A Dog’s Life Indeed

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When we say “it’s a dog’s life” these days, it is usually taken to mean living a pampered existence. That is not how the phrase, which dates back to 16th-century England, originated, however. Our canine companions did not have it so great 500 years ago. They lived in crude kennels and subsisted on table scraps. Thus, the English described poor folks living in squalid conditions as living a “dog’s life.” People whose lives were headed on a downward trajectory were often described as “going to the dogs.”

It has only been in the last century that the fortunes of dogs have improved. As families became wealthier, dogs became beloved companions and a part of the family.

Now it has evolved to this: Dogs sleeping on pillows as if they own the place. That is what “a dog life” means these days. At least it does in our house, and the homes in which we visit. Sam and Rosie, our pampered pooches, spend their days roaming from one couch to another, to their comfy beds in the dens. If they get on the couch, which is allowed (no dogs in the bed, however; I have my standards) both dogs immediately gravitate toward throw pillows on which to lay their weary heads. Before long, both dogs are upside down, legs up in the air, heads on pillows. Rosie usually starts snoring to add to the absurdity of the situation.

It is a dog’s life indeed. Both of these animals, neither of which are purebred dogs that would fetch a dime at a dog show, are on specialized diets that require purchase of their food from a veterinarian. A 17.5-pound bag costs $54. No feeding Ol’ Roy to these dogs.

Rosie, who is part Yorkie and part psycho, weighs about 18 pounds — about three pounds too much according to her family physician — recently had bladder surgery to get rid of a stone. That operation, and a previous bout with allergies while we were out of town and had to rush her to a pricey clinic, means we have about $100 a pound invested in this dog.

Sam is part poodle and probably part cocker spaniel. We had been trying to figure out the part that wasn’t poodle when a friend observed he had cocker spaniel ears. That explains a lot, since Sam essentially is dumb as a box of rocks. I have never met a smart cocker spaniel, so there you go. He has many great qualities — a sweet and gentle nature and great loyalty — but Rosie has to do the entire dog thinking in this household.

I was visiting a friend a few weeks back, who owns a big dog he adores. It is also a rescue dog, as are ours. He joked about how he has a $3,000 leather couch covered in the living room with a $10 ratty throw from Walmart so the dog can sleep there with his head on the pillow.

“I don’t ever get to sit on the couch anymore, because that danged dog has taken it over,” he said.

That sounds familiar. Rosie gives me a dirty look if I poke her to make her quit snoring, or move her off the couch pillow so I can sit there to watch another episode of “House of Cards.” Sam prefers to serve as my Beautiful Mystery Companion’s footrest when she is sitting down. He does not appreciate her moving her feet. Sam will give her a doleful look as if he cannot believe she would be so cruel as if to disturb his tranquility while his back is being rubbed with her stocking feet.

No, these dogs are not spoiled. They are simply receiving their due as the watchdogs of the household, except that is exactly what they would do if intruders invaded if we were not home: watch. Of the might deign to leave the couch, hoping for a treat, but that would be about it.

A dog’s life indeed.

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