I was a cat person. Dogs were too demanding, noisy, and needy. Cats, on the other hand—just throw out some food, pet them occasionally, they’ll keep the mice down (except if old and lazy, see previous blog A Better Rat Trap) and add to quality of life with purring and sleeping picturesquely in the windowsill. Until my mid-thirties, I actively disliked dogs. Always barking, biting, defecating in the yard and needing interaction. Give me a cat any day.
Then I became allergic. Virulently allergic. Just looking at one makes my eyes water and I’m overcome by hemorrhagic sneezing. Visiting the home of someone who owns a cat, even when said beastie is absent and furniture has been vacuumed, gives me asthma. And I don’t technically have asthma.
The doctor shrugged looking at the giant hives on my arm that erupted when he tested my reaction to cats.
“But I love my cats! I’m a cat person!” I wailed.
“Maybe you’re a
dog person now,” he said.
We gave away our indoor cats eleven years ago when we moved here and got a dog, a Chihuahua terrier who looks like a small black footstool. She’s a Rottweiler in a tiny body with a heart bigger than Texas; she’s the model for Keiki in my books. She’d do anything for her people and defend her home to the death. And joy of all joys, she’s pretty damn low maintenance.
White hairs appeared around her muzzle. Before we knew it, she was ten years old, and her bounding run had begun to be more of a waddle. The children had grown and gone, but thankfully she remained.
The love I had for this dog was a little frightening. It showed me I’d never really been a cat person, I’d always had a dog person inside screaming to get out. I decided if she died, I really couldn’t handle it. Now that I was an Empty Nester, I needed a transitional dog. Something fuzzy and cute, that liked to snuggle. Because wonderful as Our Girl was, she was a Rottweiler in a tiny body. She didn’t do snuggling.
So I bought another dog. He’s a Shih-Tzu, which I have tried to pronounce in other ways but still always comes out Shit Zoo. He was a one year old purebred that I got off Craigslist thinking the puppy phase would be taken care of. Turns out there were other, more insidious reasons why he was being sold.
1) He pees on the furniture. Not just a few times. Chronically. Nothing we’ve tried has really worked.
2) He’s dumb as a box of rocks. We didn’t know how smart Our Girl was until we got him. He doesn’t understand pointing. He looks at your hand and thinks that’s the objective, not the toy across the room. Can you imagine?
3) He’s high maintenance. He needs his anal glands expelled (MOTHER OF GOD!) monthly trips to (very expensive) groomer, and lots of attention. If you don’t give it to him he finds ways to take revenge, like pooping on the bed.
4) He dislikes my husband. He actually bit him one day, which almost caused a dogicide.
We almost got rid of him. But by then, I’d become attached to his pop-eyed, fuzzy face with the tongue chronically hanging out the side, so ugly he was cute. I told The Hubby, “one month with intensive training. If he doesn’t improve, back on Craigslist he goes.”
I worked hard on his training. We neutered him which killed the dream of having our own purebred puppy mill but helped with the whizzing. I used a lot of cheese and eventually we reached what psychologists like to call ‘homeostasis’- a state of balance where things are relatively okay, even if a little dysfunctional.
He’s still dumb. So dumb that when you go to play fetch, he ‘points’ in the direction HE thinks you’re going to throw the toy and never looks to see where it actually lands. He still pees, and we use a barricade to keep it from happening. He’s still high maintenance and expensive.
But lo and behold, he and The Hubby have figured out a truce. Oh, and he’s snuggly. His favorite place is on my body somewhere: feet, lap or tummy. Brushing his long hair is the kind of girly stupidity I’ve never indulged in before. And he’s young and will be around a long time, helping me over the hump when we eventually lose Our Girl.
This is what it is to be a dog person. Putting up with the yapping, the pooping, the ‘marking,’ the gnawing, the bickering with other dogs. Wouldn’t trade it for a cat, even if I had a choice.