Instead of the swanky Bay Area chain--where, no joke, you can buy your dog a room with a queen-size bed and Netflix, so they can relax after their spa day--the holiday crunch sent me to one of the local indie kennels. As expected, Leela panicked on the way in, settled down quickly for the duration, and then was hyper and yelping when she saw I came back. She basically ate dinner and fell asleep in her accustomed divot in the armchair's leg-rest, reassuringly squooshed against or on top of my legs.
Since I've been working from home all this time, we've spent essentially every day together for the 6 months since we adopted her, and it turns out I don't like being without my dog. The house is too quiet without the thundering of tiny paws, the snarling at squirrels, and mad dash for any sound that might be the crinkling of a bag of Trader Joe's White Cheddar Corn Puffs, her favorite human food. (In fact, she likes them so much that they are useless as a training treat: if she even suspects you might be holding a cheese puff, that's where 100% of her attention goes, so she can't focus at all on what you're trying to teach her.) She also knows that Anna and J are highly reliable sources of crumbs, so the Beagleshark makes a special effort for them.
There's this non-human creature in the house, with her own wants, preferences, and emotions, but also with a strikingly alien cognition, a very limited sense of the passage of time, no theory of mind, and behavior generally driven by countless feedback loops of basic conditioning (intended or not). She's one of the family, and--notwithstanding the horror of the damp nose--J has only gotten more comfortable since that first or second week, when he was eating at the table and started repeating "dog, dog, dog, dog, dog." We all express love in our own way.
"Hey, J, god and I are going for a walk."Our little conversation piece!
"Okay. [pause] Wait. What'd you say?"
"I said, 'dog and I are going for a walk.'"