Before and After Piper

Sometimes I saunter through the office and announce to no one in particular, “God I love the Pipe.” There is usually no response, not even a lifted eyebrow from HR, because it’s common knowledge what I’m talking about.

The dog’s name is Piper. My coworker brings her into the office twice a week. We have a connection that people find borderline weird. It really doesn’t make much sense at first glance.

Piper is not the type to go out of her way to bond with humans. Most coworkers get the impression she doesn’t like them, and I think they’re probably right. She has this wonderful aloofness about her, tinged with a subtle arrogance. It’s hilarious and endearing and makes me love her even more.

Somehow, she loves me back. Out of all people in this puppy-crazy world, I have to be among the unlikeliest candidates for this reciprocation. Before Piper, I found dog obsession to be a reflection of emotional weakness, underdeveloped social skills, and low standards of stimulation and fulfillment.

When my aunt had to put the longtime family dog to sleep, she told my mom the story of how the poor thing couldn’t let go and close his eyes until my uncle said goodbye. My mom cried hearing it, then cried telling it to her coworker, who in turn started crying.

When I heard the story, I said, “Wait… I thought Buddy’s been dead for like 10 years.”

Dogs just didn’t really register in my consciousness. I didn’t understand the whole pet worship thing, and most owners seemed to fall somewhere between silly and annoying.

Now Piper occupies about 90 percent of my consciousness, or at least my iCloud storage. She’s my best friend. I am obsessed with her.

I don’t know precisely how or when this odd couple thing started. Probably the key contributing factor was that I used to sit across from Piper’s owner. This created a familiarity and association with their loving relationship. (She’s the best dog owner I’ve ever seen.) Piper quickly found a comfort level sprawling her big body out under my desk.

 

 

Other dogs I more or less tuned out, but Piper’s presence was hard to ignore. She doesn’t exactly blend in. She has linebacker size and safety speed at full gallop. With long, flowing, Pantene-soft hair the color of snow, I always think of the white wolves in Game of Thrones. Except trade the snarls for a beauty pageant face.

So I had this near-mythical creature loitering under my desk, yet I didn’t have much experience interacting with even normal canines. My wife once was so embarrassed when I waved to a stranger’s dog.

I guess I just talked to Piper like a human and refrained from invading her personal space. When people treat her like a dumb puppy starving for attention, she generally responds with some combination of haughty indifference, stoic dignity and go f yourself.

I have a habit of asking coworkers how much they love Piper, and usually the response is some version of “She doesn’t give a s___ about me.” It’s not an unfair assessment.

Maybe Piper sensed I was different and felt at ease. Certainly at ease enough to share my leg room.

 

 

And if her interpretation of sharing was not allowing me to pivot, so be it.

 

 

If she felt like napping, the onus was on me to work around her space and schedule.

 

 

People got accustomed to seeing the two of us hanging at my desk and stepping over this beautiful fire hazard of a dog in the aisle.

 

Photo credit: either the Frenchman or the Texan

 

One fine day I was eating a hard-boiled egg, and Piper seemed particularly interested. Her owner enlightened me with the knowledge that eggs are not only OK for dogs, they’re healthy.

So I gave Piper half. And then I started giving her a whole one just about every visit. I can’t remember for sure whether this was when she started following me around everywhere, but that would be a reasonable assumption.

Every time I get up from my chair, Piper bolts to my side and shadows me so closely I can feel her breath on my hand. If I go to the bathroom, she waits by the door and her giant dinosaur head is already poking in as soon as I start to open it.

 

Photo credit: Mr. Newlywed

 

If I go to a conference room or someone’s office, she camps out by the glass and alternates between resting and staring at me intently. One time in Conference Room E, there was a gap between the sliding door and wall that couldn’t have been more than an inch, and Piper kept trying to squeeze her entire face through it.

 

 

If I leave the office before her, I try to sneak out because every goodbye hurts my soul.

 

 

Now that I’ve moved desks around the corner, Piper likes to set up shop equidistant from her owner and me with clean lines of sight. But she still considers my vicinity her territory.

 

 

And seems to take satisfaction in making people step around or over her.

 

 

This dog has both the beauty and the brains. She is highly perceptive and knows she has me wrapped around her pretty little paw. When she strolls over to me with that surly countenance, I don’t know if she’s trying to elicit affection or shake me down for the three bags of treats I keep in the bottom drawer.

 

 

Weird, huh? I always take science over spirituality, but Piper actually makes me think twice about reincarnation. She often just sits there and locks eyes with me, as if we knew each other from a different time and space. We can go on in this staring contest forever until I look away first.

 

 

Her side-eye, by the way, is legendary in the Silicon Beach community.

