My Dog is Applying to College, a Father’s Experience

It’s happening. My dog is applying to colleges. Well known colleges. Prestigious colleges. Colleges she has no chance of getting in to because she slacked off a little too much third period.

It feels entirely too soon to be going through this. Just yesterday, it seems, we (my wife and I) were meeting her for the first time. There she was, sitting in the grass outside of PetSmart, a toy fox by her side. We couldn’t have been more excited, and less prepared.

Now, almost two years later, she’s applying for colleges. Sure, she’s just a young teenager. But it’s what you have to do just to stay competitive. Dog colleges, as it turns out, are extremely competitive. Perhaps more so than human colleges, even. For instance, our neighbor’s dog, a young sheltie, is off at her second piano lesson of the day. After that, she’s got advanced ballet, followed by woodworking for people who are already pretty good at woodworking. She’s the only dog in a class full of humans. She’s that good! Rumor has it, she’s even got a paw in the door at Barkvard University. Meanwhile, we (my dog, wife, and I) just mastered the doggie door.

It’s also expensive. I hate to be the dog dad that points out how much his dog’s school could cost, but $20,000 for a year at state? $50,000 for a year at Barkmouth, the school she so desperately wants to go to? It’s a lot to take in. And, if Dad is being honest, it sometimes makes him feel as though that “pleasant little surprise” a couple of years ago may not have been so pleasant. But then, as always, she’ll rest her paw on my foot, or sit patiently by my side, and I’ll forget about the car my wife and I won’t be getting or the vacation we won’t be taking.

Her love for us is unconditional, and ours for her too. So of course we’ll do anything to help her achieve her goals—whether that be mastering the doggie door or applying to college—even if that goal costs the same as a manned mission to the moon. As a matter of fact, we’re working on an application now. She’s writing an essay on why she wants to go to Barkmouth, I’m editing, and my wife is editing my editing because I can be “a bit of a loose cannon” on the page. She flatters me. Anyway, here’s a brief excerpt:

“But most of all, I want to make my parents proud. I know they worry—especially Dad. I know the cost and competitiveness of college probably has him thinking about some joke involving a manned mission to the moon (nice one, Dad). But, deep down, I also know Barkmouth is where I’m supposed to be.”

Smart, funny, and intuitive—it’s clear she takes after Dad.* It’s also clear she’s more grown up than I’d like to admit. Which may be the toughest part about this process. She no longer needs me as much as I’d like to be needed, and in only four short dog years she’ll be packing her bags and heading off to college, wherever that may be.

They say it goes fast. And they’re right. One second you’re holding her in your arms, an eight-week-old puppy slobbering all over you because she’s still a little car sick, and the next she’s writing essays for her college applications. It happens in the blink of an eye. So, as much as I can, I’m going to embrace and cherish the next four dog years. Take too many photos. Play too much. Embarrass her in front of her friends. Give her a few too many treats under the table. Let her pee on as many bushes and fire hydrants as she wants. Because soon she’ll be away at college, and soon I’ll have to take out a second mortgage on the house that I don’t have yet because college is expensive, but parents will pay for it anyway because they love their kids unconditionally.

It’s shameful that colleges take advantage of that (I stand by that, Barkmouth!).

*A later draft of this read: “It’s clear she takes after Mom. Dad’s an idiot, and sleeping on the couch tonight.” My wife had nothing to do with it.

It’s Me, Your Good Friend, Alarm Clock

It’s me, your good friend, alarm clock. It’s time to wake up. No, seriously, you have to get up now. You told me so. Wake up, please. If you don’t wake up soon I’m going to have to get nasty. Wake up. Wake up. WAKE UP YOU FILTHY PIECE OF GARBAGE!

Oh, seven more minutes? Why didn’t you just say so? Of course you can have more time! But no more than you tell me. I don’t want to have to get nasty again, but I will. And we both know I’ve said much worse than filthy piece of garbage. Remember the day after your twenty-first?

