Six questions can tell you a lot about a human’s bond with the dogs in their life. Here’s what New York City–based comedian and TV writer Josh Gondelman—whose new standup special, People Pleaser, is now streaming—told us about life with his senior pug, Bizzy. For much more about Josh and Bizzy, check out our full Q&A.
What’s your earliest dog memory?
I remember friends of my parents having kind of a big, boisterous dog, and being afraid. I was very small. We didn’t have dogs in our home. We had one cat that had been my mom’s since college, who was not a friend. My parents were just like, “Leave the cat alone. He does what he wants. He pukes where he wants. He’ll try to fight you if you get too close.” So I didn’t grow up with an especial talent for displaying warmth to household cats. I hadn’t learned how to approach an animal with warmth, so this dog who was a little big and a little loud would always stress me out.
What qualities of Bizzy’s do you most admire?
I really admire the way she’s like, “Look, I know I just slept for three straight hours, got up, ate lunch, and peed outside, but I’m going to sleep for another three uninterrupted hours.” And I’m like, “Yeah, you’ve got to listen to your body.” I respect that.
And I really like her gentleness. I think that’s a really admirable quality. There are puppies in our neighborhood, bigger puppies that will want to play with her, and she doesn’t know how to play, really—or doesn’t have any interest in it with her little arthritic paws—but she will let them jump up on her a little bit, and she just kind of moves her head out of the way when they’re pawing too aggressively. She will sniff them and let them sniff her. She is very gentle with kids, and she’s a very easy dog to introduce to people and animals.
If Bizzy could speak, what would she spend the most time talking about?
Probably snacks. She’s very, like, “I could eat.” I feel like she would say that a lot.
What’s the biggest lesson Bizzy has taught you?
I think patience. You can’t make someone do a thing that they don’t want to do. There’s no passive aggression with a dog. It’s yes or no. So I think really understanding and accommodating the preferences or needs of another, and not just being like, “But I want to do this.” Having a creature that lives in our house that is a little bit intractable is a good reminder that, “Oh, yeah, it’s not just all about me.”
What’s Bizzy’s best trick?
Let me think. I mean, when she is warm she sounds like she’s beatboxing, which I would describe as a talent. Even though we try to cool her down right away.
And I think, going back to her gentleness, she has a very strong sense of calm around things that make many dogs anxious. She doesn’t mind storms at all, and she doesn’t mind fireworks. None of that fazes her. She just chills on July 4 every year. I would say her talent is sleeping through it. That’s her greatest trick: sleeping through loud noises.
What do you think is the key to a great dog-human relationship?
I think it is listening and really being attuned to each other’s needs. Knowing that this is a little living critter that’s in my home, and I need them to feel good and not impose human values on their needs.
Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.