We almost always had a dog in my family when I was growing up. The first one I remember was named Ticky-Tac (I believe I named him), and he was with us until my parents had to send him off to live with a family who had a bigger yard and higher fences so he wouldn’t run away all the time. I believe this was code for “we had him killed.” I got suspicious when they said Grandma had gone to live with the same family.
I would love to have a dog now. I live in an apartment, though, and while dogs are permitted here, I don’t think he’d be happy being cooped up all day with no yard to frolic and romp in. So I have a dog-substitute, Junko, the life-sized plastic Labrador that I bought at a furniture store. I happened to visit the home of a wealthy family in a gated community in Draper, Utah, recently, and saw the exact same fake dog in their foyer, so I know it’s tasteful.
I got to visit a real dog recently, while visiting my friends Rob and Curtis in Portland. They have a beagle named Demi. He is not named after Demi Moore, though he and Ms. Moore do both enjoy the company of young men and often drink from the toilet. But Demi the beagle is named after the young priest in “The Exorcist,” the one named Damien whose mother calls him Demi. (It’s more like “Dimmy,” but OK. I’m just impressed Rob and Curtis knew the reference.)
They got a beagle because when Rob was a child, he had a beagle who eventually died. Demi is sort of a replacement then, which, yes, is creepy.
Demi the beagle is a hyper little fellow, 4 years old and as dumb as a sack of cheerleaders. When he sees you, he is thrilled beyond comprehension and shows this by jumping on you. When you tell him “No!” or “Down!,” he will obey you for one second, and then forget everything, forget he’s already seen you, get excited to see you, and start the process all over again. I believe that inside his head, manning the controls, is a 4-year-old boy with A.D.D.
I adore Demi, and for the same reason I adore children: He makes no sense. He does exactly what he wants to, without regard for protocol or logic or hygiene, and he doesn’t criticize my driving. This makes him more bearable than most of my friends.
(You know how you can tell that dogs don’t judge? Because so many homeless people have them for pets. The dog thinks, “OK, so he can’t feed me all that often, but he feeds me when he can, and he’s always nice to me. So I stick with him.” A cat wouldn’t last 24 hours as the pet of a homeless person. “No food today? Eff that.”)
My role while visiting Demi and his owners was to be the doting grandmother who wants to spoil the kids. “Oh, let him sit on the couch with me!” I’d say. Or: “Heavens, let me give him some food off my plate, since he begged so adorably!” What mild progress Rob and Curtis had made in training him was surely undone by my indulgence of him.
One day we took Demi to a dog park. Portland has a lot of nature-oriented places like this, because Portland is full of trees and the people who hug them. This particular park has a large enclosed area where you can take your dog off its leash and let it (the dog) run around and scamper and fraternize with other dogs while the owners keep an eye on them. It’s like a junior high school dance, where the kids are on their own but closely guarded by dozens of chaperones who will put a stop to any extreme cases of making out or butt-sniffing.
Anyway, Demi had a grand time at the park, as it’s the one place he can bark without his owners telling him to shut up. (Grandma Eric: “Oh, mercy, let the dog bark if he wants to! He’s just sayin’ hi!”) He gamboled and cavorted with dogs up to three times his size, with no apparent class distinctions among them. You don’t see that with people. For one thing, you rarely see anyone who’s three times your size. But even if you did encounter an 18-foot, 600-pound man, there’s no way he’d hang out with you. He’d be with the other giants, knocking over trees and making fun of you.
We got a kick out of Demi’s enthusiasm and trouble-making. Any time two dogs would tussle, he would be there to bark his encouragement, like the weaselly teens in the ’50s biker movies who would dance around the perimeters of the fistfights and say, “Yeah, Johnny! Give it to ‘im good, Johnny! Show ‘im who’s boss!” I have to assume that if dogs were capable of negative emotions, they would consider Demi a nerd. But it’s impossible for any species to put on airs when that species spends more than 50 percent of its time licking itself. Which, again, is why Demi Moore is so down-to-earth.
This is what we in the newspaper business call an "evergreen" story, which is to say it can run at any time because it has no time-sensitive elements in it. I wrote it almost immediately after my trip to Portland in October but saved it until the week after Thanksgiving -- when I was even less inclined than usual to do any work -- to run it.
Had I really been on my toes in Portland, I'd have gotten a photo of me and Demi together, but alas, on my toes I was not.