Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

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.

  • Well, I thought I was in the top 10 but between writing and hitting ‘submit’ I got bumped.

    Still love my dog just as much, though. 😉

  • Agnieszka

    My crazy dog (who looks like an ewok btw) does the same shaking thing when my husband gets the hiccups. He puts his tail between his legs, lowers his head and tip-toes down to the basement. There he sits in a far-away corner and shivers until you come down & get him. The interesting part is, he only does this when my husband hiccups, I can hiccup for hours & he’ll give me this look as if to say, “Are you done yet, geez?!”

  • Tara

    I have always wondered whether my family is weird, you just validated it.

    When I was younger, instead of watching “The Funny Show”, my dad would have us watch Rescue 911. It was supposed to show us what happens to kids when they cross the street without looking both ways or when they run with a glass in their hands. It freaked me out.

    I’m 24 and I still have a fear of running around the swimming pool and biting my tongue off!!

  • So, what you’re saying is, while your daughter loves herself a little schadenfreude, your dog doesn’t appreciate it in the least.

    Interesting.

  • Kat

    I also have a normal dog and a dog that is a cat. Our “cat” is afraid of toddlers, the elderly, all stffed animals, remote controls, and wedding rings, among other things. He lets treats hit him in the head rather than catching them in his mouth and he refuses to fetch.

  • My in-laws’ dog is very much the same: largely independent and cat-like, but gets irrationally nervous based on the emotional temperature of the room (be it humor or angst) and needs to be reassured.

  • Sarah

    I, too, love The Funny Show and am happy that other people a) watch it, and b) admit they love it.

    And now I know why Chuck is so awesome. Because he is a cat.

  • Heather,

    For once, I’m figuring out I’m not the only one with a dog that is one apple short of a fruit basket. Our Boston Terrier Eddie does the same thing. Whether you’re laughing, crying, or fake wrestling he’ll freak out at the first sign of tension and try to break it up. You can no longer kiss in our house, or hug or even say that you want to “smack” someone. I don’t think we’ll ever figure it out. (this is also a dog that likes to stare at reflections on the ceiling)…

    Anyway just thought I’d let you know you’re not alone in dogdom and I hope the best for ya. Love your photography and your sense of humor. Keep up the good work!

    – Aubrey

  • My dog was crazy enough I had to start a blog just for her to get her angst out.

    http://lulabellebc.blogspot.com

    Border Collies are waay crazy. Although Chuck’s pictures lately are making me wonder….

  • I hate to admit it but I like The Funny Show too. So stupid yet so fun. It’s one of the few shows that gets me giggling like a kid again.

    Tracy

  • Kim Schexnayder

    My son, who is now 10, calls it the Funny Show too!!! Still…at 10!! There are a lot of reruns, check other channels!

  • My boys call it “The Funny Show” too and GOD FORBID we miss it! It’s Holy to them…..and the hour long episode takes about 1.5 hours due to all the reminding…..and the laughter is addictive! Have you seen the one with the little boy and girl where the little boy says, “You want a piece of me??” over and over again into the camera, and then the little girls tries to imitate him and says, “You want a piece of HAM?” For some reason that one always cracks us up to pieces!

  • The Funny Show is as good a name as any–my mom (who twists words into pretzels) calls it variously–American Videos, America’s Funny Videos, America’s Home Videos–despite the fact that she watches it religiously.

    I still regret not filming The Bunny chasing our dog (he was a male and she was female and that, apparently, was all that mattered.

  • Lesley

    If Chuck was a cat he would have destroyed that kid who stole his fruit roll up in first grade while he had the chance. Cats seldom stew, and they tend to be indifferent to perceived suffering. Unless it’s their own.

    He does sound very sensitive though. And loveable.

  • Oh but I just can’t go there… the australian version is always hosted by some bimbo who has to laugh at her own jokes. Plus I think it’s sponsored by KFC.

  • I am so happy we are not the only family watching this crap and laughing until we cry, no, until we can’t breathe!

  • Sue

    My children like to watch SuperNanny. They call it the bad children show.

    AFHV is still on the air? WHO KNEW?!

  • Maddie

    Chuck is such a skirt!

  • Erika H.

    Thanks for making me laugh. Who doesn’t remember the kid who stole their fruit roll-up in first grade.

