Until a year and a half ago, I was never a dog person. I hated how dogs smelled, didn’t like them jumping up on me, all their sniffing and circling, and – frankly, for a long time – I was afraid of them. (I have vintage memories of the neighbor’s loose German Shepherd chasing me, fangs at my knees.) Knowing that many people have a deep distrust of people who don’t like dogs, I generally tried to keep this character flaw to myself. I would quietly, under my breath, occasionally admit the fact, sometimes to the shock and dismay of an eavesdropping dog-lover. Thinking our children needed to grow up with a pet, my husband convinced me to buy our first dog seventeen years ago when our youngest child was three months old. Needless to say, I never bonded with that dog, never loved her. I didn’t want one more being to worry about beyond the three I already had.
And yet this morning, there I was, sipping my coffee on the back deck – one puppy asleep on my lap, the other in the chair next to me, peaceful.
I am a dog-person. Yes, I have found myself the owner of not one but two small white dogs. One is a Bichon Frise, the other, a Bichon-Shi Tzu mix. (Some people call them Shi-chons, or “teddy-bear dogs” because of their resemblance to the stuffed animal). To make my fondness for them all the more unbelievable, neither one of them is reliably housebroken (a common trait of Bichons, I’ve come to find out). “Oh – it will take two weeks, no problem!” the sweet-eyed, gap-toothed salesgirl told me when I bought the first dog.
My sister would probably attribute my new puppy infatuation to “cognitive dissonance” – the psychological mechanism that requires us to look favorably on something because it is such a pain in the ass: essentially that we can’t accept the psychic discord that would be caused if we didn’t love whatever we went through so much trouble for.
So perhaps I can attribute my new-found puppy love to the fact that the dogs piss and shit all over my living room (no, it’s not carpeted, thank god).
I have no explanation, just that I knew from the moment I saw each of them, that they were mine. The National Geographic Channel tells me the explanation is as simple as the chemical oxytocin that’s released in the brain when we’re in close physical contact with an animal or person.
But where I thought I was going with all this was to talk about the way people love dogs so much – “man’s best friend” and all – because dogs pretty much think we’re awesome even if we’re not. What’s not to like about that? Aside from the pee and poop. I’m reminded of the quote – difficult to attribute, but which some sources say belongs to a Toby Green – “My goal in life is to become as wonderful as my dog thinks I am.” Seriously, if my kids were as excited to see me when I come home from work as my dogs are, we wouldn’t need computers, cars, or television.
Yes, our dogs are the mirrors we wish to own – reflecting, in the best case, our (amazing) ideas and (sound) wishes, unfailing desire for our (inimitable) company and unbridled affection (aren’t we so wonderful to be with?!) And all with no requirement of fancy conversation or complicated interaction. Dogs are so easy to get along with.
Still, these puppies are a pain, waking me up each morning at six, messing up my house. But if I didn’t go through bottles of “Urine-off” spray and roll upon roll of Bounty, or take two walks around the neighborhood each day, and maintain the routine of kibble with beef broth in the morning, kibble with wet food at night, or deal with crates, training, jumping and barking – I might notice how quiet my house has become.