Man’s best retirement plan? Him? - Macleans.ca

Man’s best retirement plan? Him?

You could have been my ticket to a lucrative literary niche, Squib. But you’re a tiny bit lazy.

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An open letter to a member of my family.

Dear S.—

This is difficult for me to write—although not as difficult as it will be for you to read, given that you are a) not especially bright, and b) a dog.

We’re letting you go, Squib. You’re fired.

Somewhere in that tiny dog brain of yours, you’re probably asking yourself: why? Why would a family cut ties with an adorable, eight-month-old chocolate Labrador puppy? Rest assured: it’s not us. It’s you.

Like 90 per cent of people who obtain dogs these days, I bought you for the express purpose of publishing a bestselling book about your incorrigible canine antics and the profound emotional bonds we forged on the path to your tragic, very painful death.

John Grogan did it with Marley &; Me. Dean Koontz did it with A Big Little Life. Now everyone and his scampish, terminally ill dog are trying to strike it rich. There are books about Merle and Sprite, Chance and Gracie. Books about deaf dogs and genius dogs and always the personal journeys filled with joy and anguish. It’s like the old saying goes: a dog truly is man’s best retirement plan.

I remember how excited we were when we picked you out, Squib. The kids saw in you an energetic playmate and loyal companion. I saw in you a potential for paperback residuals and ancillary merchandising rights. The first time we met, you came running toward us—tongue wagging, paws flailing—and smashed head-on into the chain-link fence. “An idiot,” I thought. “Perfect.” I started taking notes for Moron & Me.

Over the next few weeks, you showed flashes of potential. For instance, I very much enjoyed it when you urinated on that veterinary assistant. She was so unpleasant that, well, let’s just say you barely beat me to it. And eating our cordless phone? Bravo.

But then you got lazy. You found socks on the floor and had the gall to leave them intact. You stopped terrifying the elderly. And you became a slave to the same tired habits. Take my word for it, Squib: an author can only devote so many chapters to crotch sniffing and expect to be hailed as a major literary talent (Charles Bukowski excepted).

Alas, I no longer get the sense that you’re the kind of hilariously disobedient dog who’s going to a tragic end that I can then exploit by overwriting a cloying meditation on how your canine nobility empowered me to discover what it means to be <sniff> truly human.

Have you read Dean Koontz’s book, Squib? Probably not. You’re more of a Glenn Beck man, aren’t you?

Koontz is known as a bestselling novelist—but last fall he published the tale of how his noble golden retriever helped him discover the secret to affording another vacation home or whatever.

Koontz devotes his book to passages like, “I frequently saw in her eyes a yearning to make herself understood in a complex way that only speech could facilitate” and, “Lying on the floor, facing each other, Trixie panted and I stroked her luxurious golden coat as she caught her breath . . . ”

I know what you’re thinking: If he dims the lights to see where the mood takes them, I’m out of here. But no—instead Koontz gazes into the dog’s eyes for 20 minutes and then says: “You’re not just a dog. You can’t fool me. I know what you really are. You’re an angel.”

Squib, I lack both the technical ability and the hatred for my fellow human required to write like that. So I need lots of material. I need a dog that gets into mischief, turns that mischief into mayhem and that mayhem into a sobering metaphor for the human condition. Basically, I need a dog capable of hijacking a fraternity’s homecoming float. As I look at you now, staring out the back door and growling at a lawn chair, I can only doubt you are up to the task.

Despite all I’ve said here, Squib, this was a difficult decision for me. I’ve grown mildly attached to you. Plus, I’ve already pictured in my mind how my meeting with Megan Fox would go when she played my devoted wife in the movie:

Megan: Oh, hey, nice to meet you.
Me: My dog is adorable and dying.
Megan: Hold me.

Let’s remember the good times, okay? Like that morning when you appeared to be gravely ill, leading us to believe you were suffering from “the big C” when in fact you were suffering from the “ate a small plastic shovel.” With the power of hindsight, I see now that I was too hasty in bringing in the documentary film crew for the book/reality show tie-in.

The bottom line is this: it’s time for us to go in another direction as a family—to reinvent this literary niche by finding a dog that not only has an unpronounceable disease but also was complicit in the Wall Street chicanery that triggered the financial meltdown. Two birds, meet one stone.

You’re a good boy, Squib. And that’s the problem.