It used to be that when people asked you about your dog or cat, you’d say something like, “Old Sparky, he’s crazier than ever.” Or, “McKenzie is just about the zaniest cat in America.” But “zany” and “crazy” were terms of endearment, intended to highlight the innocent, mischievous behavior of your companion. No longer can we make light of this. Dogs and cats are clearly getting more neurotic.
Two of my favorite New Yorker cartoonists, Charles Barsotti and the late Leo Cullum, have long documented the anguish of our pet population and I owe them a big thanks for their observations on which this report is based.
“I do what they say, I eat what they give me, they must be a cult,” says one dog to another in a Cullum cartoon.
Yes, dogs that once dutifully followed their master down any path have become pathological. They no longer trust humans. And so, more people are dragging their pets to the shrink. Dogs who are not allowed on the sofa at home now find themselves invited on the couch.
Economic issues seem to be a source of much of their anxiety, and many must seek employment outside the home. While some dogs are doing OK, working dogs — like sheep dogs — are having trouble finding a job. Oh, there are openings in some areas, just not in their field.
Substance abuse is on the rise. Dogs, who can legally drink when they are three years old, are ending their day with Scotch and toilet water, and cats have been known to take a few nips themselves. Many dogs are starting to count their own lives in dog years, a sure sign of depression.
My neighbor, Saul, is taking his Rottweiler to pet therapy. He thinks the Rottie has separation anxiety. Saul has been divorced four times, so he isn’t the best judge of this.
Discontent is everywhere. Dogs are unhappy with the Internet — YouTube in particular. It was bad enough that cats were getting more attention than they deserved, but lately teacup potbelly pigs and hamsters are stealing the limelight.
Dogs are having trouble sleeping at night. Cats are sleeping at night.
Anecdotal evidence suggests a rise in passive-aggressive behavior. Dogs don’t care if the package says Premium or Gourmet; it’s dog food, and they won’t eat it. One dog was reported saying to his master, “Get your own damn slippers.” In therapy, dogs are admitting that their peeing on the carpet is not really an “accident” at all. And when the deed occurs, dogs are tired of having their noses rubbed in it. All this is making dogs very unhappy. They won’t take it lying down.
There is also increased animosity between felines and canines, which has always been prevalent, but is worse in the current human-eat-human world dogs must live in. Dogs don’t just want to dominate, they want cats to fail. They wonder why there are so few “No Cats Allowed” signs.
Even with all this evidence, I do caution you not to overreact. One woman in Muncie thought her dog looked depressed, sad and down-trodden. She took him to a pet psychologist, paid $150, and received a very insightful diagnosis: “It’s a basset hound, lady.”
Of course, our pets think we are the nutty ones. As one canine comments in my favorite Barsotti cartoon, “Yes, humans are crazy, but they can open the fridge.”