Piper spontaneously developed a new and unfounded fear this past week as Jen and I were watching The Time Traveler’s Wife. She wasn’t frightened by the complexity of the narrative, or by pondering the nature of the lead character’s debilitating temporal handicap, or even by the thought of knowing the time and place of your own death. No, it was the mundane explosion of an on-screen firework which startled her from her sleep, awakening her to an entirely terrifying world in which nothing would ever be the same; a world dominated by a big-screen TV and loud, unearthly noises emanating from the walls.
Her acknowledgement of the TV has changed her life forever. Up until this firework explosion, Piper never quite got the concept of TV. No matter what was showing or how loud the speakers became, she never paid it the least amount of attention. This goes for computer screens too. While Jen and I were away for a few months in California, we would Skype home occasionally, and Piper would be immune to our faces and barely register our voices. This has all now changed.
She has now become a quivering wreck of a canine whenever we watch a movie or play a video game on the big screen. She’ll spend the duration of the movie trying to force her face between your leg and the couch, often stretching her facial skin beyond what even Barbara Walters’ face could handle. She’ll hide under the end table with only her nose peeking out, wide-eyed and panicked at the large, moving images coming from across the room. Several times, she has sneaked up from the side and half-climbed up onto the back of the couch before we shooed her down, at which point she just runs to the front of the couch where you barely have enough time to snap your legs shut before she stabs her head into your crotch.
It doesn’t even matter what’s on the TV. The fireworks freaked her out, so we tried out a nature documentary showing whales and a bunch of fish. Who wouldn’t be soothed by the lush and calming voice of David Attenborough? My dog, apparently.
Instead, she finds comfort in unfathomable things. Like tonight, I see her happily sitting on the rug with both arms outstretched, merrily nuzzling the ground between her elbows; licking and peeking at the space between her arms over and over again, content as could be. I figure she’s got a disemboweled toy down there, void of stuffing, as she so often entertains. This goes on for a good fifteen minutes before curiosity overcomes my placidness, and I take a look at what she’s doing. I’m horrified to see a spider; really, half a spider, covered in saliva and mushed into the carpet. She’s so proud of her new friend that I just leave her to finish the dirty business. I mean, come on! A freaking spider?!? And a slow painful death for the thing? What, did my dog love the feel of those eight, then seven, then six legs scrambling against her tongue? What kind of monstrosity is this? I certainly didn’t teach her that.
It’s yet another one of those differences I’m finding between my dog and me. For example, if I were to be suddenly awoken by a gummy fruit snack hitting me in the head and landing on the ground, I would have a few questions; like, who the hell is throwing fruit snacks, why would you waste them like that, and where has this tainted gummy snack been prior to bumping into my head? Piper has been observed to take no more than one second to come out of a deep and sublime sleep to being alert enough that she eats the fruit snack without question, hesitation, or chewing. I think she gets that part from Jen. I’ll have to test that theory the next time Jen is napping.
Regardless, I’m coming to realize that there is a large distance between my dog and me that goes beyond our oft-attempted but always failed attempts at verbal communication. We may never cross that divide. She’s going to continue to be utterly freaked out by romantic dramas and nature documentaries while being hypnotically entranced by the possibility of a live arachnid on which to slowly feast, or by the occasional magic fruit snack falling from the sky like a sweet, chewy gift from above. Despite her wildly illogical idiosyncrasies, she’s a lot of fun, very entertaining, and keeps the house mostly spider-free.