Monday, November 23, 2015

Dog vs. Child.

I have a bone to pick with Jim Gaffigan.

This is very difficult, since both of us are well-known eaters, and two rottweilers would probably be more civil over a bone than he and I. Further, I'm a nobody writer and he's one of the country's most successful comics. He was the Hot Pockets Guy, for goodness sake.


But now he's a best-selling author too, which for those of us who just toil at our writing and don't get up on stage and haul in wads of cash seems like poaching. Anyway, he wrote this:


And it is an, unfortunately, very funny book, all about raising his five children, or rather, about his wife raises five children while he tries to nap and eat. But in that book he often writes about how people in Manhattan, where he lives, react to his family, especially in restaurants, church, etc. As you can imagine, horror is high on their list.

In the piece "Dogfight," though, we come to our disagreement. "Occasionally," he writes, "a dog will be presented as some training method for having a baby. 'My girlfriend and I got a dog. We are going to see if we can handle that before we have kids.' This is a little like testing the waters of being a vegetarian by having lettuce on your burger."

I object! Kind of. I mean, I'm not arguing with the heart of his premise, that raising a child is much, much harder than raising a dog. No fight there. And he does yield some things in favor of the dog difficulty, like "With children, you can look forward to a time when they eventually learn to feed and bathe themselves." But he's on weaker ground with pro-dog statements like "Dogs come when you call their name." If he's ever had a dog, I would guess he never had one go off to chase after a bunny.

I think there are legitimate reasons why getting a dog might make a good test run before having a child. The idea is that you need a means to break through the modern person's self-consumption, and a dog can help with that. You can't sleep in anymore when you have a dog; he's used to routine, and part of his routine is that he gotta pee at the same time every morning whether it's Wednesday or Saturday. Oh, sure, you're the master, and he has to wait... if you don't mind torturing your poor little doggie. (Guilt is good training for having children, too.)

There will be times when the dog heaves, and maybe in the middle of the night! There will be times when he goes from being sweet lovey pup to someone who flouts your affection for personal gain in minutes and makes you crazy. There may be vet visits with bills that make you wonder what you'd be doing with all your excess dough if you hadn't gotten a dog. There will be times when he's so disobedient, even so mean, that you think it's a good thing you never found a secret place to hide corpses because it would be getting a dog one soon. And there will be times when he follows you and you know he'd follow you anywhere, anywhere at all; or he just sits there waiting for a pat like it's the most wonderful thing in the world; and you think that the only thing sadder in creation than the fact that you will probably outlive him is the possibility that by some twist of fate he could outlive you.

And that's why I don't find it objectionable that someone could think getting a dog is a good test to see if he or she is too selfish to have a child. It's not a guarantee---"I handled a dog, so I could handle a baby!"---more like an initial screening test.

I had to say my piece, but don't want to get into an actual fight with Gaffigan. He should know that you never punch down. And he looks like a pretty big guy. Anyway, with five kids, he's much too busy to deal with guys who write books and don't have TV shows.
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