After twenty years of loyal service to the family, my small color TV finally collapsed a few years ago and we were forced to update. Cricket had been indifferent to the TV for the most part, until the flat screen arrived. Suddenly, she noticed strangers in her house. She stood in front of the TV and barked at Hugh Grant and tried to push at him through the screen. She searched behind the TV to see where the invader had come from.
Cricket is mostly indifferent to the TV now. But she does notice when the TV goes off, because that’s an important signal that something in her environment is going to change. Maybe her people are going to bed and she has to choose which room to visit, or maybe she’s going out for a walk, or, worst option, maybe her people are leaving the house without her.
The television is a big part of my life. I use it for background noise while I’m typing or cooking. I use it for company when I’m lonely. I use it for mood alteration when I get depressed. I had to make a point of not keeping a TV in my bedroom, because I’d never get to sleep.
When Butterfly first came home from the shelter, she was mesmerized by the TV. She was barely making eye contact with her people yet, but wherever she was in the living room, her eyes and ears were focused on that TV. I picked her up on my lap to watch a video on the computer of another Lhasa Apso, just like her, growling about something. She was fascinated. She couldn’t look away from the screen. Cricket could have cared less. She did the doggy equivalent of rolling her eyes, but Butterfly was riveted.
Butterfly was sleeping when the puppies came on the TV. I was watching a show called “Too Cute” on Animal Planet, where they follow puppies and kittens from birth to adoption. And the puppies started to squeak. Butterfly stood up, looked around in confusion and then walked over to the staircase behind the TV. She looked up, as if the puppies were up in the attic and she needed to go to them.
I’ve often thought I should leave the TV on for the dogs when I go out, in case they get lonely or bored. But Cricket tends to wait for us on the stairs, avoiding the living room entirely. Butterfly might watch the TV, but then I worry about what will be on. Even if there’s something cute and fluffy on when I leave the house, I might come back to crocodiles terrorizing puppies in a back yard. And I don’t think Butterfly would survive that.