on becoming a dog owner

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The thing I used to hate about dogs, when I was not in daily contact with three crazy ones, was that they loved anyone and everyone. They were indiscriminate in the wholesale distribution of their undemanding, unconditional love, and it just seemed…undignified, to me. Who wants an animal who loves you but also loves everyone else exactly and completely in the same way? You are not special, you are just a victim of a dog’s poor judgment. You could be a terrible person, and your dog does not care! Which is great, if you’re a terrible person! And if you aren’t, it doesn’t matter anyway, does it? Your dog is a tramp.

The whole dog companion thing seemed a little like a sham to me, and I was a little worried when I started dating a guy who has a dog, whose brother/roommate has a dog, whose other roommate also has a dog. That is a lot of dogs. They loved their dogs very much, and how would I deal with being polite about their dogs, and their love of their dogs? Who I was sure were very special dogs who were totally unlike any other dogs in the world and could totally kick all other dogs’s butts. Hello, dogs. Yes, I love you too okay, bye.

Porter Jackson, the sweet Boxer; Min, the crazy Mastiff; Bandit, the
grumpy little Pug: I grudgingly began to see that they were even,
possibly, above-average dogs in charm and looks, if not, in Min’s case,
intelligence. And I grew fond of them, spending time with them, and I
started to see that there are nuances in dog behavior–yes, they love
everyone so much oh my god we are totally best friends I love you so
much bye!, but there are stages of dog love. Hello, I am friendly! and,
Hello, I know you! and, Hello, you are family and this is real love,
especially when you feed me! And lastly, Hello, I love you best!
There’s such a difference between the first stage of impersonal dog
love and the last stage of absolute dog devotion, and it is a huge
difference that made me a little envious. It is nice to be loved; it
is nicest to be loved best.

It came to pass that the dogs found me to be family and loved me, and I
realized that I loved them back. They were fond of me, happy to see me,
snuggled with me sometimes, and it started to feel like a seal of
approval, every time they’d come to put their head on my knee or let me
scratch their ears or hang out with me and supervised while I worked. I
would feel flattered to be accepted, when Porter would climb up on my
lap and rest his chin on my shoulder, or Bandit would actually heave
himself up and putter across the room to allow me to rub his ears the
way he likes, and Min would stand over me and stare until I allowed her
under my blanket, and then collapse on my lap and sigh and fall asleep.

And now: Min, crazy, neurotic, a little wild and out of control, the
problem child–her owner is rarely able to be home, she is weird and
whiny and jealous of the other dogs, she drools and is a little gross,
she’s incredibly stubborn, she rarely listens, she craves attention and
approval and love, she’s big and unwieldy and clumsy and weird. She
reminds me of me, and she has become my favorite and she has become
mine. I’ve ascended in the dog hierarchy of love, and I have got a dog
who loves me best, who follows me through the house, who listens
(sometimes) when I talk, who is determined to crawl into bed with us
when I’m over and lie directly on top of me, who lies at my feet, who
gives me dog kisses (and she never gives anyone dog kisses). “She’s
less crazy since you started paying attention to her,” E says, and I
feel ridiculously lucky, to be loved so much and so devotedly by this
sweet, nutty creature who thinks I am the bee’s knees.

4 Replies to “on becoming a dog owner”

  1. My dog Frankie is not the first pet dog I have had, but he is the first dog I ever had that was truly “mine” and he does indeed love me best. And it is the most wonderful feeling in the world! Dogs are awesome! And yes, I do love my cat as well. It IS possible to love both dogs and cats. ;-)

  2. As a past owner of dogs and cats, yes, Renee, it is definitely quite possible to love dogs and cats equally depending on the animal. Anne will attest to that fact. We had two great loveable and loving animals – Shadow, a lab and German Shepherd mix and Max, the most intelligent, loving cat you would ever want to met. We had many others but they were the best.

  3. I have two dogs, which is a constant surprise to me, having never been a dog lover. Indeed, my teen years were spent ferreting out my friends’ cats, trying to pet them. However, the WCM is a dog person who disdains felines, and so we got dogs.
    My Slider, my first dog, is my heart dog. When he goes – an event that I really don’t want to contemplate – he’s going to take a piece of my heart with him. He was my first baby, my lovey, my adopted child. He’s 12 years old now, and I may, if I’m lucky, still have him for another 4 years.
    My Zippy, is a DOG. He’s unabashed about it, too. He licks himself inappropriately, drools, eats everything (and I do mean *everything* – gross!) that’s not nailed down, and is a general shedding nuisance. He is, however, one of the most patient and affectionate beasts ever born, and has been my daughter’s dog since she was just months old.
    They grab your heart, dogs do, with their simple personalities, their unwavering loyalty, and their unconditional affection. It makes me wonder how I ever disliked them.

  4. I’ve loved every dog we’ve ever had. My Raji and I had a very special bond–even though she loved her “daddy” the best. But my current dog, Bailey, is the first dog I’ve owned who is MY dog, first and foremost. And it is, indeed, nicest to be lovesd best. Spouse is terribly jealous, though.

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