I'm very sorry to tell my readers that Ernie has received an official diagnosis for some behaviour issues we've been noticing over the past few days. It's a disorder that affects countless pets and their owners. Yes, Ernie has 'Guilt Projection Syndrome.'
We bought a puppy for several selfish reasons. Truth is, we had wanted a puppy for years, but held off on the final commitment until we were absolutely sure that we had a lifestyle that would suit a dog. Living our free-lance lives means that at least one of Ernie's owners are home almost all of the time. The incidents where both my wife and I are out of the house are rare, and are usually only for a few hours at a time (to get a meal, attend a show or go to rehearsal). As such, compared to most dog's lives, Ernie lives in a relative attention-drenched paradise.
I know this, yet there are few things that I could feel more guilty about than those times every couple of days where we lock him away in his bed for a couple of hours while Em and I are out and about. In fact, here are a list of things I would theoretically feel less guilty about then leaving Ernie to his own devices:
- Blaspheming in a church on a Sunday while naked and espousing erotic gay literature. (In fact, that sounds like a good time.)
- Seeing someone trip over and laughing at them. Even if there was blood.
- Having violent thoughts about especially stupid people.
I could go on.
This now means every potentially lovely outing I have with my wife is ever so slightly tainted by a black cloud of guilt and anxiety that hangs over us both. Of course, one of the most crushing symptoms of particularly pronounced Guilt Projection Syndrome is that your dog IS ABSOLUTELY FINE.
We race up the stair case like nervous parents. Anyone would think we're rushing in to dismantle a ticking bomb. When we open the door, a tired, dazed face from across the room looks out at us as if to say, 'Guys, you just woke me up, what's wrong?' He has even been known to stay in his crate of his own choosing after we've returned home and opened the crate door to finish his nap.
Does this make it any easier? No. Guilt Projection Syndrome affects owners as well as dogs and can only heal with time. Ernie, bless him, is doing his best to contribute to our mutual healing by pooing in the wrong place at 5am in the morning or peeing on carpet. It's no good. No matter how much of a pain in the arse he is, we remain his guilty servant.