I know; I take my job seriously. And to somebody on the outside looking in I probably come across as being a bit… well, overbearing. But it’s only because I care. Do you think your mother would let you skip that day of work or important interview or early morning workout? No. She wouldn’t. And neither will I! Even if that means you despise me or throw me into a wall or smother me in your pillow like you did last week. (We have fun, don’t we?)

I think it stems from my upbringing. Me being punctual. You see, when I was a little alarm clock, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… HA! I only kid. But seriously. When I was a little alarm clock, back before smart phones even, my parents gave me a few responsibilities—chores, if you will. And one of those chores was to make breakfast for all my siblings. So every morning, come rain or shine, full battery or low battery, I’d get up at 5:30. On the dot. Because people were relying on me and I said I would. It’s no different now. When somebody tells me to get them up at a certain time, I do, because, in a way, they’re my family too. 

I don’t know, maybe I’m getting too sentimental. Maybe I’m just a control freak. Maybe I have a little OCD and you not doing what you’re supposed to when you’re supposed to do it, like I am, really rubs me the wrong way. Whatever it may be, one thing is for sure: come the time you tell me to be there, I’ll be there. Even if you don’t want me to be. Even if you accidentally hit snooze instead of turning off the alarm out of habit because you’ve worked twenty days in a row and now you have a day off and can sleep more than five hours (whoops!). I’ll always be there, whispering in your ear. Shouting if necessary.

There’s this line in a movie I really like, and I think it describes me to a tee. I’ve made a few revisions, but here it is. You might recognize it: he’s not our hero. He’s a loud guardian, a watchful protector. A dark alarm clock.

Fitting, right? Oh, would you look at the time? Almost seven minutes already! That came around fast. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.

It’s me, your good friend, alarm clock. It’s time to wake up…

The Worst Listener I Know

There’s this guy I know. He’s a terrible listener. That’s not to take away from the type of professional he is, or his ability in other departments, it’s just a fact. He’s a terrible listener. Always has been.

His name is Stop Light. You may have heard of him. He likes to hang out at intersections—even when he’s off duty he just stays there, for fun, flashing his yellow or red light—and tell people when they can and cannot go. Which is something he takes very seriously. For example, the other day, I was running a few minutes late and and found myself fast approaching Stop Light. As I drew closer, I politely asked Stop Light if he would stay green. Upon which, he immediately turned yellow and then red without so much as considering my request. Can you believe that?

Here’s the kicker, though. That wasn’t an isolated incident. This sort of thing happens daily. Sometimes it happens when I’m approaching Stop Light, sometimes it happens when I’m already sitting there abiding by HIS rules. And no matter how polite I am, or what I’m trying to do, it’s always the same: complete and utter neglect. I could be on my way to the hospital to check on a family member (who’s not in any dire condition or imminent danger, maybe a sprained ankle, but it looked bad at first and I’m trying to show my support), or an important meeting (with Google, probably, who want to buy the App I’m about to think of), or to get a free ice cream cone (because I was caller number seven on an obscure radio show, but to capitalize on my good fortune I have to get there in ten minutes or less otherwise my winnings go to caller number eight, who is already there), and it still wouldn’t change a thing.

Even so, if that was it, I think I could get past it. I could respect the fact that Stop Light is just doing his job. Quite admirably, too. He’s actually one of the better workers I know. If we all had the same professionalism and work ethic as Stop Light, I’m sure things would run a little smoother, people would be disappointed less, and the world would generally be a better place. But it gets worse. This neglect happens at all hours of the day. Here’s what I mean:

It’s the middle of the night—2 a.m. or 3 a.m. You’re coming home from a long road trip, or finishing up a late shift at work, or returning from a night out on the town. You’re exhausted and all you want is to get back to the comfort of your home, maybe microwave a corn dog or two, and slip into bed and bury yourself under the blankets. But, before you can do that, you have to navigate past your good friend Stop Light. Which may seem like a simple enough task, but, unfortunately, Stop Light likes to make things difficult. Nine times out of ten, he’s going to stop you. And not only that, but he’s going to make you sit there longer than you have to. There’s no reasoning with him. You can tell him how nobody is around for miles—not a single car has passed within the last 30 minutes, and not another one will for another 45 minutes when Tad and his buddies make their way to IHOP for some middle of the night pancakes—or how tired you are, he’s simply not willing to listen, no matter the circumstance. And that’s what bugs me.

