Barking Up the Wrong Tree



One of the things the lovely-yet-formidable Marcia loves most about me is how I’m always generously sharing fascinating news articles with her, regardless of what she’s doing at the time.

For instance, the other day, I said, “Listen to this: These researchers at MSU say dogs’ personality traits are shaped by their owners, and vice versa. Isn’t that cool?”

“I’m trying to get some work done here,” she said, hunched over her laptop.

“It says the researchers surveyed 1,600 dog owners over two months and found that people who are couch potatoes are likely to have dogs that are couch potatoes, too. Isn’t that amazing?”

“Utterly,” she said, clearly fascinated. “Can I get back to this now?”

“Similarly, energetic people were likely to have perky dogs …”

“Seriously, sweetie, I’m …”

“… and socially awkward people were likely to have socially awkward dogs.”

“How about owners who won’t stop talking when their dogs are trying to get some work done so they can go to bed? Did they study any of those?”

“I didn’t see that in here. But I am wondering how they could tell if a dog was socially awkward or not. I mean, did they stage a mixer or something? Or the dog equivalent of a high school dance?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “But can this be done now?”

“I mean, I thought all dogs were pretty much extroverts, seeing as they sniff each other in extremely rude places the first time they meet. That doesn’t exactly scream ‘wallflower,’ now does it?”

“You’re killing me. You know that, right?”

“Fascinating stuff, right? It makes you wonder about Tonka, whether he’s like us or we’re like him, and who’s influenced who more.”

At that, she paused and looked up from her screen.

“Hold on, that’s actually really interesting,” she said. “So, let’s analyze this a bit. Tonka’s really a sloppy, horrible, unkempt mess, right?”

“I guess.”

“And he sleeps all the time.”


“And he doesn’t pick up after himself and expects me to do it.”

“Well, I don’t know about …”

“And he hogs the bed. And he scratches his back on the carpet like an old bear. And he eats his food like it’s going to be taken away from him. And he tracks mud in all over the floors.”

“Sure, okay, he does all those things, but …”

“And he sits in the window and grumbles at the neighbors. And he’s a total run-around-the-house loon when he’s happy. And he wants me to scratch and pet him constantly and gets grumpy when I don’t.”

“I don’t see where you’re going with this.”

“Don’t you see? You’re the dog! The dog is you. You and Tonka are two peas in a pod. Those researchers are right! I’m literally married to two dogs who are clones of one another. You’re exactly alike.”

“That’s not true at all!” I protested. “I almost never pee on the carpet anymore. And you had him neutered, remember? You’d never do that to me, right?”

“If you say so,” she said, turning back to her laptop with what I swear was a slight grin on her face.

I have half a mind to stop reading fascinating articles to her.


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