December 2, 2011 § 7 Comments
My parents will tell you that my first words were “Mommy, Daddy, puppy please!” I think this is a bit of an exaggeration – but not much.
I’ve been wildly in love with dogs since I can remember existing. From the time I learned to speak until the 5th grade when my parents actually agreed to get a dog (a very specific dog, not “a” dog; they had many requirements the pet candidate had to fulfill), I pestered them nonstop, with only occasional breaks for eating, sleeping, and breathing – and I learned to talk much earlier than most babies. After around nine years of my begging for a dog and my parents trying to placate me by giving me stuffed animals and pet-sitting family friends’ dogs for even months at a time, I finally had a puppy of my own! Okay, “our” own, I had to share with my parents and younger brother, but I thought of our new puppy as my personal soulmate. I hugged her for about 12 months straight.
She was a tiny ball of fluff when we got her. We named the puppy Tara (long a), after the plantation in Gone with the Wind. A weird namesake, I know, especially when the namers are 10 and 7, but my younger brother and I had just finished acting in a musical version of the Southern epic – only with all the characters played by animals. The play was called Gone with the Wind in the Willows and was the story of Mr. Toad and his friends putting on their own production of Gone with the Wind. Plus songs, one of which was a stirring ballad called “I’ll Never Be Hungry Again!”
Do not ask me why – I was in a children’s theater company for years that put on the original musicals of our director, who I’m pretty sure decided which plays to write based on the pun potential of the title (Spam Spade: Pig Detective was another one). So, being a fan of human names for animals, of our play, and of the name itself, we dubbed the puppy Tara. Actually, in our play the plantation was called Tararaboomdeeay (or some other spelling of that – I’m going with phonetics), so she really got off easy.
Tara the puppy was so cute that she literally stopped traffic (people would pull over when we were walking her to ask what kind of dog she was and to generally squeal in admiration). Half Queensland Heeler and half Brittany Spaniel, as a puppy, she looked like a long-haired, incredibly fuzzy Dalmatian, because she had very pronounced black spots on a white coat, with a black mask across her face.
I don’t have a photo of her as a puppy on my harddrive, but this is what Tara looks like nowadays.
She’s incredibly smart, affectionate, and basically perfect. Okay, she can be a bit annoying if she’s not getting her way, but still, basically perfect.
I miss her like mad when I’m away from my parents’ house. I went to undergrad less than an hour and a half away from my childhood home, so I went home every few weeks and got my Tara fix. (You’re nice too, parents.) When I went abroad to Oxford my junior year of college, I started sobbing when I had to say goodbye to her. I can explain to humans where I’m going and why I’ll be away, but you can’t communicate something that complicated and abstract to a dog. It just kills me that she might think I’m abandoning her.
Now I live across the country from Tara (and my parents – hey again, parents! – and brother), and I’m so dog-deprived that I have to keep myself from screaming “DOGGIE!!!” and running up and hugging every dog I see on the street. I tell myself that these are strangers’ dogs, strangers who might get freaked out by a random girl running at them, or at the very least think it’s weird.
I desperately want a dog of my own, and I actually live somewhere that I could have one – a first since I’ve been living on my own. As much as it saddens me to admit it, though, I don’t think I’m at a stable even stage of life to care for a dog like it deserves.
I currently know multiple people my age who have dogs who I don’t think adequately care for them. I’m not of the “the dog can fend for itself most of the time” variety. I think dogs should be exercised daily, given affection, and if at all possible, not left alone for long periods of time. I don’t think I can currently promise that.
The fact that I’m not getting a dog, however, doesn’t mean that I don’t spend copious amounts of time fantasizing about having one, just like I don’t let the fact that I’ve never met Bradley Cooper get in the way of my plan to marry him. (He can cook! He got honors in English from Georgetown by writing a thesis on Nabokov! And, yep, he loves dogs! Bradley, call me.)
I am a medium to large dog kind of person; if I would worry about stepping on it, it’s not a dog, at least not one I’d be interested in owning (Chihuahuas, however, are definitely not dogs). Tara is around 37 pounds, and I wouldn’t really want a dog any smaller than that. Lately, however, I’ve been fantasizing about getting a small dog, but not just any small dog: a Jack Russell Terrier.
My love for Jack Russells started at the tender age of 7 or so. I was a mad fan of the TV show Wishbone on PBS, which featured a dog narrator that dressed up in human clothes and acted out classical works of literature. So basically, the best idea for a television show ever. PBS somehow cancelled it after only a season and a half, probably because they hate joy.
Wishbone was smart, funny, and starred an adorable dog pretending to be Mr. Darcy and Robin Hood. For a dog-obsessed book nerd whose mother enforced the rule that I was only allowed to read for one out of the three daily recesses in elementary school, Wishbone seemed like it was made specifically for me.
And the theme song was damn catchy too.
I definitely still remember most of the words. What’s the story, Wishbone? Do you think it’s worth a loo-ook? It kinda seems familiar, like a story from a boo-oo-ook!
(You still can’t buy the full series; only four episodes are available on DVD, and a few others are on VHS. This is a travesty of significant proportions.)
So the erudite Jack Russell Wishbone saturated my consciousness for much of my childhood, but what brought this adorably clever breed back into my ken was the sweet, offbeat film Beginners, which I saw over the summer. It also stars Ewan McGregor, who was my first celebrity crush when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came out (even though he had that disgusting haircut with the short, jutting ponytail and that nasty mini-braid).
In addition to Ewan McGregor and a Jack Russell, Beginners also stars Christopher Plummer as a very enthusiastically gay man, as well as some adorable French chick (apparently her name is Melanie Laurent). Basically Beginners was massive amounts of adorable in one place. The only thing that has since come to rival this level of adorable is the Tumblr “Ryan Gosling vs. Puppy,” which asks the age-old impossible question, “Is Ryan Gosling cuter than a puppy?” This is the hardest question I’ve had to answer since I got Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Jake Gyllenhaal in a game of Marry, Bang, Kill.
Ah hell – I plead the fifth (I think how hard I find this question is incriminating enough.)
By the way, for those of you keeping score at home, the correct answer is Ryan Gosling AND a puppy.
To be fair, the correct answer is anything AND a puppy.
But moving on to the supposed point of this post: I want a Jack Russell. The one in Beginners is adorable.
Ewan McGregor’s character has recently come into possession of the dog, which used to belong to his (now deceased) father, and he can’t bear to leave it alone, so he brings it everywhere. He brings it to a costume party.
He and his adorable French girlfriend have breakfast with the dog (called Arthur in the movie; the actor-dog is named Cosmo - apparently Ewan McGregor went through Cosmo-withdrawal when they finished the film).
Arthur even talks! In subtitles! (He’s a dog; he can’t speak aloud. That’d just be ridiculous.)
This pup reduces me to a quivering pile of jelly.
Then I saw The Artist at the Virginia Film festival last month. Fantastic film, if you haven’t heard of it; it’s actually a modern-day silent film about the historical transition from silent movies to talkies. The Jack Russell in this one not only does innumerable tricks, but it saves Jean Dujardin’s character from a burning building!! That is love.
Basically, I need to get a Jack Russell stat – but I guess I’d settle for Bradley Cooper, Ewan McGregor, or Ryan Gosling instead.