 

 

We do have a connection, and it makes more sense at second glance. We both hate children and scooters and will celebrate when they are proven to be meaningless fads.

We both love food in a visceral, drug-addict-type way. My wife googled Piper’s breed, aptly named with grandeur — The Great Pyrenees — and learned these types of dogs are known to be more serious than playful.

That is totally my style. This blog is the most playful thing I do. Ask my wife and she’ll tell you I am a pure square who seeks rational routine.

Currently I’m trying to get her to accept the idea of having a written roommate agreement like Sheldon’s in The Big Bang Theory. It’s supposed to be a joke in the show about a social freak’s absurdities, but it seems sensible to me to formalize best practices such as prohibiting cell phones at the dinner table and giving 24-hour notice of visitors so I can mentally prepare.

Piper and I are even converging a bit in our preferences. She goes berserk barking at skateboarders, and rather than reprimand her, I think I hate skateboarders too now. They make so much noise relative to the amount of work being done and distance covered. Sorry bro, JNCO went out of business this year and out of style, like, 2 years ago.

I know about the skateboarding thing because twice Piper has come home with me to Hermosa Beach for the weekend. Six months ago, I would have found it incomprehensible to ever volunteer to dog-sit. Now I make sure the owner knows I’m available 24/7 and encourage her to travel more.

Picking up Piper from her home the first time created a lot of anxiety for me. I was convinced she wouldn’t recognize me outside of the office. But that fear evaporated when she charged at full gallop and greeted me on hind legs. It was breathtaking because she has the aura of a unicorn.

When I transport her in my Honda Pilot, I feel like an Uber driver because again, I talk to her like a human, and she’s as tall as anyone when sitting up straight.

 

 

A moving vehicle also doesn’t disrupt her tendency to get up in my grill. Sometimes when I swivel my head to check my blind spot, I end up nose-to-nose with Piper like a UFC weigh-in.

 

 

The first night she slept over, I checked so many times to make sure she was still breathing. Isn’t that what you do with a newborn baby?

Piper starts each day at our apartment before dawn, standing next to our bed motionless and expressionless. It’s what possessed children in horror movies do, but there is nothing else I would rather see when I first open my eyes. Through my sleepy fog, I ask her, “Are you ready to party?”

She then sits in the same spot to watch me put on my shoes, resembling a gargoyle statue in the dark.

 

 

And then we party so hard. I have a strong aversion to holding any tension on the leash because I want her to feel free. Any time I have to pull her back, I get irritated with everything and everybody in the surrounding area.

Piper chases birds with reckless aggression, and I am willing to risk sprained ankles lunging down narrow steps and jumping over ledges in that pursuit. This video might make you nauseated, but understand the shaking is because I am flailing while trying to keep up with her 4.4 speed.

 

 

You wouldn’t think Piper with her aristocratic mannerisms gets down like that. There are so many layers to her. People are mesmerized by her beautiful white fur, but her rebellious streak dictates she find the most efficient ways to sully it.

 

 

How awesome is Piper, right? Walking side-by-side with her as she collects endless compliments and admiring looks, I haven’t felt this cool in Hermosa Beach since my old roommate was bringing home one out of every four single girls west of PCH.

 

 

At home I like to tell Piper she’s my best friend and then make a lip-smacking sound an inch above her big head. (I don’t actually kiss her because she doesn’t shower every day.)

 

 

Fortunately, Piper and my wife get along like cookies and cream. I think part of it is they each sense how special the other is to me.

 

 

Whenever someone visits, we’ve learned to coordinate the initial meeting with Piper outside. Because if you step into our space, her protective instincts go wild. She growls and barks with startling ferocity, and to be honest we’re not supposed to have pets in our apartment.

This might be wishful interpretation on my part, but I get the feeling Piper does consider me in her inner circle to protect. She was so well-behaved at the barber shop, yet watching me closely the whole time as if to make sure this guy with the scissors wasn’t a threat.

 

 

I am obviously putting words in her drooly mouth and probably displacing my own feelings. I would die for Piper if needed. I’ve pictured various scenarios with a bear, out-of-control car, mass shooter, and I’m comfortable making the sacrifice.

It doesn’t hold much logic given Piper is not even my dog, and the expected value math breaks down with the huge discrepancy in our species’ life spans.

But kind of like I didn’t understand the big deal about marriage until I met my wife, I didn’t understand the big deal about dogs until I met Piper. Feeling loved by this creature brings me so much joy.

I was musing the other day during the lottery craze that if I were offered the $1.5 billion winning ticket with the stipulation of never getting to see Piper again… I would still have to take the ticket. But I would hire a celebrity photographer to put together a sick montage of Piper and watch it every day on my yacht.

Guess what I would name the yacht.

 

 

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