Sad Dog

"Dogs can be worried and pessimistic just like people, researchers report in a new study in Current Biology... Dogs that express serious anxiety when alone may need treatment, as it could be a sign of unhappiness and instability." -- The New York Times

Doctor: So how are you feeling today?
Sergeant Barks: Well, you know, I've been better. It's just always the same thing -- I am so painfully aware of my own inadequacy all the time, it's as much as I can do not to just spend the whole day on the couch. And then if I just give in and do that, I can't even enjoy it, because I know I'm being a bad dog.
Doctor: What about yourself do you feel is inadequate?
Sergeant Barks: Where should I start? I'm still living on welfare, and the whole thing has apparently so robbed me of any shred of dignity I may have once had that lately I find myself actually begging for table scraps. I've tried to stop, but it's like I have no control over it. I mean, if I could just find a job, I think that would be a start, but no, I'm a kept canine. I exist on sufferance.
Doctor: Some people would call having someone who cares about you and is willing and happy to provide for you a healthy relationship.
Sergeant Barks: Maybe it would be different if I had chosen to stay home with the kids, but I never had the option -- it was this or the needle. I have literally no marketable skills. Did you know I didn't even earn my ranking? I didn't even make it through boot camp. I think Jimmy calls me this with the best of intentions, but hearing "Sergeant" every day is just such a bitter reminder of past failures. You know, some days I wish it had been the needle...
Doctor: Don't you think you might be being a little too hard on yourself? Plenty of other dogs are in the same position as you are.
Sergeant Barks: And you're telling me they're completely fulfilled by a life of tummy rubs and tail-wagging? When you think about it, that's even sadder.
Doctor: I think something else must be bothering you. You seem more agitated than usual.
Sergeant Barks: There was this one thing -- I don't know, I'm sure I'm overreacting, but last time I was at the dog park, I saw a few guys I've known for sevens and sevens of years, and none of them -- not a single one -- even bothered to sniff my butt when I got there.
Doctor: Couldn't that be a sign of how fully they trust you? Of how deep your bonds have become?
Sergeant Barks: Maybe. I don't know. I sniffed their butts -- it's a courtesy, you know? Why not this time? It got me so down I haven't even had the emotional energy to drag myself over the carpet with my front feet. I mean, no one's interested in it, so why bother?
Doctor: Our time today is almost up, Sergeant Barks. Let me ask you -- have you been keeping that dream journal I asked you to start last session?
Sergeant Barks: Yeah, but I've just been having the same dream I told you about.
Doctor: Where you're chasing the cars?
Sergeant Barks: Exactly. And without fail, they either go too fast for me, and my legs just won't move, like there's a full-body muzzle on me that I didn't know about, or I'm just about to reach the bumper, I'm mid-leap, and then I wake up. Even in my dreams I can't get anything right -- how pathetic is that?
Doctor: Dreams are about your unconscious mind, Sergeant Barks. It's not pathetic -- it's your brain trying to send a message to you. For next week, I want you to continue with the journal, but don't just write down the dreams, write down what they remind you of -- your impressions and associations.
Sergeant Barks: Sure, sure. That might actually be kind of fun, you know? Like I'm taking control. Yeah, I think I like that idea! It's an invigorating thought. I haven't been this excited about something in weeks...
Doctor: [wriggling awkwardly, looking at the region around Sergeant Barks's tail] Sergeant... I think you've become a little overexcited again. Do you need a walk before Jimmy comes by, or...
Sergeant Barks: Oh Jesus CHRIST. You must be kidding me. I'm sorry -- I can lick it up, or maybe just sniff it -- would that help?
Doctor: No, no, that's not necessary. Don't apologize. I'll just see you next week.
Sergeant Barks: [Howls]