Thursday, February 14, 2013

On Watching Westminster

I never wanted a dog. I never missed having a dog. I walked my Siamese cat on a leash exactly once; he escaped and I had to chase him under the neighbor's hedge. That was it for pet care for me.

My brother received gerbils for his Bar Mitzvah from my uncle, who didn't ask my parents for permission to bring living things into their home. I never touched them. I never played with them. I rarely watched them. I wasn't sad when he sold them to a friend, or gave them to the pet store.... until they refused to take any more babies. Breeding like rabbits? Try breeding like gerbils....they were everywhere.

 The Big Guy grew up with dogs, loves dogs, didn't mind having a dog. Big Cuter was with me; he could take it or leave it. The problem was the fourth member of the family. Little Cuter needed a dog. She had to have a dog. Life was incomplete without a dog. She would care for it, tend to it, insure that it never intruded inconveniently into my life space. A dog was essential. She was 4.

 She studied dogs. She read about dogs. She watched television about dogs. She pretended that she was a dog, an activity I enjoyed until she insisted that I walk her on a leash. At that point, I diverted her attention to something less grotesque; I could not walk my daughter on a leash. Just could not do it.

This turned out to be more than a passing phase, and TBG and I were losing interest in the arguing. We agreed that she could have a dog when she turned eight, all the while assuming that canines would go the way of princesses and vanish into the ether.

 No such luck. Her interest magnified, blossomed, gained intensity.

Then, we moved to California, the edge of the country, far from the only babysitter she'd ever known. Promising her a pooch was the only thing that stopped her tears. She was 7... a year younger than she'd been imagining that she would be a pet owner. She could hardly wait to leave. Unfortunately for Little Cuter, we rented for a year, and the lease precluded pets. She suffered silently for twelve months.

Two days after we moved into the home we'd purchased next door, she woke us up demanding her dog. She had waited patiently. She hadn't nagged. She was now more than 8 years old and she wanted her dog and she wanted it now. There was no arguing. She was right. I was naive and said, "Sure."

 We piled into the car and drove to the Humane Society. She chose a beast of the right size and we took it to the enclosed yard to play. Within minutes, Big Cuter and I were rubbing our eyes, sneezing, itching. He was a delightful beast, but breathing was more important than satisfying her needs. We were out of there and home to shower off the dander before she could work up more than a disgruntled pout. I promised that we'd find her a dog tomorrow. It never occurred to me that it would be a problem. Then, I turned to the Pets For Sale ads in the paper (this was the 20th century, remember)and realized that no one advertises "well behaved hypo-allergenic dog for free" in Marin County. Or in Sonoma or Napa for that matter.

 In fact, the only dogs which were available immediately were dachshunds. There were lots and lots of dachshunds. We chose one and brought him home and nursed him through mange and coerced him to bathe and tried, in vain, to teach him to fetch or roll over or beg. In all fairness, he excelled at Sit/Stay. Since it involved no action beyond inaction, I'm not sure it's all that much to brag about but it's all we've got.

As we watched the Westminster Dog Show last night, we heard breeds described as loyal, fierce, inquisitive, commanding, mischievous. We saw bright eyes and bushy tails and sleek coats. Mary Carillo is the perfect sportscaster for this event; she says what I'm thinking as it pops into my head. Yes, that one is hair with a face, that one is a cotton swab, this one requires no maintenance at all. There were fast dogs and proud dogs and helpful dogs and loving dogs. I heard myself rejecting them and desiring them and I hoped that TBG wasn't listening too closely.

He's been saying that he's going to get a dog once he has his knee replaced; he's looking forward to walking it. I keep reminding him that there's also poop patrol and mopping up indoor accidents and vet visits to consider. I keep reminding him that I've already assumed responsibility for a dog once in our marriage, because, although she tried her best, an eight year old can't really clean a carpet to my satisfaction. I'm not looking to repeat the performance.

On the other hand, having a cold nose snuggle up under my arm on the couch would feel pretty good right about now.


  1. I absolutely love dogs, but we will never get one. They are way too much work. Some of our friends have recently adopted dogs and now my 11 year-old has been doing the hard core press for a dog. She even did this campaign on her bedroom door of what she would do if she had a dog. Voting-she says her two other siblings want one too. The type of dog and lots and lots of pictures.

    We've negotiated down to two kittens after 5th grade and as long as she keeps her grades up. Cats are easy.

    Speaking of dogs... did you see that Gabby is getting a service dog? It came up on my news feeds yesterday.

    Hope you are having a great day.

    Megan xxx

  2. IMHO dogs are the BEST pets! Last time around when we needed a dog we got a 13 week old puppy and he is the BEST.DOG.EVER! He was already paper trained when we got him so that was good, and then we had to train him with the doggy door. My husband loves hiking in the forest with him. I just wish we had the space for 2 dogs, and then we would have taken his sister too.

  3. I've always lived with pets and we got our first cat within a few weeks of being married so our marriage has always had pets along for the ride. Dogs were here a couple of times too but they are more of a problem if you want to travel and can't take them. A cat you can leave for a week with dirt boxes and lots of food and water. A dog, not so much. Currently we have three cats, all abandoned pets by someone else, and I love them to pieces and enjoy their company. Someday maybe we'll have a dog again also.

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