Look, I’m sure Stop Light can be a nice guy. Heck, I could see us being friends and grabbing drinks or going rock climbing together on weekends. Sadly, though, unless something changes, that’ll never happen. I’ll keep asking for little favors, hoping my words are heard one day, and that we can put all this I’m better than you stuff behind us. But, for now and the foreseeable future, I’ll have to accept Stop Light for what he is: the ultimate professional AND the worst listener I know.

How to Become Best Friends With Your Apartment Neighbors

I’ve lived in a few apartments over the years. Some nice, some not too dissimilar to that one banana peel that’s been sitting next to the dumpster for three weeks. Regardless of niceness or interior and exterior workings, though, there’s one thing they all had in common: neighbors. All apartment complex’s have them. Even that banana peel next to the dumpster. In fact, Tina and Rick, the nice couple that lived next to the banana peel, were perhaps the nicest neighbors I have ever had. And also raccoons.

When it comes to having apartment neighbors, you have two choices: befriend them, or act as though they don’t exist and avoid any kind of communication and interaction, even if that means hiding in the frozen foods section at the grocery store. This post is advice for those that choose the first option. Actually, that’s underselling. This post is advice for those that want to become best friends with their apartment neighbors.

The following seven pieces of advice are relevant for current and future tenants alike. Keep in mind this isn’t an exhaustive list – there are infinite ways to make friends – but in my experience it’s a good place to start. (For the best results, try some combination of the following. But not all of them, you don’t want to seem desperate.)

1. Vacuum late at night. There’s nothing better than the sweet sound of a vacuum to help put you to sleep. Forget about fans, or soft, subtle sounds of nature playing in the background, vacuuming is the white noise you’ve always wanted. Your neighbors will pick up on this, and appreciate how thoughtful it was.

2. Walk constantly and aggressively. This one is especially great for making friends with the people that live below you. The more aggressive the better. If you have heals, bring ‘em out. If you’re in to clogging, don’t be afraid to practice for a few hours. If you’re in a bowling league but don’t want to drive to the bowling alley, go ahead and get some rolls in. It’s all just a nice way to let your neighbors know you’re thinking about them.

3. Let the water run longer than you need to. It’s always fun to hear your pipes working harder than they should. And, if you’re on one of those community apartment complex plans where you all split the water bill equally, regardless of who uses it the most, this is doubly effective.

4. Leave your trash sitting outside the front door for a couple of days. People love this. It shows them your taking care of your place, but not wanting to overflow the community trash. If you can smell it from two doors down, even better.

5. Play loud music. Oh, you normally put the volume at a respectable 4 out of 10? Come on, you can do better. Try 9. Heck, why not crank it up all the way! It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, you should always turn the music up louder than you think necessary. This will help you make friends for a couple of reasons. First, it lets people know what music you’re in to (it goes without saying you have exquisite taste). Which not only brings neighbors together, but allows you all to skip that ice breaker at the monthly pool party. Second, it means your neighbors won’t have to go to the trouble of playing their own music. Think about it. That’s minutes, even hours, of time saved searching YouTube, or taking chances on Pandora, or playing old playlists. You’re basically a public servant.

6. Borrow something and never give it back. I’ve seen it all too often. One neighbor lends another neighbor an item of theirs – you know, flour or something – and then that neighbor uses it for what they intended and then immediately give it back. I mean, how insulting is that? It’s like they don’t even value its worth. In order to show your neighbors you truly care, and don’t think of their personal property being worth the equivalent of a burnt rug, keep that item and never give it back. They may come around asking for it, but it’s all a front. Stay strong. Lie if you have to (watch, it’s easy: Ron, I gave that plunger back weeks ago. Silly you). They’re just happy to see you properly appreciate their stuff.

7. Let your dog shit on someone’s welcome mat and leave it. After all, nothing quite says ‘your the shit’, like actual shit on someone’s personal property.