is back to the natural food, after a check on the internet that reveals that a puppy of his breed, mastiff, should be fed often and as much as he can eat, and should not be exercised much. What makes this incident revealing is that this student was a daily marijuana smoker, a dealer for his classmates who visited every night for their ration, a supposed student of music never once seen with a book in his hand, but seen before the big screen with a game controller in his hands for three to eight hours almost every day.

He had the immobile face and stare that is common to dedicated game players, said to result from the constant still but tense waiting for a cue to respond. He looked a lot like a puppy himself, very attractive to girls. My wife was particularly impressed, and was shocked and hurt when I reported to her his raging accusations. Then the next night....

The roommate who has the apartment lease in his name orders me to take the dog away by the morning. He loves dogs, but has a four thousand dollar deposit on the place. I remark that his investment hasn't led him to keeping the place even remotely clean. He answers that was because of that same roommate who was leaving. The dog is different. Why is that? Because he will cause damage. But the place is already such a wreck...he cuts me off saying he has told me what has to be done, and that is it.

He is a stockbroker not long out of school. The third roommate is said to study biology, but also often seen with game controller in his hands and never a book. He advises me to "hit the dog" to train him, it is the only way that works.

I think I am in a nightmare, take the puppy in my arms and leave the house.

The summer has come and most of the neighborhood students are moving out, carrying their things to the street and carelessly parked cars with doors and trunks open.

We walk down the hill and the puppy draws the loving attention of almost everyone. As has been said, he is the perfect dog and it is plain to see. A guy on a rooftop shouts down to us, great dog, what breed is he? I say he is the perfect dog hated by imperfect people, that we are being evicted from our house....Do we want to come on up there? Yes, we'll come up.

We're introduced to his friends, two other just graduated students, anthropology and politics. They are under the influence of LSD, high priced but proving to be disappointingly weak. They are trying to avoid facing the reality of the work-a-day world they now are official members of. Corrupt politics, credit card debt, immense student loans....

They like the puppy, who after the excitement of the walk and all the attention has settled himself down to rest. Beers are produced. I have to answer the question what I do, so I say I would like to write about what they are interested in, this world they have to face and what they expect from it.

They want revolution! But does a generation of people who regulate and regiment perfect puppies make revolutions? Time to put Bob Dylan on the record player says the less mind-altered of the graduates.

We listen, drink beer. The puppy sleeps. Laughable maybe, it is nonetheless true what has happened with the puppy kills me. I am the sort that protests - and this right here is it, for what it's worth - not the sort that no matter what happens distract themselves with games and money-making.