Having a dog is good for your mental health because he is always excited to see you and it becomes impossible to deny that your existence is meaningful.
Having is dog is bad for your mental health because if the dog is upset or behaving badly, you will feel responsible. The dog will become a manifestation of your complete and utter failure to do anything competently, let alone well.
Having a dog is good for your mental health because he will get you up early and make you go outside. Once you are outside, you will remember that the world is beautiful and that majestic phenomena like sunrises happen every day. You may pass an old Chinese lady on the street and even though you don’t speak her language, she will smile at you. She will smile because your dog is very friendly and loves people indiscriminately, and the way his tail wags so aggressively that the momentum starts to contort his entire torso will make anyone smile. This transcendence of cultural and language barriers will make you feel more connected to the human race and would not have happened if you had been on the same street at the same time but without the dog. The dog has therefore reminded you that you are not alone because he would not let you hide in your little room with your books and ideas and computers and pornography and whatever else. The dog even helpfully barks at you when you start to pay attention to your smartphone instead of the living things around you, like the dog.
Having a dog is bad for your mental health because after a while you will feel like you will never get any work done ever again, because all you do now is walk the dog, feed the dog, and pay attention to the dog. And you absolutely have to work because you are broke and you have already spent too much money making sure that the dog has everything he needs, like vaccines and things to chew on that are not your friends or your friends’ things. And you are afraid all the time because you know from listening to other people’s dog stories that it is only a matter of time before your dog chases a squirrel and slips on some ice and requires knee surgery, and you won’t be able to afford the knee surgery so you’ll either have to put the dog down or subject it to a lifetime of perpetual knee pain. You’ll probably even have to put the euthanasia on your credit card – you can’t even to afford to kill your dog humanely. This must really make you a monster. The vet will look at you with a hatred and condescension that will say “what business did you have adopting a dog in the first place if you couldn’t even pay me thousands of dollars to perform a routine knee surgery? You are the scum of the earth!”
Having a dog is good for your mental health because he will ease the gruesome banality of running errands. You used to think it was awfully inefficient and time-consuming and a bit of an indulgence to take over an hour to walk to the grocery store and back, but now it is a two-birds-one-stone situation because the dog needs a walk anyway! This will make you feel very good about your time-management skills. The potential to brighten the days of old ladies (Chinese or otherwise) and/or anyone else on the way to grocery store simply by occupying the same block while attached to a cute dog will make you feel twice as good. Perhaps you will meet a handsome carpenter who is also out walking their dog, and the two of you will talk about the way masculinity is changing and how difficult it is to truly stop believing in God when the world offers you so few comforting alternatives.
Having a dog is bad for your mental health because he may bark at you or even bite you because you have failed to provide any other puppies to play with on the trail today. This will make you frustrated and angry, and in the case of an especially bad bite on the angle or knee cap it may even initiate a fight-or-flight response that you will have to suppress, because you do not wish to be the sort of person who beats their dog.
Having a dog is good for your mental health because you will learn that if you are calm and compassionate towards the dog and you refuse to match his excitement with anger, the dog will eventually acquiesce and go back to happily jaunting through the snow without you. This will teach you a valuable lesson about dealing with all sorts of situations in life that involve people, not just dogs.
Having a dog is bad for your mental health because you and your wife have made your apartment look and feel just the way you like it, and you have filled it with all sorts of furniture and Criterion boxsets and your dog does not care about any of these things in the least. For example: the dog will not clean up after himself. He will just go about happily coating the entire house from floor to ceiling in strands of coarse black hair that your wife, in an imitation of Sisyphus, will dutifully try her best to lint-roll into oblivion on a Saturday morning, even though she’s exhausted from her shift at the bar the night before. When you leave the dog alone, free of the kennel you couldn’t afford last month, he will react by very calmly destroying everything he can fit his jaw around. You were the first one who wanted the dog, so you will feel responsible for bringing this apocalyptic terror, this reign of chaos down upon your home.
Having a dog is good for your mental health because you will be forced to confront the reality that you love the dog more than the cover of the booklet that came with your Three Colours trilogy boxset. More, even, than that perfect pair of ’80s style high-top sneakers you found at Value Village last year. Once you make this realization, a certain Buddhist-like detachment from the trappings of materialism will wash over you. You will realize that things that are warm like hair and slobber and blood and feces are signs of life, while things that are cold like tables and chairs and couches and floors are not.
You will want to err on the side of slobber and blood. You will want to be alive.
Dylan – Edmonton, AB