OLD GUYS, DINNER PARTY CONVERSATION, KIDS AND DOGS

You know you’ve reached your Old Guy stage when at dinner parties people don’t brag about which college or prep school accepted their child, which team elected their child captain, or how they became the youngest vice president of a local bank.

No, you know you’re an Old Guy when the dinner table talk concerns everyone’s respective dogs: Who the best vet is, who the best groomer is, where to get organic dog food, and other pet-related issues.

I have friends (and, embarrassingly, a wife) who make their dogs Halloween costumes, knit them sweaters, and refuse to stay at a hotel unless dogs are allowed. I even have one friend — who is not yet an old person — who takes her dog to doggie day care when she goes to work. This is not a kennel, but an actual day care center for dogs with dog walks and exercise equipment and couches for them to lounge on.

In short, they treat their dogs almost as well as they treated their children. Some might think this unfair to the children, but it isn’t because dogs treat their “parents” better than the children did or probably ever will.

How?

  • Because of Dr. Sigmund Freud and Dr. Spock (I call them the twin demons of child rearing), everything that went wrong in your children’s lives is your fault. You screwed up one of Freud’s stages or weren’t enough of a pal as Spock suggested. While some things in their lives may be your fault, not everything is.

And my dog never blames me for anything. When Taco, our Chihuahua, isn’t fed on time — exactly 4:30 p.m. — he just follows me around barking until I remember. After he is fed I don’t hear about it again. A teenage girl might whine, get irritable, expect to be waited on, then eat but accuse a parent of trying to give her an eating disorder. It is impossible to forget to feed a teenage boy because he eats all day long and, like your dog, will eat just about anything.

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  • Dogs are free or almost free. Through the years we’ve owned numerous dogs and nearly all were rescues. Sure, there are nominal fees involved, but basically free.
  • I’m not saying children are bad investments, and they do bring joy into a family, but a kid costs big bucks, much more than when Baby Boomers were young. The house my folks bought in San Diego (1,100 square feet) cost about $11,000. Today it’s closer to $600,000. When I graduated from San Diego State, tuition was $80 a semester, and was about $120 a quarter at UCSD. When my youngest graduated from UC Berkeley, tuition was around $6,000 a year. It is now about $15, 000 a year.

I graduated with zero debt. His debt is obscene, and I had to co-sign some of his loans because my wife and I made too much money for him to get any aid or cheaper loans but not enough to pay cash. We had the pleasure of spending every extra penny  on his living expenses.

I’m not an economist, but these outrageous education costs occurred after Proposition 13 in the 1970’s. Rich people don’t want to pay taxes, poor people can’t, and the middle gets stuck. My grandmother would say, “Mikey, this is a sin.”

Dogs don’t go to college or graduate schools, or even require a room to sleep in. They will sleep anywhere inside the house and seldom complain about accommodations.

  • Dogs do not need special seats for riding in cars, although many people provide them. Just don’t lash them to the roof for long trips like Mitt Romney does.
  • If you throw a stick, a dog probably will get it and bring it back. Our Chihuahua doesn’t, but most sticks are bigger than he is. When I throw a stick, none of my children will fetch it. They mumble something about the mental problems of age and ask each other, “Do you think it’s time?”
  • Both dogs and children can surf and swim. But it looks way cooler when dogs do it.
  • Dogs sit when told, listen, and seem to understand.
  • Kids sit and talk and say you neither understand nor get it. When did we become responsible for understanding them? Aren’t they supposed to understand us?

We attempt to teach our children to be independent thinkers capable of evaluating situations and reach their own conclusions.

Then they don’t listen to a word we say.

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