Read I Want to Kill the Dog Online

Authors: Richard M. Cohen

I Want to Kill the Dog

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA • Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 707 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3008, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi–110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books, Rosebank Office Park, 181 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North 2193, South Africa • Penguin China, B7 Jaiming Center, 27 East Third Ring Road North, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100020, China

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Copyright © 2012 by Richard M. Cohen

Illustrations © 2012 by Stan Mack

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

Published simultaneously in Canada

, and
courtesy of Nancy Murray.

courtesy of Philip Friedman/Good Housekeeping.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Cohen, Richard M.

I want to kill the dog / by Richard M. Cohen.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-1-101-59537-4

1. Cohen, Richard M. 2. Cohen, Richard M.—Family. 3. Dog owners—United States—Biography. 4. Dog owners—United States—Psychology. 5. Dogs—Social aspects—United States. 6. Human-animal relationships—United States. 7. Popular culture—United States. I. Title.

SF422.82.C64A3 2012 2012028039


While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers, Internet addresses, and other contact information at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


This book is dedicated

to numerous individuals,

all of whom declined the honor.




Wolf sits by the fire, waiting,

rattlesnake in fur.


You’ve got to be kidding.

’Bye, Jasper

ask you. Has a couple ever gone to war or a spouse moved to another country because a pet came between them? Have two people other than my wife and me ever had such opposing feelings when it comes to domestic animals?

The irony is that my wife encouraged—no, goaded—me into writing this book about our dog. Make that
dog, whom I came to dislike long ago. My good wife must have figured telling my story would calm me down, maybe even shut me up about the beast.

Not a chance.

Jasper is a loud little doggie, with an ear-splitting bark that explodes with clocklike precision. To make matters worse, the animal’s personality matches the noise. Jasper can be just plain mean, at least to me. Jasper has an inflated sense of authority that goes unchallenged. I gave up long ago.

My wife is a happy puppy prisoner and unreconstructed animal apologist. The woman lends a beautiful face to a culture that celebrates the pet pedestal, where lazy animals vegetate as owners pop grapes into their always-open mouths. Spare me, please.

I want to tell my story before my betrothed, a fauna fanatic, gets her version out. There is a context here, a culture overtaking and suffocating me. It is a pet culture, powerful and peculiar. My mate buys in big-time, and she is not alone. Out West, dogs are dogs, tough and terrific, roaming the plains. In New York, maybe in all metropolitan areas, most doggies are wimps, cute, cuddly, and coddled.

In fact, animal coddling is elevated to an art form. In the Big Apple, it is everywhere. There is doggie day care, a booming business serving privileged corporate canine clients that cannot bear to be alone during the day. These beasts luxuriate in splendor. I often spot vehicles marked with “Pet Limousine” signs being met by doormen on Park Avenue. What is wrong with this picture?

A new online service draws a distinction between a dog owner and a dog parent. A dog parent is someone who really,
loves their animal. They are people who cannot do enough for da’ darling dog. So now there is Bark Box (or Barf Box, as I like to say), an online product full of things like dog-bone-shaped ice cube trays that make dog treats or a dog massager. I think I need a Barf Box.

I believe the pet culture is over the top. Books help define any culture, and America devours loony literature that celebrates mass anthropomorphism by the ton. This goofy animal culture has seized America by the throat.

Doggie lit travels with warp speed from the sublime to the ridiculous. From talking to teaching, reality has no place here. Still, these books frequently land on bestseller lists. Go figure.

This fine literature actually seems to speak to people. Do dogs really have some mystical superhuman power to guide mere mortals through difficult lives? People sure seem to think so.

Take Garth Stein’s novel,
The Art of Racing
in the Rain.
In fact, take it as far from me as you can. “Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul.” You’re kidding. Right?

“He has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.” Stop right there.

Denny cannot be so swift if he drives souped-up cars around in circles and defies death for hours as he works out a teaching plan for his dog. It must be hard to teach a dog to be a person. The book, of course, is one of those runaway bestsellers.

Then there are Cesar Millan’s books about training your dog while being its friend. Important stuff. The author shares secrets about improving your relationship with your dog. If you stepped in
you would be cleaning your shoes off for a month.

Don’t take my word for it. “Being able to set and communicate boundaries is one of the most important roles that you play as your puppy’s pack leader.” I am definitely
my puppy’s pack leader. I am readying my application to be his executioner. And this: “Communication, to me, is first intent, then energy, then body language, and lastly, sound.” What is this guy talking about?

And do not overlook
Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout
, an estrogen-drenched animal love story between a golden retriever and the editor of
The New York Times
. So much in common. No staff reviewer is going to scream to Jill Abramson, “Hold the syrup. You’re drowning the pancake.”

I can assure you, the mutt that lives in my house is ordinary at best, pathological at worst. Let’s settle on maladjusted. Jasper flunked philosophy and was kicked out of charm school. And I just can’t bring myself to sign the ungrateful animal up for canine corrective camp in the Catskills. Attitude adjustment can be expensive. So is psychotherapy on the East Side of Manhattan.

So I will have to live with our psychotic dog and his screaming, screeching bark. Jasper will continue going for my neck when I go near my lovely lady, who the dopey dog thinks is his trophy wife and, coincidentally, happens to feed him twice a day.

So far, we are surviving, but something has to give.

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