One of many false categorizations of the world: dog people vs. cat people. Each side feeling smugly correct in their choice, despite all the negatives. As a dog person, I fully admit to their many flaws: they bark, they drool, they shed (unless you have a ubiquitous poodle blend, which I refuse despite the fabulous names. Who doesn't want to say they own a Schnoodle?).
Dogs steal appetizers when you're entertaining, hump the legs of guests, knock over Grannies. They roll in stinky dead things or get sprayed by skunks, then jump on your couch or lie on your recently-steam-cleaned carpet. Dogs are much more likely to jump when you are wearing white or beige (I have no stats, but do you disagree?). They chew grass or sticks and then vomit them onto any available rug (never the tile floor). Some of them love to swim, or lie down in puddles, then walk around smelling like unwashed feet. They chew their own feces, they have bad breath. Then, of course, there's the poop. The backyard scooping, the unpleasant sliding sensation when you're not watching carefully and step into a pile, the magnetic attraction to shoes with complicated treads that are impossible to clean. The unique humiliation of meeting a colleague or former high school classmate you haven't seen in twenty years, while the dog is hunched over doing his business, or you're left dangling a plastic bag of doo-doo while trying to look casual. Why do we put up with these things? Why did every family, it seemed, use COVID-enforced isolation to get a new dog?
Dogs, overall, have tremendous joy. They're so happy to see us, they're so excited about little things (a walk, a treat, a squirrel). Mine follows me around like, well, a puppy, and leans on my leg or puts her paw on me when I sit, despite being six years old. How many times have you found yourself absently scratching a dog's head or tummy with no real memory of how it started? Or found yourself tossing a slimy ball when you had no intention of playing fetch? They're just THERE, loving us, finding us fun and irresistible; who can argue with that?
There's a lot of emphasis on mindfulness right now, and dogs embody the trait. Look to your canine companion to learn how to be in the moment. Throw in getting us outside, forcing us to exercise, lowering blood pressure, relieving anxiety, providing companionship, and in some cases doing "real jobs" (herding, guiding those with visual impairment, sniffing out bombs), and it's easier to understand why we put up with the challenges of dog ownership.
Maybe these positives are not enough for you: maybe you're a cat person, or a rabbit advocate, or feel like my friend, who somehow convinced his daughter that a plant is just as much fun as a pet. To you, I say, no problem. I get it. But you'll never talk me out of being a dog person.
Hi, I'm Karen. This space is a chance for me to get some of those notebook sessions out there: Motherhood, medicine, writers and writing, the state of the world. Non-published, sometimes non-polished, just a chance to open a discussion. Let me know what you think!