Of dogs and men

I really love my dog.

That may not seem like a particularly original or novel sentiment, and it probably isn’t, but if you told the pre-2010 version of me that I would write such a thing he’d be horrified.

We ended up with a dog (her name is Sydney) because my daughter became obsessed with desire for a pup of her own when she was 4 years old. She didn’t nag us about it so much as show a skill (which she’s really developed in recent years to a level that’s a bit scary) for disputing and destroying our arguments against the idea. After months of savaging our reasons for not adopting a rescue hound, one day, as I was walking her to school she simply said, “Why don’t we have a dog yet?” Before I could answer, she said, “Is it you?” And then before I could respond to that, she zeroed in on her foe, “Is it Mom?”

Mom, otherwise known as The Boss, really didn’t want any kind of pet. Her reasoning was pretty sound – it was going to be work, and there were lots of ways it could go very wrong. Animals are unpredictable, and what seems like a sweet addition to the family at the shelter can turn out to have an appetite for sofa cushions, be fond of peeing in obscure corners, suddenly decide to be bitey or be prone to barking in the middle of the night.

Ultimately though, a little girl who wants a doggie is hard to argue with. Make that impossible to argue with, because of the potential benefits that come with adopting a pup. Of course my argument against adding a furry family member was far less rational – over the years I had developed an irrational dislike of dogs.

We’d had a few dogs when I was growing up. The only one I remembered fondly was the standard poodle my father brought home shortly after I was born who’d been my best pal until we gave him up to a friend of my mothers after she and my father divorced and we had to move from our house into an apartment. He was a good dog in all the cliched ways people talk about good dogs. His successors… not so much.

First there was Terry, a stray terrier mix who my sister rescued from the streets of Stockton when she was in college who ended up with us. That dog was a menace. She chewed furniture. She chewed up books. She actually literally ate my homework once. She also maliciously pooped on the floor repeatedly.

Ok, so right now you’re saying, “Hold on, Joe. Dogs do not maliciously poop on your floor.” Nope. You’re wrong. I can remember a stretch of several weeks where every day when I came home from school having to clean poo off the carpet. I realized she was doing this on purpose when she poop right next to the front door, which, when I opened it, spread the poo across the carpet like spreading frosting on a cake. Terry didn’t want to be our dog. And shortly after the poo door incident she was sent to live with another friend of my mother’s, who had several dogs, a big yard and turned out to be Terry’s kind of people.

The other dog we had was with us so briefly we never got around to naming her. She was just wrong. I actually have no idea how we ended up with this repulsive creature in our house. I just know that the minute my mother brought her into the house both myself and our cat decided to retire to my room and pretty much stay there until it was gone. After that experience, I arbitrarily decided I did not like dogs. I pledged myself to a life of only cats as pets.

So, yeah, me being a dog person = pretty unlikely.

Keith Olbermann has said that having a dog for him was an experience like finding out there is a 27th letter in the alphabet. I agree. To say that Sydney has made me completely and utterly fall in love with her is a huge understatement. I credit my daughter’s ability to look into the pen at the shelter and say “that one,” with absolute confidence. That kid knows. She just does.

Is Syd flawless? Nope. Last week she got herself skunked for the third time since we’ve had her. She’s obsessive about policing and patrolling her land. Squirrels, cats, skunks and other beasts are completely unwelcome in our backyard, and Sydney vastly overestimates her ability to maintain her perimeter. But right now, at this moment she’s laying next to me as I type and it cures whatever is troubling me. Dog is love.

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