The Hystericals and Their Dog, Kafka
If you have not yet seen the funniest movie ever, please watch Best In Show. Like most great comedy, it’s especially funny because it tells the truth. This flick is a mockumentary detailing the lives of the owners and handlers of various gorgeous purebreds during the run-up to a major dog show.
One of the Best in Show couples, the Weimeraner duo, reminds me of Mr. And Mrs. Hysterical, longtime clients and undisputed dog freaks.
Like the movie couple, the Hystericals are a gloomy, ultra-serious pair who always bring the dog in as a team. There’s no division of labor in this marriage, especially when it comes to the dog. This what happens when two control freaks get together, it seems.
The Hystericals arrive with a list on a bright yellow legal pad, prepared to sound out the items and take copious notes on my responses. It’ll be a video recording device at some point, I’m sure: "Come on, Doctor, look lively as you examine Kafka's teeth." No thank you.
Now, Kafka is not a purebred Kerry Blue or a show Chow, or anything of the sort. He is the most scruffy-looking terrier mix you ever saw. He’s cute but certainly not what you’d expect. He is way neurotic, though. He licks his paws, creating oversize bumps of chronic inflammation and chases his tail incessantly when stressed. Oh—and he bites children.
His owners provide detailed, exculpatory explanations for all of Kafka`s inappropriate interactions with children. The child moved too suddenly, attempted to torture him, took away his toy, etc.
They pet him whenever he gets really upset (tearing up the furniture, etc.) so as to soothe him. They feed him when he barks like a maniac or engages in repetitive behaviors so as to distract him. In other words, they actively encourage his nervous ticks with expressions of love—which we all know is the cure for everything.
In short, Kafka is a foul-tempered, spoiled brat with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. If he were a child he would be on Ritalin or Atorol and perhaps some Paxil for good measure. He’d have weekly therapy sessions with a shrink. He’d probably attend a special school.
In spite of my recommendations, the Hystericals are dead-set against behavior modification therapy and certainly would never consider the use of drugs to curb his behaviors. Further, his parents are insulted by the notion that their beloved pet might need what they call psychiatric care (I’ve recommended a Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist to no avail). To them, Kafka is the model of dogdom and no one will ever disabuse them of this notion.
I am completely convinced that Kafka, like many other dogs in similar conditions, would benefit from a change of ownership. Much as they love him, their relationship is utterly dysfunctional; it exacerbates all of Kafka`s fundamental personality flaws and probably creates new ones he’d never otherwise have exhibited.
Many dogs evolve neurotic behaviors when their basic tendencies are tweaked to the degree that Kafka’s have. He’s still fixable—though, IMHO, the relationships in his household are beyond repair.
Sometimes the truism holds: owners and their pets eventually start to look like one another. Poor Kafka.