My dog, Kerbey, is a quasi-Internet celebrity. With his cartoonish tiny legs, large torso, giant bat ears and confused eyes, any picture I put up of him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram is guaranteed to get mountains of likes, retweets or exclamations of, “OMG you have the best dog EVERRRRR.” If Kerbey just lived his life through the Internet, that “best dog ever” title would be an easy win. Unfortunately, like a high-angled MySpace photo, Kerbey’s online persona is not exactly entirely accurate. For you see, Kerbey can be a major jerk.
I don’t know quite when the moment was that my dog decided to be a jerk. I adopted him in November 2009. My eagerness to adopt a dog from the shelter was 85 percent based on love and kindness for animals — adopt shelter dogs, they need homes! But hey, I can’t front — I live in Austin, a city where dogs are basically allowed to go anywhere. Restaurants, bars, grocery stores, you name it. People with dogs are cool. And there was a tiny tiny tiny (okay, 15 percent) part of me that thought, “If I have an awesome dog, people will love me. More importantly, boys will love me. If I put a bandana on him, oh man, so many bearded hipster boys will love me.”
Shallow shallow shallow. I know. I know! I also know and plead to you, don’t adopt a dog for shallow reasons, because A) dogs are a long-term commitment that require a ton of care, and B) your petty reasoning may come to bite you in the behind, because your dog will bite the butts of these cute hipster boys.
At 28 pounds, he was the perfect choice for my 30-pound-limit apartment complex — a big dog in a compact body. And at first he was extremely timid and sweet. Strangers would wander up to him when I walked him and pet him while he blankly stared back. I’d get comments about his bizarre but adorable features; I’d even get runners going by and exclaiming, “Your dog is awesome!’” (Okay, that only happened once, but that did make my day.) I hadn’t even heard him bark in the first five months I had him.
The first time I heard him bark, I don’t remember the circumstances, but it was like discovering my dog had been practicing the dark arts. Then seeing him flip out over guests in my home, or suddenly feel threatened by everyone on the street — well, it was a situational comedy wacky adjustment at best, and a terrifying, “Dear God, please don’t let my dog bite someone and then get reported to animal control and get put down” at worst.
Today, when you first meet my dog, the best thing to do is just ignore him. Like Medusa, don’t look him in the eye, or else you risk releasing an ancient beast with a nightmarish bark. Okay, maybe even if you don’t look at him he might bark at you. I’m so so so sorry, and I feel so sad about this every time! Some folks handle this fine, especially if I play up the rescue-dog angle. (“He’s still just really confused and gets really easily stressed out!” I say, about my dog that I have had for nearly three years.) Others will grimace, like the man on a bicycle this evening. Oh yeah, don’t go near my dog on a bicycle, because he thinks those are straight-up bipedal demonry.
Oh, and gentlemen, particularly of the romantic variety: Please do not try to impress me and win my dog over. I swear, some men like to take this as some sort of sword-in-the-stone challenge. Instead of hearing me say, “Don’t look at my dog, just ignore him entirely the first few times you see him,” they hear, “If ye shall enchant the beast with your manly guile, then I offer my hand in non-serious courtship.”
Seriously, dude, I promise you will not impress my dog, and instead he will get stressed out, you will get stressed out, and I will get stressed out that my dog is trying to bite your face off. Also, Do NOT put your hand in front of his face. DO NOT PUT YOUR HAND IN FRONT OF HIS FACE. What is with people having this urge to do that with every dog they meet?! I know it’s supposed to be a way for a dog to smell you, but trust me, Kerbey is smelling you up the moment you walk in. Putting your hand to his nose is like offering him a body part to sacrifice to whatever pagan god he worships. So don’t do that.
I am cursed now with a guy-phobic dog whom I love dearly and would never take out of my life, which, needless to say, makes dating difficult. The few times I’ve gotten serious with a guy in the past few years, I’ve literally had to have an awkward talk with them that starts out with, “So, my dog really hates guys. He’s gonna yell at you and make crazy alien dog noises. It’s gonna be weird, and every time you want to make out in my house you probably better watch your back because my dog is ready to destroy everyone who touches me. But, we can get over that, right? Eventually he’ll hopefully maybe possibly kinda learn to like you.”
Most dudes can’t deal with that. Thing is, I don’t blame them. It’s awkward. It’s scary. I can hardly deal with that, which is probably why it’s still an emotional struggle when it comes to balancing my love life and my territorial shelter dog.
Over the past year, Kerbey has gotten a pinch better. He is comfortable and happy around my closest group of friends, and has eased up on the barking when a stranger arrives at my house. He’s even been good in dog parks, where at the very least he is either lovable or apathetic toward folks (something about dozens of unleashed dogs instantly chills him). Maybe one day I will bring a guy home and Kerbey will not flip his shit. Or, probably a more realistic hope, maybe one day I’ll date a guy who is patient about my ridiculous dog. Kerbey will probably never be the cool hipster dog hanging out in bars that a small part of my selfish heart wanted, and that’s A-OK, because I will always love this little stumpy, goofball dog friend.
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