Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Wookiee Life Day, Unaffiliated Day (to 1/3 of you, apparently!) For those of you celebrating only the release of “Django Unchained” — hey, good for you! Thank you for reading the blog. You keep me ticking.
If you are reading this, I am about to tell you a horrible secret. I did not write this today. I wrote this earlier. Right now, I am probably doing what you should be doing instead of reading this: hanging out with my family, of whom I am quite fond (even if they occasionally read this blog and quote back my words to me over dinner.)
(I apologize for the ambiguity in that last sentence. I meant that you should be hanging out with your family, not that you should be hanging out with my family. They have not made enough turkey to accommodate you.)
Most families have strange holiday rituals. Ours is that we travel with our dog, driving for two days. You can learn a lot by doing this. For instance, we learned about hotel policies. For the first several years, we wound up staying at hotels that did not allow dogs. The difference between staying with your dog at hotels that do allow dogs and staying with your dog at hotels that do not allow dogs is that, at hotels that ban dogs, you suddenly become slave to the dog’s every wish. Otherwise he will bark, and you will be discovered.
For a few blissful hours, the dog inexplicably finds you catering to all his whims. He has no idea why things that, minutes ago, were expressly forbidden, are now almost encouraged.
Does the dog want to sit on the bed? The dog may sit on the bed. Does the dog want you, for reasons that are totally opaque to you, to run the water in the sink and shower at the same time? Certainly, dog. Does the dog want to knock large pieces of furniture over by running into them with its body? If it will keep the dog from barking, he should go right ahead. Does the dog want to chew gently on your leg? He may. Chew gently, dog. Just do not bark. If you bark, all will be lost.
As the night rolls on, you keep waiting for Christoph Waltz’s character from “Inglourious Basterds” to show up at your door.
“Are you harboring any canines?” he will ask, and you will murmur, “No, no, wouldn’t want them here. Really, we’re cat people, if anything.”
But you know the strange panting under the bed will give you away.
In more recent years, we have been able to avoid this kind of unpleasantness by staying at places that allow dogs. The dog seems just as confused by the fact that we are not letting him do the illegal things that he loved as he was by the way we let him do them in the first place.
But in general, he’s a good traveler. He is certainly better than our cat was. If you can identify traits in people by studying their pets, I am doomed. The cat was a hopeless neurotic who liked to bite repairmen. She liked to claw her way up strangers’ pantyhose. When she kicked the bucket, a former house guest sent us a congratulatory card, the kind you might send someone if the despotic regime under which he had been living was unexpectedly toppled.
The dog is peaceable by contrast. On trips, and in general, he divides his time between sleeping, eating and intermittent bouts of flatulence. When he feels cramped and wants to leave the car to relieve himself, he barks and grows irritable. But in this he does not differ from the rest of us.