The architect of my madness is a 40 pound beagle named Parker.
Seriously, call the guys in the white suits. Throw a butterfly net over me. This dog has me gibbering like an ape. I sometimes break out in the deranged laughter of the Bram Stoker's straight-jacketed Renfield. "Pleeeeeze docta! Pleeeeeze!I've gone mad, haven't I docta? Ha, ha, ha, ha!"
I'll save many paragraphs here by stating this: Parker is not trainable. That's right, I said it. Untrainable. Go ahead, call in Cesar Milan. Parker will leave the "Dog Whisperer" eating his own Milkbones, yammering blindly to imaginary dogs that obey his every command.
First, Parker is a beagle. Beagles are not dogs. Beagles are hounds. They are bred to chase rabbits and call to the pack when it's hot on the scent. A propensity to vocalize is bred into the dog's DNA. And he can be heard for miles.
Parker has three vocalizations: a standard bark, a strangled sounding bay that sounds like a scene from "The Exorcist", and a straight up wolf howl. Each vocal pattern startles like a concussion grenade. Imagine cherry bombs exploding next to your ear canals. Now square the intensity of the blast and you'll grasp the magnitude. Simply put, my dog is the loudest animal on the planet.
Leash training? Ha. You take Parker for a walk and tell me about it. The dog takes ME for a drag. Yes, yes, I've heard the advice: Reward positive behavior with a treat, blah, blah, blah. Baloney. I've tried putting the biscuit beside my leg, bending as I walk with the feeling I'm herniating a disc. The second the dog swallows his treat he's pulling me like a sled dog. The "leader of the pack" philosophy, as espoused by Mr. Milan, demands that the dog walker lead the animal along the trail. According to this method, you're supposed to strut the parkway holding the leashed dog behind you. And you're supposed to exude confidence that will compel the animal's submission. Submission, according to Cesar's Way, will lead to obedience. No. It leads to folks along the walkway laughing at the moron who's trucking like Mr. Natural.
Another aspect: I hadn't known that beagles simply more attractive pigs. These dogs -- these furry pigs, if you will -- have appetites that are never sated. Feed a beagle all he wants and you'll soon see him at the Macy's Day Parade, wearing ropes. Further, the food obsession turns every beagle into a master thief. Whenever I'm cooking, Parker lies in the doorway of the kitchen, watching for any errant crumb of food that may fall to the floor. Stealing food is his Parker's chosen sport, and he's such an expert that I'm positive he will one day be inducted into the Beagle Hall of Fame. Yes, yes, I know better than to leave a plate of food on the table. But he finds other avenues of culinary delight. He's stolen whole sticks of butter, nosed open the fridge and broke into three containers of yogurt. He's made off with pork chops, hamburgers. He loves carrots, celery, bread, popcorn, leftovers. Parker is a canine garbage disposal.
Discipline? Are you kidding? Only a monster would roll up a newspaper and whap a dog on the behind. That's negative reinforcement, according to Jennifer Arnold, author of "Through a Dog's Eyes." This philosophy teaches that any bad behavior in your dog is always the owner's fault. It's the Baltimore Catechism approach: Everything is your fault. Put down that newspaper, you monster! Get on your knees and confess.
One habit of Parker's nearly landed him at animal rescue. He liked to pee atop our bed! One night, after such an incident -- just imagine your tiredness at the end of the day, followed by having to change your entire bedding -- I confessed to my wife that I could take it no longer. The dog lay in her lap with this forlorn expression that elicited no pity from me.
"But he loves you so much," she said.
"I don't need that kind of love."
And then my wife's eyes welled up and the tears rolled down. Any resolve I had toward giving up the dog melted. Parker -- I understood at that minute -- would remain in our family for the duration.
Thankfully, those incidents atop the bed have been, uh, eliminated.
So, I would like to know if there exists a Humane Society somewhere for human beings. If, so, I'd like to volunteer. Take me to Human Rescue. I don't want to make the news with a headline that reads "Man Bites Dog!"