This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

Family dynamic

Several weeks ago we were wiling away an early Sunday evening in the living room, the two of us watching the national news while Leta pretended that her Sleeping Beauty Barbie was dead. I got up to clean the kitchen just as America’s Funniest Videos was coming on, and within minutes the laughter erupting from the living room was loud enough to pull me away from a sink full of dirty dishes. I walked over to see what was going on, and there on the couch was a sea of lanky limbs, legs sprawled out on top of each other, two faces frozen in giggling so hysterical that it had crossed over into silence. This is yet another thing Leta inherited from her father, the habit of falling into a fit of laughter so hard that when it happens I don’t know if she’s laughing or dying. And in this instance if anyone had seen her contorted, silent body wedged between two couch cushions I would have had to assure them, no, she’s not dead, she just saw a video of a man accidentally setting his balls on fire.

She calls it The Funny Show, and several times a day she asks how many days until Sunday, how many days until we get to see The Funny Show again. And I’ll be honest, this is thrilling for both of us because we both could sit for hours and watch videos of people crashing their bikes into trees. And now our daughter does, too? You know, I’ve seen countless videos of people swinging bats at piñatas only to miss and hit someone in the crotch, but to sit there and share that moment with my daughter is something entirely different. Especially when she narrates her perspective out loud: “Oh no, oh no… no, no, no…. DON’T DO IT, DON’T DO IT… AHHH! AHHHH! AHHHHHHH! HE FELL OVER! HE FELL OVER! Rewind it! Rewind it! I want to see him fall over again!” Yes, it’s funny because that poor man fell over, not because you could hear his testicles crunching underneath the weight of the blow.

So this has become our Sunday ritual, we all wind down after dinner by watching videos of people disfiguring themselves, and it would be perfect except for the fact that Chuck cannot handle it. For some reason he is distressed by the sound and energy of our collective laughter and will sit in the middle of the floor and shake with anxiety. Usually he only behaves this way when I cough or when Jon and I have a serious discussion, and that only started happening in the months after Leta’s birth when I was a basket case. My postpartum depression scarred him, and if I make the tiniest move where it looks like I’m even thinking about tossing a milk jug at Jon’s head, Chuck will shed his entire coat and go hide in a closet. Turns out you can’t assure a dog that you still love Daddy, it’s just sometimes you experience an irrational, unfounded need to make him bleed.

But our laughter sounds nothing like yelling or arguing, so we have no idea why he will climb up onto the couch in the middle of The Funny Show and physically shove his body between us to try and break up the fun. The only thing I can come up with is that this is just another one of his many neurotic sensitivities, a hunch confirmed by the dog trainer we hired to help us with Coco, someone who boarded both dogs over the Thanksgiving holiday and got to experience Chuck’s neuroses first hand. She’s been training dogs for over ten years and has never before encountered anything so emotionally delicate as Chuck and told us that we’d been having so much trouble with Coco because we’d never before lived with a normal dog. Coco, she said, could let go. Chuck, on the other hand, would remember the kid in first grade who stole his fruit roll-up and then twenty years later open fire in a mall because he was still mad about it.

Coco is a dog. Chuck is a cat. And considering the multitude and nature of things we have put on his head, it will be no mystery if one of us goes missing.

  • Jenni

    My dog will start barking at me when I laugh. It is like I am not allowed to be laughing, if she is not in on the joke. My cat on the other hand, mews at me when I sneeze, so if Chuck reacts to sneezes, he is totally a cat at heart.

  • If she loves Funniest Home Videos then it would be a crime if you didn’t introduce her to the rivetting humour of Mr. Bean and The Three Stooges.

  • Yes, the “get hit in the crotch” show. It is amazing how there are basically only four or five plots to that show – fall off the table, get hit in the crotch, knock over the bride, fall in the lake, repeat with get hit in the crotch.

    Not that I don’t think it’s funny.

  • Steve

    Chuck and Coco sound like good projects for the Dog Whisperer. Seriously, how cool would that be to see the Armstrongs and dogs visit Cesar and his pack?!

  • We are getting our new dog in a couple weeks (black mini schnauzer born 22DEC so I guess it takes 8 weeks? I dunno) and I’m freaking out about having 2 dogs. Every once in a while our dog (white mini schnauzer) will wedge himself between us to break up laughing/talking/whatever, which makes me wonder what other things we accidentally taught him with our behavior.

  • Dogs are so funny.

  • gjb

    Only the videos on the funny show are worth watching. Tom Bergeron to me is as Bob Costas is to you; unwatchable. Thank goodness for Tivo and its fast forward function too!

  • I think my dogs fit somewhere between a dog (coco) and a cat (chuck).

    Your escapes with coco often remind me of things I might have seen on AFV–like the whole naked under the coat dog poop clip…

    Thanks for all the laughs–because you know we humans love to laugh at–I mean with others.

