Liz Farrell

Farrell: When your boss is a dog, you better be OK having chicken

Newbury and his cat brother, Dignan, have a nap together.
Newbury and his cat brother, Dignan, have a nap together. lfarrell@islandpacket.com

I threw out my dog's favorite toy last week.

I did it impulsively and without running it by him.

I did it after reminding myself that I'm the human in the room.

He loved that toy so much. I did not.

And then I stepped on it barefoot.

It was a chicken, but not a cute chicken. Not a chicken that clucks or roosts or lays eggs or whatever chickens do when they're inspiring the makers of stuffed animals and decorative houseware.

No. This was a hard, plastic chicken that appeared to have been pulled from a pot of boiling water, pocked where its feathers used to be and bearing the final cross-eyed facial expression of someone who comically realized "Well, this ain't a jacuzzi, Petunia!" just a second too late.

My dog -- a nearly 2-year-old Boston terrier named Newbury -- had the toy for more than eight months. It was supposed to be indestructible, but within a day the chicken went from Boiled Alive to Buzzard's Best Meal.

First the beak was gone.

Then the comb.

Then the eyes.

Then a foot and a wing.

Then another foot and a wing.

Then the legs.

Then the nubby little tail.

Each appendage was reduced to a pile of plastic for me to step on or clean out of the vacuum.

It was no longer a chicken but a sharp-edged cudgel that got carried around and unceremoniously dropped on my laptop, my iPad, my dinner plate or on my cat, who would look at me as helplessly as I would look at him.

"What did you do?" the cat always seemed to be asking me.

"What did I do?" I always seemed to be asking the cat.

My family was never a "dog family." Growing up, I wasn't taught to universally enjoy them or understand them. Their enthusiasm was a put-off.

We had a cat, and that was enough. The cat told us she was in charge, and we all said "Fine. That seems right."

But a cat in charge is nothing like a dog in charge.

And I knew this would be a challenge for me. I am not an alpha. I'm barely a beta.

When I brought Newbury home for the first time, I was initially worried about how my cat would react.

My cat is not a hider. He's friendly. And he's quite stupid.

If he were human, he'd be the thick, smiling, dopey jock in the popular group at school. The guy who dances looking at his feet and who gets you in an occasional, good-natured headlock. The guy who breaks things by bumping into them, which happens to be my cat's most finely honed skill.

He tolerates aberrations well, especially holiday bow ties and the occasional country-western costume.

He had liked every dog he met up until that point, and he liked Newbury. He high-fived him and said "Welcome aboard, bro. This is where I sleep. Feel free to cuddle."

But my cat's energy level is a 1. Newbury's is a 50.

My cat and I get each other.

I started off strong with Newbury. I asserted myself. I did what his trainer and the Internet said I should.

I walked in the door first. I used treats to make him behave. I tried to talk in a man's voice when he needed to be corrected.

But my man's voice sounds like Mr. Furley's. "Now, looky here. I won't stand for it! I won't! Snort snort!"

That Newbury would be the boss of me was a foregone conclusion. That my life would be taken over by him is no surprise.

Which is why throwing out his chicken seemed like a major act of betrayal. An insubordination.

He is a dog. I understand that he does not know it's gone.

But I do.

The chicken was the toy he wanted most. A flash of its disgusting flesh would send him into a frenzy. He'd sit. He'd lie down. He's stay. He'd roll over. Whatever I asked him to do, he would do if it meant getting that chicken.

You want Starbucks? Give me that chicken, and I'll totally go there for you.

He especially liked when I threw the chicken. I threw it merely to get it away from me, but he never caught on to that.

To him I seemed fun and interactive rather than annoyed and otherwise occupied.

When he was done playing with his chicken, he'd bury it in the couch cushions. Or cover it in blankets.

One time he buried it under me, and I let him.

Sometimes he'd fall asleep with the chicken in his mouth, and wake up when he heard me fumbling with the camera on my iPhone for the perfect #BostonTerriersofInstagram shot.

And then I threw it out.

I like to think I won't get him another chicken, because I already know how it'll go.

First the beak.

Then the comb.

Then the eyes.

Then a foot and a wing.

Then another foot and a wing.

Then the legs.

Then the nubby little tail.

Then he'll torture me and my cat by throwing the sharpened plastic onto us.

But I am merely an employee.

And my boss really likes chicken.

Follow columnist and senior editor Liz Farrell at twitter.com/elizfarrell and facebook.com/elizfarrell.

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