My dog, the fundamentalist
I’ve begun to suspect that our dog is a fundamentalist, and it’s all our fault.
It started innocently enough. When she came to us at three months old, she left behind her mother and three brothers, and she missed their warmth and familiarity. We set about making our house a cozy, stable, safe place for six pounds of confused puppy. This meant fuzzy towels in her crate, rugs to curl up on, immediate training to teach her that we might go away, but we always come back, and lots of petting and reassurance from the new parents.
It also meant that we worked hard to establish a routine right off the bat, and that we tried to make human voices available to her by TV and radio when we weren’t in the house. And there we made our fatal error.
We don’t have cable TV. In fact, we don’t have any paid TV service. There are not a lot of options for different TV packages when you live in the sticks, and neither of the two (count ‘em… two) TV providers available in our corner of the world offers a basic package. It’s all-or-nothing, so we chose nothing. That shit’s expensive.
So for a while we just watched DVDs and Netflix instant watch, until Lance had the idea to get a digital antenna and try to pick up the local news networks out of Chattanooga. So we did that, but we don’t get any networks – we get “Antenna TV,” a collection of six channels, consisting of one hyperlocal channel that shows ads and city council meetings, one channel that plays nothing but black-and-white Westerns, and four televangelist channels.
Well, you see where this is going. We were nervous about leaving our lonely puppy at home during the day, and we wanted her to have some comforting voices and visual stimulation. The local channel was no better than the radio – six of the eight weekday hours we’re at work, it played a Powerpoint presentation of ads set to music. The Western channel was all gunfire, all the time, and the dog burrowed under her towel.
We were left with little choice: televangelists it was, all day, every day.
After a few weeks, Lance became worried about canine brainwashing and started finagling our sound system so Sprocket could watch the TV picture paired with the sound of our local family-friendly radio station. But the damage had been done… she was like a little sponge soaking up all available knowledge of human behavior.
As she got old enough to display more of her personality and get rambunctious about the house, we started noticing some odd behaviors that we couldn’t account for.
First, she seemed overly invested in her routine. When Lance, who usually gets up with her on weekday mornings, went out of town and I had to take over his duties, she cried frantically, banging her paws against the side of her (formerly beloved) crate like she’d been wrongly accused of a terrible crime, and tearing all her toys to shreds while I was at work. If Lance came home from work before me and tried to play with her (usually my job as I work closer to home), she would lunge at him, biting, until she saw me walk in the door, then instantly settle down.
Then we started noticing that Sprocket appeared to have definite opinions regarding appropriate music. And our music was not to her liking. She vetoed, with barking, circuitous running, and whines, a laundry list of our favorites. Although our radio station’s steady diet of Taylor Swift and sixties love songs didn’t seem to faze her, Paul McCartney, Brandi Carlile, the Indigo Girls, and Counting Crows all went on the chopping block before it dawned on us that she truly seemed to take issue with any music that could be loosely defined as “rock.” (Rock music made by lesbians seemed to be particularly offensive, as Brandi Carlile’s live album elicited outright howling once in the car.)
The last piece of the puzzle fell into place when we finally started paying attention to her paper-shredding habits. We were aware early on that paper products were right up there on her list of Things To Steal and Chew, along with socks, underwear, shoelaces, and anything she could reach from the edge of the kitchen table. But after the third time I pulled a church bulletin from our UCC church out of her mouth, I realized she wasn’t stealing any credit card offers, magazines, or wedding invitations from our growing pile of mail.
In fact, Communications From Christian Liberals had become number three on Sprocket’s Master List of Chewable Items, following closely behind Snotty Tissues and Lance’s Work Socks.
The over-reliance on the familiar. The violent reaction to rock music. The destruction of liberal religious writings. We can’t deny it any longer, folks.
Our dog is a fundamentalist.