  • delia

    We’ve spent our Sunday nights the same way with our kids for years and Tivo is fantastic for replaying the horrifying videos in slow motion over and over again. Nothing spells Sunday night fun more than someone’s face hitting the pavement after they’ve fallen on their rollerblades and then hearing the chorus of “play it again in super slow motion!”

    Also, it sure feels nice to send the kids to bed with a smile on their face.

  • And that is the story of family! Only now that T-Bone the Kitty is gone do we realize that he was the normal one and Badcat is the “unbalanced” animal. We don’t love her any less. We just swear a little more. The color and love in our lives is totally worth it.

  • rb

    My 6 year old son got so upset over how much his sister and I were laughing at Elf that he had to leave the room. Does this mean he’s a cat? Can I leave him at home by himself all day?

  • ChrisV

    Geez, wait until you can watch South Park with your kids.

  • Nat W.

    My dog Pete is a lot like Chuck. So scarred by whatever happened before we got him, that he just cannot handle life. He’s so emo. Sweet…sometimes somewhat dog-like…but oh so emo.

  • Jason

    We also have two dogs, and our older dog, Baxter (a Min Pin) I imagine has a personality like Chuck. He remembers things and holds grudges. He runs and hides in the closet if voices are raised or we are laughing hard, etc.

  • sar

    I have the same reaction as Chuck. Good boy.

  • Talon

    *sings Chuck’s theme song*

    Na na na na na na na naaaaaaaa…CAT-DEER!!!!

  • Hee-hee. The first time i heard my son do this it cracked me up! I don’t think he has inherited from me, but at 15, he still laughs out loud when watching something funny, even when he is alone!

  • Hey! My kids call it “The Funny Show,” too! And cats? Weird? Where to start, where to start….

  • Natalie

    I’m pretty sure “The Funny Show” is what made my six year old think racking daddy was hilarious. Hey its funny on TV!

  • There is nothing quite as exciting/terrifying/confusing as owning a neurotic dog. Mine has me alternating between coddling her bizarre fears and rolling my eyes at her ridiculous antics. I feel your pain- my dog is more of a cat than my cat is.

  • Okay, this may sound totally ridiculous, but you might want to try a few drops of Rescue Remedy (floral essence / homeopathic available at Whole Foods, etc.) in his water. I have the most neurotic cat on earth and we decided to get two kittens because, honestly, it felt like we didn’t have a cat at all, and I wanted my kids to have pets in their lives. But I was scared to death thinking how neuroticat would handle this (we had twice before tried to introduce new cats into our household, both times with disastrous results). On a whim, I started putting RR in her water every time I filled the dish. She chilled way out, started coming out of the basement and even MADE FRIENDS with one of the new kittens (and tolerates the other). We only used it for a few weeks. She’s still definitely neuroticat, but she seems happier and less anxious overall.

  • Tam

    Poor Chuck! Our lab is the same. Cheering at any sporting event makes her cower in the corner. Also vacuuming. Always hides in the opposite side of the house.

  • ROFLMAO. This is a truely funny story Heather. I also love that Chuck is a cat-dog and Coco is a dog-dog. My cat is semi-cat,semi-dog as she does play fetch, loves to greet me at the door and sleeps next to me all night long. She also scratches the s**t out of my grass-mat wallpaper in the entry way… so she’s still cat in that respect. I love the house cleaning project. I wish I could keep my energy going long enough to do my whole house. But it ebbs and flows with depression. I did cleanup after Christmas and everything is put away. Thanks for your writing, your off=beat humor and photos… and thanks to Jon too for his help with your site. I know it’s a team effort.
    PS. I resisted buying a princess “any thing” and mailing to Leta, as I know she was going to have a very princess Christmas especially from your mother. But I think of your daughter everytime I see a Disney Princess thing. My 2 year old granddaughter is now into the Princess stuff … she had a book with her at Christmas.

  • Becca

    You HAVE to video tape y’all watching AFV. The only thing funnier than watching people get their balls kicked in, is watching people laugh at people getting thier balls kicked in!!!

  • Katie

    Brilliant writing in this post! god, i love how your mind works. The fruit roll-up comment at the end was hysterical! thanks for the laugh today-i needed it!

  • I’m so happy to hear that there are people, other than my daughter and I, who laugh themselves sick watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. We always felt so alone, but now we know we aren’t.

    Thank you.

  • Kris

    LOL! Chuck is a cat! It makes sense. I’m a cat person. One of my cats is named Emo and he’s very emotional. He won’t sit still long enough for me to put anything on his head, though.

  • Margaret

    I read somewhere that the smartest dogs on the planet have the intellect of a 2-3 year old child, but that all dogs have the sensitivity of a 13-year-old girl. I liked that.
    Our little dog shakes when we use the serious voices, too! And both dogs use their bodies as shields between us when we use the serious voices. So funny to know there are other dogs out there that do that!

