An excerpt from our Doodle, Rhoda Morgenstern’s visit to the shrink.
(Work with me. It’s obviously a fantasy).
* * *
Rhoda Morgenstern took a seat opposite the doctor and asked if he should lie down on the sofa, like Woody Allen does in the movies.
“Not necessary,” the doctor said. “What brings you here today?”
“Let’s slow it down a bit, shall we?” said Rhoda. “Got a smoke?”
“I’m sorry. There’s no smoking in here.”
“You humans have a lot of rules.”
“This one is less a rule and more about health.”
Rhoda let a minute pass, taking in the well-designed room. Everything rectilinear. Monochromatic with light splashes of muted color. Expensive taste. Not a thing out of place.
“Okay. Let me just blurt it out,” Rhoda said. “I’m here because everything in my life is too perfect. Makes me highly nervous, like some other shoe is going to drop.”
“When you say nervous…what does that exactly look like? ”
“What does it look like when a human comes in here and says they’re nervous? Are you going to make this difficult?”
The doctor moved around uncomfortably in his chair.
“I notice that your hostility runs just right below the surface,” he said. “I’m here to help. Tell me how the nervousness manifests itself? Do you get angry with Thom and Bobby like you just got angry with me?
“Dude. I’m a Doodle. Have you ever seen an angry Doodle?”
“Well no,” he responded. “Can’t say that I have. So let me rephrase. Do they ever do or say anything that makes you wish you could express anger?”
Rhoda thought about this, then said: “Well…one of them is obsessively trying to teach me the alphabet. Then, when he thinks I want something, he tells me to use my words.”
“Hmm. I could see how that could wear thin. But you obviously do have words. So why don’t you use them?”
“Words are exhausting. It should be clear to them by now that I only want one of two things: a walk or food. It’s much easier to stare at them until they figure out which one.”
“That’s a little – “
“Passive aggressive?” he finished the doctor’s thought.
The doctor seemed mystified.
“Don’t look so surprised,” Rhoda said. “I read a lot when no one is around. And heaven knows there’s a lot of psychological self-help books in that house.”
“Alright. Can you think of anything else that might get you agitated?”
“The other one forces me to sit in the living room while he sings Streisand Karaoke.”
“Wow. No jury would convict you on that one.”
“So, I’m not sure where you’re going with this. Is it that you don’t feel respected or loved at home?”
“No,” he reflected. “I feel loved. In fact, I feel worshiped.”
“Worshiped? That’s a strong word. What makes you say that?”
“They just ordered matching tee-shirts that say Doodle Lives Matter.”
“Seems pretty ideal to me. Something else must be bothering you.”
“Well, do you have any feelings about living with a same-sex couple?”
She peered over at the doctor and said: “I’m a male dog they named Rhoda Morgenstern.”
“I see your point.”
Rhoda scratched himself.
“The truth is I kinda get the joke and it doesn’t really bother me. In a reverse way it sort of makes me more butch, if you know what I mean. ”
“I don’t, in fact, but I’ll take your word for it. Sounds like you actually have it pretty good. Could it be that you get bored or lonely during the day? Maybe the lack of stimulation increases the tension you’re feeling.”
“I’m pretty much always with someone human. They think I need constant stimulation. They haven’t yet realized it’s they who need the stimulation. Isn’t that called transference?”
“Why don’t we let me do the diagnosing. Please continue.”
“Anyway, with the weekly visits to the vet for laser treatments for hip dysplasia and five or six walks a day, I’m pretty active.”
“Six walks a day? That’s fairly aggressive.”
“Yeah. Well. They just read another article on pet health. I tried shredding the pet magazines before they could read them, but they caught on to that. Whatever. This too shall pass. Mostly, I just need to eat and sleep.”
“What about friends?”
“I actually did have a friend for a while. Bobby brought his dog, PJ, with him when he moved in, but after just a few months, he died.”
“I’m sorry. Do you miss him?”
“Of course. He got me. Know what I mean?”
“So do you resent the fact that Bobby lives with you and Thom now?”
“I did at first. But I warmed up to him. He’s quieter than the last one.”
There was silence.
Rhoda asked: “Aren’t you going to ask me if I’m jealous of Thom actually marrying Bobby after five years of saying how much he loves me?”
“Oh. I see. Are you jealous?”
“I was at first.”
“What did you do about it?”
“I gave Bobby the cold shoulder for a few months. You know….he’d come home and I’d pretend to be much less excited than I am when Thom comes home.”
“Crushing,” the shrink said. “And?”
“When I saw how forlorn Bobby was about it and I realized, wow, people are just as sensitive as I am.”
“That’s quite astute.”
“Oh…you mean the whole unexamined life is not worth living thing?”
“Yes.” The doctor raised his eyebrows in disbelief.
“Do you believe that’s true? Rhoda asked. “Because I really think that an over-examined life is not worth living.”
“I’m afraid our time is up for today,” said the doctor.
“Oh…that went fast.”
Again, a look of surprise registered on the shrink’s face.
Without missing a beat, Rhoda Morgenstern said: “Please. Do you really think we don’t have a sense of time?”