  • Cee

    Our dog is a basketcase, too. He doesn’t like noise, he doesn’t like the vacuum, or shouting, or the wind blowing. He hates going outside, and we must whisper, “I need to take the dog O-U-T,” or he will hide under the bed. If he gets excited or scared, he has two modes: hide under the bed, and/or roll over and pee. He needs prozac, but we love him.

  • Emily

    So cute! My family did the same thing when I was little! Except my brother and I called it ‘Daddy’s Funny Show.’ Who can deny, it’s a classic 😉

    We still watch it, some twenty years later, when it pops up on the TV and we’re all around. I have to say that Bob Saget was a better host… love the re-runs.

  • We watch that show as a family also. I just love the sound of my kids belly laughs.

  • Heather

    Just out of curiosity, what is Chuck doing when he gets up on the couch with you? I am no animal behavioralist, but is he putting his hand in your mouth? Peeing? Shaking? Seding fur into all corner of the house?

    Ps… I love your website. No. Really. I do.

  • My 5yr old LOVES watching AFV. We also make it a Sunday night ritual. Unfortunately I am stricken with the laughing-into-silence syndrome, too, and my family often asks me if I’m okay after not hearing anything come out of my mouth for a few minutes. But dude, the people on that show are hilarious.

  • Kristin

    God, that’s so weird. My dog has a serious problem with laughter as well. As in, she will leave the comfort of her cushy bed/chair and cower in the furthest room possible from the terrible laughing.

    That’s not the weird part – the weird part is that our dog, Fidget, is like a mini-Chuck. Every time I see a picture of Chuck some little part of me goes “Fidget!” But Chuck has a longer tail and is, of course, older and wiser.

    Here’s a pic of Fidget (looking put-upon, even!) with my Matt, for reference. Seriously, it’s uncanny.

    http://pics.livejournal.com/kill/pic/0001xkhb/g16.jpg

  • Kristin

    D’oh, I effed up the link. Here’s the whole gallery:

    http://pics.livejournal.com/kill/gallery/0000gd2a

    God, I really need to take more pictures.

  • sara

    Our dog, Chief, sounds a lot like Chuck. From an emotional standpoint… not a balancing things on her head standpoint, she’d never tolerate that. If my husband and I even look at each other sideways she starts whimpering and trying to make it all better. Who know dogs could be as big of ‘fixers’ as us humans? At least this human.

  • We have a Sunday evening ritual watching AFV, too. I believe that Tivo was made just for watching AFV.

    If I had a nickel for every fat lady crashing a motorcycle, or for every pair of testicles blasted by a kid aiming for a pinata, or for every bicycle that was crashed into a mailbox that we’ve watched in slo-motion…why, I’d be a rich lady!!

  • too many of us

    By the way, Chuck MUST be a cat. We have two dogs, a cat, and two kids, and the cat goes nuts (crying, jumping on us, generally freaking out) when any of us start laughing really hard. Weird! The dogs, on the other hand, are fine with it.

  • Tracy

    When a good friend of ours became pregnant, our dog, would inexplicably shake, drool, and go into a trance like state every time she came to visit and then go hide under a table until she left. He has been around her for the entire 9 years we have had him so it wasn’t as if she was a stranger or new acquaintance. He would normally jump in her lap the minute she came in our house and sat down. We couldn’t wait until she had her baby to see how he behaved after that. The first time she came to our house after delivering her baby, our dog was back to his usual self and the “fear” and trance were gone. Our vet had never heard of anything like it and I am not sure we will ever understand what it was all about. We just assumed he was in tune with the extra hormones she was experiencing or maybe he could hear an extra heart beat within her.

  • jadine

    I love Chuck. (I know this is a lame-ish comment, but I do. And heck, it was a comment that was quick for you to read).

  • Meg

    I just love when they go from babies to little people with a sense of humor. We spend hours daily, rewinding the part on Wall-E where he puts a bra on his head. Great entertainement, even if your 3 year old tells people we watch boobs on tv.

  • Adriana of AZ

    I remember coming to school Monday mornings in 7th grade (1989-90)and the talk of the campus were the clips from AFHV from the night before. “Did you see the one…”That was when Bob Saggat did the hosting. It was awesome!

    My kids now love watching it too, especially the animal ones and my boys get a kick out of all the “wiener” bashing that happens as well.

    Heck, I sympathize with Chuck. I like everything even-keel. Too much emotion and I get all ancy and anxious, even if it’s good emotion. It tends to freak me out. I’m sure I belong on a couch to cure me of that.

  • Scott A. Webb

    Am I wrong, or is “whiled” mispelled in the very first sentence? And why am I OCD enough to have noticed that?

