Family Members You Can Give Away

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I shouldn’t be trusted to care for living things. Only one of the many gerbils I owned in my childhood died peacefully of old age, and more than a few of the plants I’ve watered have spontaneously burst into flames. The only organism that thrives in my presence is the mold in my shower, and I do everything in my power to kill that on a daily basis. I guess you could say I’m not the nurturing type. I now have two kids who are more or less happy and healthy, but children are a lot more durable than rodents and chrysanthemums. Plus when it comes to the kids my destructive influence is mitigated by my wife and a dozen trained professionals at daycare. To me, letting my 3-year-old use a yardstick to joust on her bike still seems like a good idea. Maybe we can try it again when she doesn’t need training wheels. While there’s a system of checks and balances to stop me from ruining my kids, there is no such safety net to protect my dogs. Despite this lack of supervision, I’ve managed to keep Niko and Spencer alive for five years, an impressive feat considering just how hapless these animals are. My dogs have given me exactly nothing in return. I own the most useless canines on the planet, a title they’re not likely to relinquish anytime soon.
After nine tries, this was the best picture I could get of Niko. There are Chupacabra that are easier to photograph.
Niko and Spencer are nice but stupid, which makes them the exact opposite of me. I’m hostile but cunning on a paranoid, animalistic level, at least according to my last performance review at work. My wife and I bought the dogs from a breeder who customized their bloodline herself. She calls the breed Angel Dolls, which should tell you exactly how manly they are. In my defense, on the day we were there she was all out of Devil mastiffs and Hunter-Killer bulldogs. Angel Dolls are a cocktail of every small dog ever created. They are part Yorkshire terrier, Chihuahua, Lhasa Apso, and several other small, yappy dogs I don’t remember. I don’t know in what order or combination they were put together, but it must have been one hell of an orgy. Niko and Spencer look like Himalayan pack animals when their fur is long, which is most of the time since they don’t shed and the groomer expects us to pay her actual money for the privilege of cutting their hair. To reduce this unreasonable expense, we get their fur completely sheared off twice a year, so depending on the season they either look like naked Chihuahuas or dirty sheep. If we time it right, they’re warm the winter and cool in the summer, and if we don’t they stay inside to avoid the weather and pee on our carpet instead.
I’m not sure if they stay inside after haircuts because it’s too cold to go outside or because they’re embarrassed to be seen by other dogs.
The dogs are too friendly to scare away human intruders and too oblivious to drive off other animals. A raccoon once walked through the doggy door onto our enclosed back porch and ransacked a bag of dog food. He was loud enough that I heard him from across the house, but Spencer, who was in his bed a few feet away, slept through the entire thing. If the dogs hear a kid riding a bike three miles away, though, they instantly fly out into our backyard to bark. Unfortunately, even when Niko and Spencer try to drive people away, they just draw them closer. Passersby bend over our picket fence to pet the dogs, at which point all barking stops since our alleged animal protectors have just made a new best friend. I’m pretty sure an assailant could murder my entire family and steal everything in the house and our dogs wouldn’t make a peep as long as they guy remembered to give them both a belly rub. The only creatures the dogs actually protect us from are baby birds, whose corpses they helpfully bring in through the doggy door and leave lying around the house. So in case you were wondering, there is something worse than dog poop to step on when walking in socks.
In Spencer’s defense, maybe he did hear the raccoon and was simply playing dead.

Our miniature wolves can be marginally useful sometimes, but never enough to offset the inconveniences they cause. They function like autonomous vacuum cleaners at mealtime, which comes in handy since our children constantly drop food. If my kids don’t spill it fast enough, though, the dogs take food right out of their little hands. This is the one time the animals display any kind of hunting instincts. Like hyenas circling a herd of zebras, the dogs scamper away to a safe distance when I chase them but then dart back in to attack weaker quarry when I let my guard down. The dogs are equally lackluster at providing companionship. That’s a hard task to screw up since all they have to do is coexist in the same space as me, but they somehow manage to be needy and indifferent at the same time. That’s exactly what my wife says about me, so maybe dogs really do imitate their owners. Niko and Spencer will sit by me all day if I pet them, but the second I stop they’ll wander away. They value me only as a provider of back scratches and the occasional bowl of dog food. They can’t always count on dropped spaghetti noodles and baby birds to get them by.

Despite my strained relationship with the furry freeloaders in my house, I’m still better with them than my wife is. The dogs view me as the alpha male of our family unit, so they can’t be quite as stupid as they look. When Lola tells them to do something, they ignore her, but when I tell them the same thing, they shoot into action like it’s the command of an angry and vindictive god. This is probably because I’m the one who gives Spencer his anti-seizure medicine, so he knows if he makes me mad he might spend the rest of his days involuntarily break dancing across our floor. Still, their obedience only lasts to a point, and while they’ll go out into the yard if I tell them, that won’t stop them from later defiling my carpet or stealing food from my kids. Maybe my wife decided to reproduce with me specifically because of how I handle the dogs. I’m not exactly a fountain of compassion or love, but I do manage to outwit 12-pound animals some of the time, and perhaps that was good enough for her.