Based on the number of conversation starters lost on me of late, I perceive that sad and terrible things are happening in the world in more prodigious numbers than one might hope. Possibly also more intensely. 

Truthfully, I don’t know much in the way of details because I don’t watch that show, a policy I adopted some years ago when I left ABC News. Quitting news does wonders for the mental health; as always, I would urge you all to give it a shot. 

But I have been even more blissfully ignorant of current events than is my normal average goal these last couple of weeks because I have been tasked with the temporary care of a puppy. 

A puppy, for those of you who have not experienced this pleasure firsthand yourselves, is a lot of work. Not in the way that cleaning out the basement or painting the garage is work, but in the way that spending the day with a 2-year-old is a lot of work. It’s knowledge work, not manual labor.

Also annoying: A puppy is a lot of work but comes with the reputation of a delightful time for all. A puppy is not a delightful time for all. A puppy is a delightful time for a puppy. Everyone else is going to spend a lot of time running, mostly either for paper towels or to try and prevent running for paper towels. 

There is a great deal of instruction to be given, all of which will be ignored, which is profoundly vexing. If one is a kindergarten teacher by both training and temperament, and therefore used to being ignored when asking for simple commands like “Don’t eat that!” to be honored, you might be OK. Everyone else is going to be mad, and then feel bad about themselves for not enjoying the totality of the puppy experience.

Puppies are surprisingly voracious eaters. Not of their food — it is not surprising that they are voracious eaters of puppy chow, obviously — but of everything else. Sticks. Shoes. Table legs. Rocks. Bricks. Mulch. Mulch is irresistible! We go outside for a pee, and we come back in with empty bladder and a sneaked mouthful of mulch that will be chewed recreationally at leisure for the rest of the day.

This is my first significant exposure to a puppy after significant and long-term exposure to multiple toddlers. There are numerous similarities, mostly unpleasant. You can tell when they are seemingly having fun, but it is because they are overtired and new skills erode when overtired. You can tell when the nips get a little more aggressive than playful — on purpose. You can tell when you are being given the “Who, me? What did I do?” look by a dog who knows damn well who you’re mad at and what they did. They gain manipulative skills quickly. 

Puppies, like babies, have a reputation for cuteness. This reputation pulls off the rare exacta of being both deserved and misleading. Puppies are cute when sleeping, in still photos, and in occasional flashes between enthusiastically giving into destructive impulses. The rest of the time, cute is a defense mechanism. As many have observed before me, they are very lucky that they are cute. 

Don’t even get me started on kittens. Kittens suck.

You see what I mean about the shape the world is in? I just spent 600 words complaining about puppies, just to give you people a cheerful and welcome respite.