Though I had goldfish, gerbils, turtles, and hamsters before we got a kitten when I was 9 or so, I’ve been a dedicated cat person ever since. Lately, however, I have to restrain myself from running across the street to coo over small dogs like Pugs or Boston Terriers. I finally figured out that my dogological clock has started ticking, and it’s getting too loud for me to ignore.
As a kid, I didn’t meet many dogs because I stayed indoors and read a lot. I was never scared of the dogs I knew, who were friendly enough, but I didn’t know how to talk to them. My neighbors had a mellow-tempered Chow and a white shaggy dog named Toby. Smokey, the brown-and-white mutt upstairs, had one blue eye and one brown eye, which I found a little creepy.
My friend Sarah’s Cocker Spaniel, Barclay (pronounced BARK-lee), had polio that affected his back legs, so he had an odd hopping gait. Sarah would come by after school and we’d take him to the park at the bottom of my street and chat while he lolloped around. Once he’d done his business, we’d clip on his leash and head back home. (Bear in mind that this was 1980s Britain, and nobody was scooping their dogs’ poop back then. I remember piles of white dog poop crumbling away on the sidewalks.)
Apart from Barclay, I rarely hung out with dogs, and became even more of a cat person as the years went by. When my friend Gillian brought by her rescue German Shepherd one day, he seemed too big for the room, and my cats expressed their displeasure by climbing the curtains. I agreed with their judgement. Dogs were messy, stinky beasts who ruined a perfectly pleasant afternoon by making you put your book down to take them outside.
In 2000, I moved to San Francisco and found myself surrounded by dog people. Dogs of all sizes strolled the streets, which were full of cars bearing “Dog is my copilot” and “I have a dog — and I vote” bumper stickers. My husband’s boss had three adorable rescue mutts who took turns to sniff my hand warily before piling into my lap. I found I didn’t mind the smell of damp, enthusiastic Labradors.
As the editor of my neighborhood newspaper, I interviewed Pali of Rocket Dog Rescue, whose headquarters was two blocks from my house. It was hard to talk to her over the din of a horde of happy dogs who scrambled to trip me up throughout the house, but I was thoroughly charmed by the raggedy seniors and one-eyed little mutts she’d rescued. To this day, every time I see Pali she insists I should take home a foster dog or two.
I finally admitted to myself that I was warming up to dogs. My neighbor’s galumphing Bernese Mountain Dog figured this out pretty early on. She galumphs up the street to greet me and wuffs at me from the window. She leans into my legs, which I’m told means she likes me.
Fritz the Boston Terrier was the first pup I was really excited to see — and not just because his owner, my neighbor Brian, was always droll and entertaining. Fritz sat on my lap at Thanksgiving and gave the turkey doleful stares. He looked a lot like our cat, Mr. Jones, who everyone said was a French Bulldog in a cat outfit. Fritz was manageable. He wasn’t stinky. He didn’t howl. He didn’t chase my cats. I had a sudden realization. Small dogs were not unlike cats in lots of ways. Was I turning?
Getting the job at Dogster put me firmly in the danger zone; my dogological clock’s ticking became more urgent and a little louder. At any given time, there are six or seven dogs roaming the office or dozing in crates. I kept dog treats on my desk alongside human ones, and learned that my colleagues weren’t playing footsie — it was one of the office dogs nudging my leg to demand a snack. GiGi, Dogster’s advice columnist, learned to give me soulful eyes and submit to skritching before getting treats.
And oh, Dogster HQ’s visit to Muttville caused giant CLANGCLANGCLANG noises in my heart. My dogological clock now had church bells attached, and they were ringing out a “Getadoggetadoggetadoggetadog” carillon.
I sat on the Muttville couch and was immediately swarmed by elderly little woolly dogs who just wanted to curl up in my lap and doze. They were like cats without the purrs. Sibling Toy Poodles Ping and Pong crawled all over me; when I gently removed them, they climbed back aboard. I could feel my resolve weakening; if we’d stayed there much longer, I would have been signing foster papers and taking Kenny or Pong back to the office with me.
SAY’s Senior Helpdesk Analyst Mark Jeffries often left Bok Choy, his Boston Terrier/Chihuahua mix, in Dogster’s care during the day. I was terrified every time my colleagues stepped away. After all, I didn’t speak dog very well. Cat-sitting is easy, requiring nothing more than food, water, and a floor for the cat to ignore you on.
Bok Choy gave my boss, Janine, some kind of silent signal only dog people can hear, because she announced it was walkies time and I was in charge. Yikes! Going outside felt dangerous. What if someone stepped on him or another dog wanted to inspect his butt?
Bok Choy sniffed a few trees and trotted on. I didn’t need to pull or guide him. Suddenly he stopped and squatted by a tree. I felt triumph. My first poop! I fumbled for the plastic bag, knelt to swipe and scoop, and held it aloft. Ta-DAAA!
So what’s next, now that I have this unfulfilled yearning for some canine company? My husband insists that we’ll get a dog only over his dead body, so it looks like I’ll have to work on him first. Actually, I think I’ll let GiGi and Bok Choy work on him. They did it for me.
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