Jerry The DogPosted: April 15, 2016
My pal and former Office co-worker Owen Ellickson is one of the greatest Twitterers in the game right now IMO, on track to become a legendary Dad Humorist.
Owen and his lovely wife used to be my neighbors, so I oft visited with Owen’s dog Jerry, who was, to be blunt, not always a pure joy to encounter. Nonetheless I was fond of Jerry and sad to learn of his recent passing. Owen wrote a tribute to his dog that I found very refreshing and tender and with permission I reprint it here for Helytimes readers:
We put our dog Jerry down yesterday. Jerry was somewhere between 13 and 15, and had lived with me for over a decade. Everyone has been very nice about it; in truth, few will mourn his loss. Jerry was a bad dog.
We like to think of dogs as paragons of kindness, bottomless pits of furry empathy that remind their owners what they aspire to be. In this “Marley & Me” framing of dogdom, even the worst things our little friends do are adorable, the kind of benign bloopers rom-com protagonists commit. Marley’s big sins were things like “chewed up a bra,” and “pooped somewhere silly.” Jerry’s sins were things like “bit a person,” and “bit a dog,” and “bit another person.” Over the ten-plus years Jerry was with me, he bit four dogs and six people. He bit residents and visitors; he bit men and women; he bit inside and outside. He bit me. He bit my wife. Owning him made me feel angry and nervous and guilty and negligent. Yesterday was a long time coming… the subject of putting him down was on the table for the majority of our time together. Jerry wasn’t a (charmed coo) “bad dog.” He was a (frightened whisper) “BAD dog.”
Jerry had bounced around Los Angeles pounds in his youth – ours was at least his fourth home, Jerry at least his fourth name (previous monikers included Frowly, Donut and Buster). He’d gotten smacked around a bit at his previous stop, and maybe before that too; whether that was the sole cause of his demons wasn’t clear. What was clear, a month or two in, once he started getting comfortable: Jerry was a little nuts. He flew into rages when anyone tried to enter our house. He had an unquenchable thirst for screaming like a lunatic at dogs he encountered on the street. And he didn’t like sharing me with anyone: if I kissed or hugged my girlfriend (now wife) in front of Jerry, he’d let out this piercing whine. It made us laugh, but, I mean, that’s crazy, right?
Simply put, Jerry had problems. We gave those problems names (separation anxiety, border aggression, stress-induced colitis, psychogenic polydipsia) and plenty of attention (heavy exercise, chicken-flavored Prozac, a litany of trainers and experts and behaviorists, including a man who called himself the Dog Whisperer’s protégé, although I never got documentation on that, although how could you, really, I guess), but we never solved those problems. At best, we managed them. At worst, he bit. If our goal was to make him a good dog, we failed.
But I don’t think it’s fair to say that HE failed. I don’t think there was some beatific, Upworthy version of Jerry that he simply refused to become. He was who he was; he gave what he had. Jerry wasn’t a perfect soul, a living vision of kindness. He was just another asshole, like the rest of us. He was aggressive and neurotic and selfish and flawed. He was still my couchmate, my hiking buddy, my pillow, my eater of last resort. He still animated our home with his grumpy-old-man noises, still made us laugh when he stared at apple-eaters like a weird drooling Sphinx, still licked my head fanatically after basketball. He still made me happy every day that I owned him, even if he made me feel all sorts of other things too.
Jerry was a bad dog. But if I could go back in time and pick a different dog from the tens of thousands that littered 2005 Los Angeles, I wouldn’t. And, with apologies to the various creatures he bit, if I could go back in time and change Jerry into a good dog, I wouldn’t. I didn’t love him because he was good. I loved him because he was Jerry.