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Or Forever Hold Your Shepherd

I often wonder if I will ever get married. Lots of people do, I guess. Except for the ones who are already married. They, on the other hand, spend much of their time wondering about how discussions concerning "ear infections" and "closet space" somehow evolved into foreplay.

I've always been doubtful about making the kind of commitment marriage entails, mainly because I have trouble even making the little commitments that might lead up to the "Big C." I have trouble committing to a one-year magazine subscription, much less agreeing to "honor and cherish" someone for the rest of my natural life.

Getting a dog is another good example of this problem with commitment. I assert that anyone contemplating marriage should be forced to get a dog first. That's because getting a dog is a tremendous commitment. If people tried committing to dogs before they committed to people, maybe they would realize they were not cut out for cohabitation, and the divorce rate would decrease dramatically. (Incidentally, no one is exactly sure what the divorce rate is. For awhile, people said it was 50%. Then 75%. Statistics are often unreliable. Actually, they're only unreliable 38% of the time, but you get my point.)

Having a pet, and especially a dog, has a lot in common with marriage, except that you rarely come home after work to find your spouse rummaging through the garbage for last night's pork chops.

There are, however, many parallels. Ways in which marriage and dog ownership are similar include:

1) If you fail to give sufficient attention to your spouse/dog, whining is inevitable.

2) You are sure to see various viscous bodily fluids discharged from your spouse/dog, however you will be expected to love the spouse/dog anyway.

3) Your spouse/dog will never feel that you take them out enough.

4) You will find it almost impossible to keep your spouse/dog off the good furniture.

5) If you beat your spouse/dog, you will be charged and convicted. Except in L.A. County for some reason.

6) With time, you can learn to train your spouse/dog. Only your spouse will dispute that you have managed to do so.

7) Dinner will become the highlight of your day.

8) Your spouse/dog will tear up pictures of your past lovers if given the opportunity. Actually, a dog will tear up just about anything, but I was running out of ideas.

Perhaps I could overcome my fear of dog ownership--and perhaps even (gasp) marriage--if I tried to be less selfish. Selfishness has become rather prevalent in recent years, like personal injury attorneys. We should devote ourselves to eliminating both in the near future, if you ask me.

I gladly admit that I'm selfish. It's not like I'm the only one in Los Angeles suffering from this affliction. Heck, it's the only thing that really seems to thrive here--self-interest.

It is certainly selfishness that keeps me from wanting to take time out of my life to visit a veterinarian to pick up ringworm medication. I want to spend the night anywhere I please, without worrying about rushing home to dole out Kibbles 'N' Bits. I want to spend money on myself--not on rawhide treats and flea spray and neutering and grooming and nail clipping and collars and leashes and any number of toys that resemble human food but that squeak when you bite on them. Most of all, I don't want to have to rearrange my life around another creature's bowel movements.

I have to admit, I also don't want to have to worry about my dog sneaking out of the yard and running away, either.

I don't want to have to go through the helplessness and pain of possibly having to watch a creature I've grown to love get old and die a painful death.

I certainly don't want to have to deal with having to "get back out there" and choose another companion at some point.

Nothing is worth all that pain. I'd rather just be alone.

I don't need anyone to enthusiastically greet me when I return home--no matter how short a time I've been gone. I don't need unconditional love. I certainly don't need anyone to curl up against me on the couch every night. Or to run for help if I fall down a well.

Then again, maybe we shouldn't rule anything out.

After all, it's hard to make puppies all by yourself.


Scott Roeben, 2000. All rights reserved.