Sunday, April 3, 2016

What's on your dog's bucket list?

Phil doesn't mind the beach, but the car ride there and home is the highlight for him. Life really is about the journey, not the destination. Even if that destination is off leash.

Last week we learned that Buddy, a seven-year-old cattle dog, died after ticking “all but one” of the things off his bucket list (and that – helping other animals – was achieved one hundred times over thanks to the funds raised by publicity about Buddy’s story). May the beautiful Buddy rest in peace.

Of course, living with a senior dog, learning of Buddy’s death made me wonder about Phil’s bucket list, and what might be on it if he entertained such a list. We’ve read about a few dogs here and overseas having bucket lists, but what do dogs feel about these?

And what about bucket lists in general? It seems that, at least when it comes to humans, bucket lists are full of grand-scale, once-in-a-lifetime, fleeting moments which are more about the build-up and being able to say “I did that” (to a bunch of other people who hopefully get FOMO) than the doing itself. Your typical bucket list contains activities such as skydiving, bungee jumping, meeting Lady Gaga, seeing the Northern Lights, kissing a sloth etc etc. 

But does that equal happiness? Take meeting a celebrity in person. In real life it is really awkward. I can say this with authority of the N=1 kind. Phil and I happened to meet an incredible musician I’ve admired since my teens. I went bright red like a tomato, Phil didn’t care, and all I could think of saying to said musician was “You’re amazing”. Which sounded, on retrospective analysis, either totally vacuous or creepy. Sure, I can tick meeting Mr X off my bucket list, but it was more an experience that was good to have had than to be having.

Buddy met some celebrities and rode in a police car, but I suspect some of the less headline-worthy items on the list – like playing in mud, eating a pie, running on the beach – were those he enjoyed the most. These “moments of pleasure”, if I may borrow the title of the Kate Bush song, are what dog’s lives are about. 

Human bucket lists are all about novel experiences (such as participating in the Kate Bush flash mob), but animals aren’t as obsessed with novelty and in fact some get very anxious about it. And some humans, irritated by the viral explosion of bucket listing, have written anti-bucketlists (incidentally, these are much easier to write, for example, I am pretty sure “not hanging out with puppies or kittens, or anyone that playful” would be on Phil’s anti-bucket list). 

My hope is that people moved to create bucket lists for companion animals think about those lists from the animal’s point of view.  

So what would be on Phil’s list? It would probably be something like this, played on repeat.
  • Walking out the front door
  • Taking a road trip to somewhere we’ve already been
  • Sniffing the nature strip immediately outside of our house for about four hours
  • Sniffing Hank from down the street’s rear end (Hank is a Bichon)
  • Binge-sleeping and snoring
  • Serial lap-sitting
  • Running on really fluffy carpet, brand new and peeing on same
  • Exclusive, uninhibited access to the cat food
  • Someone leaving a Margherita pizza, a crepe and/or a cheese platter unattended on a very low table at Phil height (don’t ask me how I know this would be on his list).

Does your pet have a bucket list? An anti-bucket list? What’s on it?