Dog lovers do it outdoors–and by that, I mean “life.” There's nothing like a dog to get you outside (because they have to be walked) mixing with the world and other people–so in my opinion, dog lovers are more friendly. Dog lovers interact with the world because their dogs make them–and they are richer for it, even if it's by having to carry a bag of steaming dog poop in public.

I began life as a cat person. Dogs, in my experience, were demanding, noisy, and needy. Cats, on the other hand—just throw out some food, pet them occasionally,  they’d 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. I actively disliked dogs. Always barking, biting, defecating in the yard and needing interaction. Give me a cat any day.

But 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.

So we gave away our cats years ago when we moved to Maui, and got a dog–a Chihuahua terrier who looks like a small black-and-tan 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.

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.) 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.

Look at these faces. What character, as they beg!

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 (my friend Beckee tried to teach me the Chinese way to pronounce it, and I couldn't). 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–but with time and training, we overcame those.

Dogs feature largely in my fiction, especially the newest book, Broken Ferns. Wherever there are dogs, there are “situations” that develop, situations that show courage, character development,  and are metaphors for other things like the love of a parent for a child, the brotherhood of arms, and the courage of conviction. Dogs are wonderful characters that illuminate aspects of our humanity–and in fairness, so are cats, the sly devils.

(I also think both kinds of pets are nearly as effective in promoting good mental health and mood improvement as an antidepressant. For people I'm working with for anxiety/depression who don't want to try meds, I recommend getting a dog–mainly because of the interaction demands. They care about their people and love them unconditionally, and can be counted on for an ecstatic welcome when you get home–where cats may or may not deign to notice.)

The truth is, I'd still be a cat person if I could–I'd have a cat inside and a dog outside. But there's no doubt, dog people do life more often outdoors.

What about you? Dog lover or cat person? Both?


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