I’m sitting here writing at my kitchen table and my dog, Steve, is just staring at me. He’s in the living room, he’s sitting on the couch, and his head is propped up at the armrest so he can stare at me without really expending any effort. I wonder what he’s thinking about, because he’s always staring at me.
I’ll be watching TV and I won’t be thinking about my dog at all, and then for whatever reason I’ll look his way, and he’ll be lying on his back on the floor, staring at me upside down. I’m not thinking about him, but he’s looking right at me. And so, no, I don’t know if that means he’s thinking about me. I can’t tell what’s going through anybody else’s head, let alone a dog’s. But when I’m staring directly at somebody or something, I’m usually thinking of them, if not actively, then my mind is at least making its mental registry.
Sometimes I’ll get up in the morning and I’ll be rushing around, trying to get out of the house on time. Right before I go, I’ll take Steve for a walk and then feed him breakfast. But, and he does this a lot, if I’m not there, he won’t eat. I won’t come back until much later in the afternoon and when I go in the kitchen, his bowl is still full from earlier in the day. And he comes in right behind me, because all he does is follow me around and stare at me, and then he starts chowing down. I’m like, were you waiting for me? Please, Steve, go ahead and eat without me, I won’t be offended.
And even that doesn’t make any sense, because while he’s nothing but a gentleman when it comes to his dog food, if I let my guard down at the wrong time, I’ll look over and, yeah, he’s staring at me still, but from under the kitchen table. That’s Steve-speak for, I just did something bad, and I’m hiding so that when you find out what I did, you won’t be able to see me.
Except that I can totally see you Steve, and you’re making it even more obvious, just constantly staring at me. I always wonder, when he busts into the garbage to start eating old aluminum foil or browned banana peels, is he still thinking about me? Is his constant eye contact really as affectionate as I’m making it out to be in my head? Or is he spending all of that time looking at me for plotting purposes, not wanting to miss the smallest opportunity to sneak behind my back and cause some destruction?
And now that I think about it, the whole not eating breakfast thing, what else are you eating, Steve? Do you have like a secret stash of garbage somewhere? I don’t want to give him too much credit, but he’s showed feats of intelligence before. Like after we realized that he was getting in the garbage, we bought a new can that closed automatically, the one where you step on a pedal to open it up. Steve learned how to work it. For months I had no idea what was going on, and then I caught him in the act, pressing his paws on the pedal and sticking his head in to bob for treasure. And when I threw that garbage can out and bought a new one that locked shut, I came home from work that day and found the entire trashcan on its side, dragged across the room.
So either he loves me, or he’s just really, really interested in what I’m up to, probably for some sort of selfish game. Or maybe it’s both. Maybe he loves me, but he also loves garbage equally. It would make sense. One time he broke through the barrier preventing him from going upstairs, he dragged the bathroom trashcan onto my bed and rolled around in all of my dirty Q-tips and used floss picks.
That was the worst, because when I came home that night, Steve was sitting on the couch like everything was cool. So I came over and started petting him, telling him how good of a dog he was. I wonder what went through his head, like wow, I really did a good job here, he really loves it when I get upstairs and make a huge mess in his bedroom. And I’m just like, “Yeah, good boy Steve, what a good dog.”