apparently I ruined my dog – but I didn’t mean to

My dog Duffy and I were walking the three blocks this morning to pay rent to the rent people. It’s a normal walk: Duffy stopping every eighteen inches to stop to smell a particularly interesting molecule, a halting style of walking which I don’t mind most days.

So we’re just moving very very slowly up the sidewalk and this big fellow comes up. He looks to be about forty and he’s very very large and he’s holding a package of what looks to be some kind of food (turned out to be prosciutto). He was being friendly and he generously offered Duffy a piece of ham. I told him that Duffy really wasn’t a treat kind of dog, but that rarely stops people from trying. He went on and on describing how special is the bond between man and dog, and I agreed heartily.

So this guy ceremoniously peels off a slice of ham and dangles it in front of Duffy’s face, and sure enough, Duffy was completely, meh. So this guy turns his attention to me.

“Dogs follow their masters. You did this to him.” I wanted to explain that Duffy has had approximately less than one minute of serious training; that it was a conscious decision that grew from a desire to let his personality blossom without influence from an influencer, when in reality that was secondary. He never received training because I’m lazy.

I offer Duffy every treat in the world. Every morning I peel a Laughing Cow cheese out its wax covering and tear off little chunks for Duffy. (I do this because I like Laughing Cow cheeses, ergo he must also like them.) He partakes, but not after a certain bit of ritual – theater of indifference is what it looks like. After watching the cheese ritual, my ex opined that Duffy must be blind, because he seemed not to see the cheese. I knew this wasn’t so. In fact its opposite was true. Duffy condescended to take a bit of cheese as long as he discerned that the morsel initially offered had been trimmed a bit. Then he would take it and begin to chew. This makes me wonder if all dogs like ritual. Duffy will ignore his actual dog food unless it’s accompanied by certain ritual: We must play ball first out in the long hallway outside my apartment. The ball must be kicked; not thrown. Duffy no longer fetches the ball. I fetch the ball and he just sits there like a fulcrum around which I perform this fetching ritual. When he finally picks up the ball in his mouth, he goes inside the apartment, seemingly ready to begin the dining experience. But he won’t eat unless he sees that I’m intensely interested in his food bowl, so I watch him. Sometimes he eats and sometimes not.

I know Duffy seems like kind of an asshole dog sometimes, but that’s fine with me. I’m an asshole too sometimes, and I share my little cheeses.

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