We all have that crazy uncle we’re afraid to invite to dinner for fear of who he’ll bring, what he’ll say, or what table he will dance upon. For my extended family, I fear that is me. Invitations to family outings have waned since the bath robe debacle. In my defense, I didn’t know Easter lunch would be so formal that I was expected to wear pants.
But in my house, that crazy uncle lives with us in the form of a hundred-pound yellow lab. Oh, he’s beautiful on the outside, but he is undoubtedly the dumbest blond you’ll ever meet. And as he’s gotten older, the cobwebs of his mind have gotten stringier and stringier.
In his golden years, Winston has lost faculties and gained phobias. He is terrified of thunder, heating vents, and hardwood floors. We didn’t know about his anxiety until we had our carpeting removed and replaced with, you guessed it, hardwood floors. You see, he loves to play in mud and had ruined our carpets beyond repair. Over the years, our carpets went from the nice camel color we purchased to an undesirable shade of Georgia red clay. The last time we called the carpet cleaner he took one look, packed up his hose and ran.
We love our hardwood floors, but they came at a cost: Winston’s remaining sanity.
In his daily barreling, he found that he lacks traction and slides on hardwood floors. Instead of slowing down to gain his footing, he refused to budge like an overtaxed mule. We actually had to string little carpet remnants around the room as a passage system for the poor boy.
It also appears that carpet was all that stood between him and the evil floor vents. So now, he can’t barrel through the house like he should be able to without those darn vents following him everywhere.
One such vent is positioned in the entrance to the kitchen, which is an important pathway to a dog. This is the magic portal from the den, where he sleeps all day, to the place where his water and food reside. The problem with this latest phobia is that he can’t get food and I refuse to make the dog bowl the centerpiece of our den. So we have a standoff.
Winston will stand at the entrance to the kitchen and whine, shaking his head because he wants food, but not at the cost of nearing a vent. He will rarely build up enough courage to challenge the evil vent empire. The system he developed is either the height of madness or genius we can’t understand. That dumb dog will move to the back door and shake his head until one of us lets him out. Then he will make a beeline to the kitchen door and wait to be let back in, thus bypassing the problem areas by travelling through the safety of the outdoors – even if there is thunder!
This has gone on so long that we’ve learned his signal for letting him around. My wife and girls indulge his eccentricity gently while I grumble and complain… but I still succumb to it eventually.
After I had played his game a few times the other night, a question dawned on me: who’s the real dumb one? Is it the dog with irrational fears or the people he has trained to bend at his will?
I would love to discuss this with Pavlov, but he’s long-dead. Besides, I’ve gotta go because the dumbest blond is waiting for the even dumber blond to let him out and back in.