A Dog’s Life
Though the premise is lighthearted, ‘Downward Dog’ may change how you think about your own pet by revealing how they think about you.
By Megan Schnese, University of Alaska Anchorage
Ever wonder what your dog is thinking?
Well, watching the new ABC show “Downward Dog” may provide some valuable insight into the confusing world of your favorite furry friend, and may even help you to build a stronger connection with them.
“Downward Dog” follows Martin, an extremely disgruntled and philosophical dog with a modern way of speaking, so don’t go taking a drink every time he says “like” or “you know” as he recounts his life with his human, Nan. Yes, Martin is a talking dog, and though he doesn’t actually speak to Nan, he happily shares his thoughts with the audience watching.
As Martin complains about his life with Nan, viewers may be able to see their own dogs reflected in the protagonist pet. The show has Martin doing pretty typical dog stuff, like waiting by the door and whining to go on walks. The furry thespian bases his whole day around Nan’s busy schedule, which is a serious eye-opener for anyone who hasn’t realized how much their dogs are dependent on them. I don’t mean just for food and walks, but for actual attention and love.
Martin confesses that he is “deeply obsessed” with Nan. Once you understand how, relative to humans, dogs have fewer, simpler (and sometimes even more profound) concerns in their lives, it’s easy to see why all that Martin looks forward to is spending time with the one person he “literally can’t quit.” The pup’s view of the world is limited to believing that Nan created everything, like the sky and the Earth. In his mind, the reason she brought Martin into the world is that she needed something “cuddly and amazing.” Even though Martin’s thoughts are really coming from humans’ perspectives, his limited viewpoint feels realistic and is, overall, hilarious.
In revealing Martin’s perspective, “Downward Dog” may enlighten viewers about the ways they take their dogs for granted, which could help them be more cognizant of their pets’ needs, both the basic and more obscure. That would include not locking your dog in “the sex room,” as Martin puts it, while you, well, have sex. Martin finds the experience rather confusing.
Nan also confuses Martin when she gets in her car to drive to work. He doesn’t understand that she is going to a destination, so he thinks she is just driving around all day. The poor dog looks sadly at the camera as he explains that he has made it pretty clear to Nan that he thinks her trips in the car are unfair. He’s tried to tell her that he would like to join her in a car ride, but, in Martin’s mind, Nan is not listening. Dog owners may get a chuckle out of Martin’s confusion, since they have probably seen their own dog whine about wanting to go on a car ride, but hearing Martin’s pleas for company could help dog owners feel more empathetic for their dogs when they leave for work or school each day.
Martin becomes perplexed with many things that seem normal to humans, such as the vacuum cleaner and the automatic dog door Nan installs. Have you seen your dog randomly barking at an inanimate object? My dog goes crazy when he sees the vacuum, a shovel or a motorcycle, none of which have to be in use to elicit his barking. Watching Martin commit relatable and universal dog acts, pet owners might be able to feel closer to their own dogs.
The main theme that “Downward Dog” presents is one of love, acceptance and connection between a person and their dog. In the first episode, Nan gives a presentation for her job at a marketing company, claiming that, no matter what she looks like, if she has gained weight or if she has an acne breakout, her dog continues to look at her like she is the most beautiful person in the whole world. Martin doesn’t care about Nan’s looks, but about the love she can give him.
I felt like a weight hit me in the stomach when I watched that moment, because I realized how unconditional a dog’s love really is. Nan’s speech is one that every dog owner should watch, as this turning point in the episode showcases the powerful bond that can be forged between human and dog.