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.