by Dave Markwell

“Why didn’t you clean out Diego’s bowl before you fed him?” my wife accusingly inquired. “What???” I responded with my usual mix of confusion and outrage. The reason I say “what??”, as if I don’t hear or understand the question, is to imply “what the hell are you talking about, you crazy woman??” The right tone is the key. Sometimes this will annoy her enough to stop the questioning. This day it did not. She deemed it quite urgent and necessary that our dog, Diego, have a clean bowl from which to inhale his food. I disagreed.

“He licks his butt for eight hours a day. I don’t think he really cares about a dirty dish.” With this remark, my wife left the room and I returned to my peace.

Our dog, Diego, is a slob. He digs, scratches, eats anything and craps prodigiously. He tracks mud and hair to every forlorn corner of our home. No place is safe from his tell-tale black dust bunnies. He’s pretty hairy, but I am still always puzzled by where all the hair comes from. I brush him from time to time and it doesn’t seem like he should be able to disperse the vast amounts of fur throughout my household that he does. Keeping up with it is an impossible task. So I stopped trying very hard.

While he is a slob, he is a happy one. He always greets me with a wet nose to the crotch as his hug. He gets excited to see everyone and is a pretty all-around good dog. He doesn’t bark or nag or bite anyone. His biggest liability may be his live self-sex shows he seems to enjoy performing for the slightly shocked, perversely curious audience he attracts which is usually my kids’ friends. I am certain he has inspired a few unwelcome and premature “birds and bees” chats between the friends and their folks as the left our driveway. My only explanation for his behavior is: because he can. This rarely satisfies anyone, but it’s the best I got.

My wife’s fascination with Diego needing a clean dish inspired me to clean it to see if it made any difference. I did this without her around, so as not to create any false expectations. I was just curious to see if he maybe did prefer a clean bowl.

As I suspected, he couldn’t care less. I don’t think he tastes his food anyway. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t touch his tongue, except when it is used as a spoon for shoveling copious amounts of Purina down his throat.

For the most part, he’s a good dog. He’s also my dog. I don’t know how I got him. I didn’t want him. I really didn’t want him. When asked several years ago, “Should we get a dog?” I said, “NO.” Nonetheless, consistent with the value of my vote on such matters, “we” got him. It was cute for a while. The kids helped out and my wife would bathe and brush him. Those days are over.

The only meaningful attention he gets is from me. I feed him and brush him and play with him. I make him feel wanted. He rides around with me with his wet nose sticking out my truck window. And he lies by my feet as I write this. He’s my buddy, whether I like it or not.

As with many of my buddies, timing is the key. I don’t always want to engage, but as good friends do, Diego has a sense about when to just sit near, but don’t bug. He also senses when I am open to some play or I just need to get outside and throw the ball for a while. He, like a human friend, understands the power of the right proximity and rarely crosses the line at the wrong times. I sometimes wonder what he would be like as a human. I think we’d be buddies then, too.

I’d buy him a beer and I imagine he would have some interesting things to say. I like to think he would buy me one, too and I would accept…so long as he didn’t try to “impress” me with his “show”…

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]

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