  • Scott A. Webb

    Am I wrong, or is “whiled” mispelled in the very first sentence? And why am I OCD enough to have noticed that?

  • conster

    You have got to watch Home Alone with her. My kids have been losing their nut since Christmas over this one. They made me rent Home ALone 2 and that took them to the floor also. You cannot beat physical slapstick humor with the under 6 set. The three year old fav DVD is the Looney Tune box set. Good thing I am keeping her away from all that violence on commercial TV. HAH.

  • The niffer

    All this time I thought you were exaggerating his episodes of teenage angst. Dude is truly moody!

    I hear they have Prozac for dogs… (and cats.)

  • Thats OK–my cat thinks she is a dog. She drinks out of the toilet bowl for Christ’s sake!

  • The Australian shepherd my family used to have would freak out in a similar manner. I used to always pretend that I wanted to fight my dad and would take fake, exaggerated punches at him. Our dog would run between us barking like crazy and jump up on one of us to try and break it up.

  • Chuck thinks he’s a cat, and my cat thinks he’s a dog. Among other things, he will greet you at the door when you come home and follow you around until you show him some love. He’ll flop over for belly rubs right in front of you. And he doesn’t hold grudges like most cats… I went away for 9 days at Christmas and when I came home, he didn’t spend any time ignoring me at all. In fact, he attached himself to my side and refused to leave it for nearly two days whenever I was at home.

  • Somehow, I always knew you were a cat lover deep down!

  • Cynner

    Funny, I have a dog who has been accused of being overly neurotic (experiences the same shaking when my brother raises his voice of if there and when houses are being roofed within a 3 block radius, man does she has roofer). Turns out when you have a neurotic dog people like to blame the neurosis on you.

  • Katie

    Love this blog? Vote NOW for Heather in the 2008 WEblog awards. Voting closes tomorrow. http://2008.weblogawards.org/polls/best-diarist/

  • LOL! Poor Chuck.

    The British equivalent of this is “You’ve Been Framed” but the first show of this kind that I saw was in the 70s, “It’ll be all right on the night.” These were specials, but YBF is much more like AFHV. Maybe you can get them on cable or something. 🙂

  • M. Putman

    I’m posting because no one at the top has any idea how cool it is to be number 143. It’s just completely lost on them.

    Leta is going to knock your socks off this next year. I remember my daughter going from a princess punk to person who astounded me with her perspectives on life and humor around this age. What I started appreciating about Kelly was that she really *got* the joke.

    Now she’s nine and *I’m* her joke.

    You make me laugh Heather. Laugh right out loud at the screen. But Leta makes me ache for a time when Kelly truly thought I was the cat’s meow. I’m barley a feline whisker at this point. But it will all come back around again and I’m ready for it. That silly precious girl is mine.

    Now, if I can just get my three year old Jack to stop biting his teacher’s noses. Egads!

  • Around these parts, we call it “The Falling Down Show.” Great way to cap off the weekend and ease into the new week — with talking dogs and puking babies.

  • Yet another Jennifer

    #11 made me laugh.

  • Jill

    Ahh…AFV is a time-honored tradition in our family. When we were kids, it was an excuse for my parents, aunt and uncle and grandmother to get together, drink whiskey and play pinochle. We’d all gather when AFV came on. I guess I see NOW why the adults laughed so hard! Now that we (my brother and two cousins) are older, we have carried it on to our own families — only I choose rum.

  • We have a cat, Pyewacket, who ostensibly went through some horrible shit before we found her in the street, cold, starving, and asthmatic. Whenever my husband and I have a “discussion,” she steps between the two of us and YELLS until one of us (me) picks her up to comfort her. It really works to cut the tension. Let Chuck keep on keeping on. He’s only trying to protect you.

  • Anonymous

    Yo… just wanted to say that the behavior you’re describing where Chuck gets on the couch and squeezes in between two of you humans is a well known dog behavior …. dogs often come between or “split” two other dogs who may be headed for a fight or get too close. I see this in my Aussie all the time… she splits the other dogs from getting too close.

    I tried to google the phenom, but could not find a good link but saw it once in a dog behavior video. Will try to find it again.

    And, sorry if this was posted upthread, no time to read comments… but could Chuck be suffering from PTPD… post traumatic photo disorder? from all the daily Chucks? hate emoticons but :>) ps… I am a human but the captcha is really hard to read, so hope this makes it thru the spam filter.