On the day I retire, I intend to stop by the animal shelter and walk out with the oldest, ugliest, most cantankerous mutt I can find.
I do not want an attractive dog. The very word attractive bothers me. It comes with too many expectations: like grooming, food off the top shelf and staying indoors on muddy days; ugliness comes by itself.
As for congeniality, while it is good to have a friend, it is equally good to have a day off. It is hard enough to explain why I must go fishing alone to a spouse, why add a dog to the mix?
The same goes for lineage. Breeding is too often an affront to nature. The best breeding is done for size, speed and strength, the worst is for fashion. As a consequence of reckless breeding, hips deteriorate, teeth impact and hair becomes a source of eye infections. All of these things happen because breeding is done to please someone other than the dog.
Still, my motives for seeking an old, ugly, cantankerous mutt are beyond these things.
I want an old dog because I don’t want to scold a puppy for humping the house guests. Nor do I want to cultivate a relationship. I have been through all that. I want a mature dog, one who has been through all that too.
What I want is an ugly dog who has no expectations. One who understands the practicalities of why I provide food, water and shelter. One who also understands that in return for these things, neither love nor loyalty is required, only that he tolerates my bad habits and does not chew on my things.
I want a cantankerous mutt, one who is aware that our time will end some day and understand that when he is gone, I will find another old, ugly, cantankerous mutt to take his place and when that dog dies, I will find another – until such time as those who love me will find for themselves another to fill the void of the old, ugly, cantankerous man who once occupied a place in their lives.