I decided at the start of this year to use the costs associated with the care of Wolfgang as a tax deduction. A little background is necessary. I adopted Wolfgang from a dilapidated former roommate thirteen years ago. Tom* had gotten him in August 2002 to replace a much-loved dog of the same breed he had to put to sleep. By the end of that year, however, Tom realized he could no longer care for the new puppy, and I realized I no longer could stop plotting to get rid of Tom by making it look like a game of pool and tequila shots gone wrong. He’d have to give him up. I couldn’t bear the thought of it. I’d already grown too attached to the little furball and feared he’d end up in a home with someone more irresponsible. Tom left in January, and the puppy stayed. I renamed him Wolfgang.
He’s supposedly a miniature schnauzer, but I realized almost immediately that he’s an undiscovered species of canid: a miniature wolf. Neither the Smithsonian nor the National Geographic Society has responded to my requests for a detailed analysis. At first glance, he looks like any other small dog – cute and adorable. But that’s part of the inborn ruse. A closer examination, however, reveals the monster lurking behind the pools of dark chocolate known as his eyes and the fluffy silver and white hairs coating his face. A serial rabbit killer, Wolfgang has terrorized more squirrels than the German shepherd I had decades ago. A deep, loud voice resides within his little throat; another coy, inborn trick to make the unsuspecting believe they’re standing just feet from a coyote. He is 22 pounds of raw, canine angst.
But he has become my savior in so many ways. As I struggled with my freelance and creative writing careers, I realized the value Wolfgang adds to my professional life. He is my therapist, focus group and lifestyle consultant. He is the only one who truly understands why I say and do what I say and do, and therefore, is the only one who reserves the right to criticize me for it all. He truly comprehends the reasoning behind my deliriously twisted stories. He sees the genius of my mind; whereas others would see a psychiatric trauma case, a recovering Catholic or a porn star reject. And, since we’re all bearing our souls here, I fit each of the above descriptions in the worst way.
Despite my occasional rapid-fire mood swings, bouts of euphoria mixed in with valleys of despair, Wolfgang has proven to be a constant source of inspiration and reality. Most dogs are like that anyway. And, as with most dogs, Wolfgang has his own unique personality. He doesn’t have an attitude – a nasty trait exhibited by those bipedal cretins known as humans. Just touching him puts me in a better mood, even if I’m already feeling good. But it’s his visual responses to my stories that tell me if what I’ve written makes general sense. In one tale, for example, I wondered if a rather mundane character should have a greater role. Wolfgang’s empathetic gaze told me yes. So I expanded the character, and the story benefited. In another, I thought that a rather cantankerous individual was nevertheless crucial to the moral arc I was trying to convey. Wolfgang’s snarl told me the bitch had to die. Again, the story turned out better, after the character accidentally stumbled onto a paper shredder.
Aside from keeping his shots up to date, I had Wolfgang neutered years ago, which prolongs a domesticated animal’s life. (Many people should have the same thing done, but not because their lives are worth prolonging.) I bathe him every Sunday night and clean his teeth regularly by spreading a dab of canine toothpaste on a small hand towel. (Actually trying to brush them turns into a physical battle, with my hands on the losing end.) When his fur gets long, I brush it the day after his bath. In this case, “brush” is a subjective term, because he often spirals into an alligator-death-roll maneuver.
I’ve had his health care covered through Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), which is now NationWide. Because he’s almost 14, the premiums have increased. But again, he’s worth the cost. The money I’ve spent on that insurance, along with other veterinary bills and food, could have just as easily bought me a high-powered computer, an I-Phone, the complete Photoshop Suite to create art for my stories, and / or a week at a leather bondage festival. I suppose I could have churned out some really good stories with all of that. (Yes, even a bondage festival can be enlightening. I have the handcuffs and thong underwear to prove it.) But, without Wolfgang’s presence, I just can’t see any good stories popping out of my head. What good are all sorts of luxuries if you’re not mentally fit? I mean, look at the Kardashian girls! Well… they’re mentally ill; they’re just dumbasses. Regardless, medical expenses are often genuinely tax-deductible.
My followers surely know by now that I’m a devout animal lover. I’d rather see a thousand drug addicts or sexually-irresponsible people die of AIDS than see one animal suffer due to human neglect. A close friend shares my sentiments; he likes cats. Cats are pretty, but I’m allergic to them. Besides, when have you ever heard of a rescue cat?
Still, the more I get to know people, the more I love my dog. I seriously don’t know how the Internal Revenue Service (a.k.a. the “Washington mob”) will respond to this deduction on my 2015 tax return. And I seriously don’t care. They can laugh all they want, which I’m sure they’ll do. I’ve had worse happen to me, such as pretending someone who cuts me off in traffic is just having a bad day and they’re not really an asshole.
For now, though, I have another story to run by Wolfgang. This one’s kind of mushy, so I have to conjure up a more creative demise than a demonically-possessed paper-shredder.