My dog, Riggins, is an only child. In many ways, he suffers from only-child syndrome: He’s spoiled and needs to be the center of attention. This doesn’t mean he isn’t a social pup, though. From a very young age, Riggins would seek out attention from other dogs and adult humans. Kids? Kids he can’t stand. Unless part of the immediate family — so, my niece or nephew — children are an unwelcome annoyance! Don’t be angry with Riggins for this slight character flaw; he wasn’t around children growing up, so his tolerance for small humans who squeal, run, and frantically wave their limbs was never developed.
Riggins was such a cute puppy that he got a ridiculous amount of attention. Once a car actually stopped and backed up so the driver could tell me he was the cutest dog she had ever seen. I agreed — of course! He was the star pupil at his puppy training classes, and the teacher always pulled him to the front as an example of perfection. Our hikes would take longer than they should because almost everyone we passed had to crouch down and get themselves some Riggins love.
As a puppy, the besties he sought out where other dogs. He’d bound into the dog park, eager to get the party started with someone. He’d do flybys, running as fast as he could toward a dog and then veering off at the last minute so the target dog would be enticed to give chase. Off they would go, picking up more dogs for the train as they ran figure eights around the clusters of humans.
As Riggins got older, he started to grow out of his puppy face and into an awkward young adult. He just wasn’t turning heads like he used to. It hurt my heart when we would go for hikes and the people we passed no longer stopped to admire him and give him the love and attention I knew his little only-child heart desired! I could see him anticipate the pets that were guaranteed to come his way, only to have them never show up. I’d always give him extra love and kisses when he looked especially down, and I told him that he was my beautiful baby boy.
It seemed like the older he got, the more he craved human attention. His focus moved from the other dogs to the humans, thinking if he just tried hard enough he could gain their love and get their focus back.
When I became a dog sitter, Riggins and I were hiking with more dogs in tow. Some of these pups are glorious in their beauty. Turning heads for those dogs, even as adults, is no problem at all. Again, I’d feel terrible as people would come up to see Asscher, the beautiful blond Golden Retriever; or Shadow, whose exotic look drew humans to her; or tiny Dot, who literally begged for attention until she got it. It hurt to see my darling baby boy ignored!
When an adult came over to say hi to the pups, I’d encourage her to pay attention to Riggins. “The black dog is mine. He is the sweetest.” Or, “Riggins will let you pet him, he loves attention.” I’d pretend to talk to Riggins with the hope of shifting the human’s focus to my dog, “Oh, silly Riggins. You don’t need all the attention.” Or, “Oh goodness. Riggins, back away, you don’t need any more hugs.” When nothing else worked, I’d dust off my sales skills and entice them with some half-truths, like, “The black one just got a bath and smells delicious.” Or, “If you think that dog is soft, you should feel Riggins, smooth as silk!”
Riggins wasn’t as upset as I was. In fact, you could almost see the gears in his head turning. If the humans were coming to give his friends attention, then he was going to ride their coattails and capitalize on the situation!
I saw it happen first with Asscher. People were constantly coming up asking about her and wanting to give her love. Asscher, like most beauties, wasn’t really into being adored for her beauty alone — she has a brain, too! That suited Riggins just fine. When the humans came to see Asscher, he would get close so that he could soak up the sloppy seconds.
Now as a senior, he is a master at getting what he wants. Sliding into an appropriate position has become an art. Riggins can now smoothly duck under a human’s arm, slowly pushing away the other other pup as he wedges his way between the dog and the human who has been drawn to her. It’s something spectacular to watch. He executes this move with such style and grace.
The best part is that after he has made his move and is standing there getting the love he so richly deserves, he looks over to me as if to say, “See, Ma! I’ve still got it!” Yes you do, my baby boy! You are as gorgeous as the first day I laid eyes on you!
Does your dog need love from strangers? Let us know in the comments!
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About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.