  • I think my dog (an Alaskan Husky; the sled-dog variety) & Chuck must be related. When I went crazy during my pregnancy, Porter would assess the situation every day when we got home from work: Is mommy insane today, or is mommy capable of having a rational thought? And if he answered his question in the former, he would would hide in the corner with his back facing the living room, his ears pinned down. It killed me to see how I was affecting everyone in my family, but especially my dog because for all he knew, I was yelling at him. Even now, 8 months after the birth of my baby, he still goes running to the corner with his ears tucked if I so much as raise my voice.

  • We have a neurotic dog too. At just 2+ years of age he has learned to hate football season the way Chuck hates AFV.

    Finley doesn’t shake though. Instead he cowers and stares unblinkingly at us with his crazy Marty Feldman eyes. Every time he does this I have to suppress my overwhelming urge to yell BOO!

  • You have to go and see Marley and Me. Exactly what you are talking about. Please do.

  • Chuck DOES sound like such a cat. Especially with all that shedding…! ha! My cat Minden is such a dog. I’m sure he and Chuck would get along GREAT! 😉

  • Man my beagle is just the same. Crazy as a monkey. I don’t know how she got that way but she is. I love your posts about the dogs!

  • Wait until she’s a teenager and you can introduce her to the hilarity (and high cringe-factor) that is MTV’s Jackass & Viva La Bam. Best to save that up for the day she needs a reminder that you guys are cool parents!

  • My 6 year old daughter and I gasp for air laughing while we watch “The Funny Show” and my husband rolls his eyes. He is the only one who knows that this ridiculous trait for schadenfreude runs 3 generations deep. You should hear us when my mom visits.

  • Umm… do you have any advice for someone who has a crazy dog and a depressed cat that can’t get along? They say that pets reflect the mind’s of their owners but I’m not so sure… unless I’m bipolar?

  • Lisa

    I always thought that tense look of Chuck’s was he just had to pee…..instead it is iNSaNitY!!!!!!!

    My daughter and I love that show too! Have you ever seen Animal Planets Funniest Animals?

  • Maybe Chuck could use a little hit of Xanax?

  • If Chuck is like a cat, then maybe I like cats afterall!

  • Anonymous
  • Terri

    First, can’t wait for the book! Wish you were coming to San Diego! You’ll be SO CLOSE and could stay in our guest room???

    Second, we too have sensitive dog. He barks at the TV. We have four dogs, have had probably 8 in our lifetime and none of them gets hysterical over television. Especially anything with four legs.

    Rocky barks when he sees whatever it is with legs, growls thinking about it for an hour or two after seeing it and will occasionally back through the night I guess as the picture of the four legged creature comes to his memory.

    It’s making me crazy. We’ve tried calling him over to us, petting and loving on him. No. We’ve tried the “NO. Stop it! Bad Dog” approach. No. We’re considering getting a four hour long DVD of animals, locking him a room and seeing if eventually he’ll just desensitize himself but I have a feeling it’s not going to work.

    PS It is fun when you can finally see “adult” humor come out in your children.

  • We discovered long ago that AFV (we’re tight enough to use acronyms) is the one and only show that the whole family can stand to watch together. We TiVo it at all hours of day and night so there is always an episode available in case of an emergency. And our dog? She WATCHES. And barks. Chuck might have the corner on the crazy market, but Moki is right out front on the sidewalk peddling cuckoo from a hand cart.

  • Melanie

    You know … animals seem to share many of the same maladies with humans. Maybe Chuck has Sensory Integration Disorder. 🙂

  • Thank you for making me laugh out loud at my computer screen on a daily basis.

  • Whitney

    that’s wonderful! When I was Leta’s age my family would sit down every Sunday and watch funniest home videos with Bob Saget. That was back when they still did the Jackalope clips. Those times are some of the fondest I have of my family as a whole so far.

  • You laugh at things that I don’t find at all funny, and yet I love your writing and your blog. A conundrum that I am happy to ponder as I love everything you write/purchase/take pictures of/say.

  • Kelli

    Heather, I am 31 years old. I have a family of my own. I am not a stalker, but I have to tell you, the similarities between our life events are starting to scare me. I always relate somehow to your posts, but now? I’m pregnant, 16 weeks, just a couple weeks behind you…and my son has now taken to The Funny Show, calling it the SAME THING and reacting the SAME WAY. I’ve taken to TiVo’ing the show so he can rewind it over and over. My husband even read this entry and went, “wow. This is getting wierd.”

    Cree. Pee.

  • It could be the octave your laughter is at. My dogs respond to octaves a lot and even a laugh can be the same octave as the scary voice from before. Just a thought.

  • OMG Heather. I love your site. Your posts. I log on regularly. You are hilarious. I have been reading you for about 4 years.

    But this…..was fraking priceless! I could not stop laughing.

    I cannot wait to buy your book!

    Blessed be to you and yours, especially new Baby Armstrong. What an awesome family to come into.

    Have a great winter! And thanks for the hysterical laughter! I couldn’t stop!

  • Funniest home videos is on right now, Monday night at 8 on wgn. We watch it quite a few nights. The fun never ends.