There has been a turd under my therapist’s recliner for a month. Every time she leans back, there it is. This turd is the product of her teacup Yorkie, Sueño. I cannot take my eyes off it. Of course I do, but it doesn’t take much for my attention to drift away from her benign countenance and the matters at hand and drop to the silhouetted deposit below. What the fuck!? Should I confront this distraction? What does it mean? And how do I know it’s a turd?
It is a turd because I stepped on one a while ago and have had a mystical bond with Sueño’s knuckle-sized offerings ever since. I would know one anywhere. Dolores, my therapist, insists that her clientele remove their shoes upon entering. This has been the ritual since I began seeing her. When my right foot bore down on the canine waste unit, it rebounded as if repelled magnetically. The advantage of shoelessness is heightened sensitivity. The downside is increased vulnerability to dogshit. I glanced down. What I saw was unmistakably a turd, just lying there slightly smooshed, like an unwrapped caramel. A bum’s rush of associations hurtled into my brain. I tied my sneakers and left, muttering, “Jesus Christ, Dolores. Jesus Fucking Christ.” all the way to the elevator.
We go way back, Dolores and me. This is the fifth, no, sixth, of her ‘offices’ I’ve sat in. She works out of her apartment and they have all been filled with drama, but only this last one has had dogs. Dolores derives pleasure and comfort from Sueño, as she did from his predecessor, Skipper. The attention she lavishes upon this creature makes her happy, but Sueño wants more. I believe the dog is using flattery to ensure the reliability of his food source.
After acknowledging their essential sweetness of temperament, I have to say I don’t like dogs. They are needy, sloppy creatures prone to misinterpret all human activity and then hysterically overreact. I don’t like to be licked or nuzzled or jumped on and I hate being barked at. Don’t cram your nose into my crotch. “Pick on someone your own size, asshole,” I want to say, “Take your stupid saliva somewhere else.”
If I confront her on this rogue turd, I will be asked how it makes me feel. Piece of shit = feelings. Does the dogshit rip the scab off some childhood trauma? Is there something about the therapist/puppy relationship that threatens me? So far, I have chosen to not deal the ‘elephant’ in the living room. If there’s an elephant in the living room and only I see it, am I still crazy? Am I the only crazy one?
What I have come to appreciate about Dolores is that she lets her life intrude into her practice. Her refusal to maintain customary therapeutic boundaries often places me in a position where intimacy cannot be avoided. Scary. I can react in the moment to an uncomfortable situation, either confronting her directly or leap-frogging the confrontation and landing on shards of confusion. Or I can withhold. In any event, I act. The hour we share is always surprising and over the years I have untangled skeins and skeins of bullshit.
When Dolores’ door is closed and we are in session, if Sueño is on the other side, he will leap, splaying himself against the door until she opens it. Then the dog flies onto her lap, which, because of her recumbent position, consists of her entire body. I pretend Dolores is paying full attention to me. I could challenge her on this, claim it reminds of my upbringing. That would be the thing to do. Where would the little dog go? The bathroom? A smallish crate? Hell, this is my hour, my therapeutic forty-five-minute hour. If I banish the dog, or just state my case firmly, the repercussions are bound to bring on a jumble of conflicting ideas and emotions. I can’t let the little dog get under my skin. But he has left me a secret talisman, a seductive distraction for my eyes only.
I resent that some people see animals, dogs mostly, through a sentimental anthropomorphic lens. They fool themselves, those poor folks. I imagine they think they are getting their needs met. They can’t or won’t risk any kind of peer engagement. I want love I can articulate, accept, and reciprocate and I want it from human beings. At best, pet people seem to require a fluffy buffer.
Dogs are furniture. I grew up with a dog and, when my kids were young, we had one. They were both English Bulldogs. I loved Babyface and I loved Mercy. Those dogs shat in the backyard, farted under the breakfast table, and occasionally submitted demented antics for our approval. They were beloved, but mostly ignored.
I have a good shrink. Her generosity is without peer. Dealing with the dog gives me the opportunity to ask for respect, to take up space, to find my way. But, man, is she weird.