I have three dogs. All mutts. All rescues. Each of them looks very different.
When I take all three of them places — for a walk, to the dog park, to the vet — we always draw attention.
I get tons of questions:
What are their names? How old are they? Are they all yours? Can I pet them? Those are simple questions with simple answers.
Then there are the more interesting ones: Where did you get them? Jasper and Lilah were pulled from a high-kill shelter in Louisiana, Tucker from Tennessee.
What kind of dogs are they? Lilah: probably a Border Collie mix. Tucker is some kind of terrier. Small Airedale? Touch of Lakeland? And Jasper is an unidentifiable houndish creature who looks more like Barfy, the dog in the Family Circus comic strip than any known breed, though when pressed our trainer guessed at Catahoula.
I love these conversations. I love talking about rescue and adoption. I love when anyone asks before petting. I love playing “Guess the breed.” It’s a wonderful way to start conversations and to meet people.
But way too often, there comes a point when someone says something like, “Want to know which one is my favorite?”
No. No I don’t. Really.
I don’t want to hear:
“I like the black one the best.”
“If I had to choose, I’d pick the big one.”
“My preference is for scruffy dogs.”
Why do you think I need to know that you like one of my dogs better than the others?
Who said you had to choose? I certainly didn’t.
I love all my dogs equally. They are individuals with different personalities and unique qualities.
Jasper — the 70-something pound hound mix — is part goofy clown, part princess. Everyone he meets is his best friend. Ever. He twists himself into a doggy croissant of waggy happiness when he greets people. Jasper doesn’t like to get his paws wet. And he’d rather relax or make a bed in a pile of leaves than run and play fetch. He’s like a big, friendly moose who wants nothing more than to curl up next to you on the couch and be petted.
Tucker is pure terrier, a scruffy pup with permanent bed head over his entire body. He lives to play ball. He has balls for our yard, and balls we throw inside the house. A master at the art of cute, Tucker’s expressive eyes peer out from under old-man eyebrows, wordlessly speaking volumes. He has his own special way to show he likes a person, which we call a Tucker Hug; he puts a paw on each of a kneeling person’s thighs and leans gently into their neck. Hearts are guaranteed to melt.
Lilah, the wise Border Collie mix, outwits the other two, pretending to play with a toy she dislikes in order to trick one of her brothers into dropping the desired one, and then she steals it. Her tail wags in sweeps like a flag of fur as she offers the sweetest, most gentle dog kisses you’ve ever received. A discerning judge of character, the highest compliment you can receive is to have Lilah lay herself on your feet. She does it rarely, and only with people who are good to the core.
So who are you to tell me one of them is better than the other? Which one you would like more. Even worse, which one you’d like to take home.
Shall I look at your children and say, “I like the brunette with the curls?” Or “If I had to choose, I’d pick your middle child.” Or “ I would take that small one home.”
Sounds a bit rude, huh? Maybe a bit creepy?
Why do you think I need to know your opinion? Trust me, I didn’t ask which one of my dogs you prefer.
Because I don’t care. I don’t want to know. I don’t need your judgement or your preferences about my dogs. I don’t want to know who you would take home if you could.
I don’t understand why you think you need to share that opinion with me. Do you judge everyone and everything you see? Every time you’re confronted with more than one of something, or someone, do you feel the need to pick the “best?”
Maybe that’s what bothers me about it — I can understand a person saying, “If I had to chose, I’d like chocolate chip mint, or “I liked The Fellowship of the Ring better than The Two Towers.” It makes sense that you might say, “Burnt umber is my favorite color,” — well maybe not burnt umber, but still.
My dogs aren’t things, folks. They are unique and fascinating souls. Just like my human children, they are my family. They love and are loved.
So, please. If you — for reasons I will never get — have an opinion about which of my dogs you “like best,” keep it to yourself. Neither I nor my dogs want to hear it.
We have better things to do, like relaxing on the couch, chasing balls or offering sweet dog kisses.
About the author: Susan C. Willett is a writer, photographer, and blogger whose award-winning original stories, photography, poetry, and humor can be found on the website Life With Dogs and Cats. She lives in New Jersey with four shelter cats (including Calvin T. Katz, the Most Interesting Cat in the World) and three dogs (all rescues) and at least a couple of humans — all of whom provide inspiration for her work. In addition to Life With Dogs and Cats, you can find more Lilah, Jasper, and Tucker (and the rest of the gang) on Haiku by Dog™, Haiku by Cat™, and Dogs and Cats Texting™.