My family had pets growing up, we had all kinds. Dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, fish, guinea pigs… Some were held closer to our familial heart than others (sorry, gerbils, that’s not you), and like so many American families, it was dogs who occupied the #1 spot in the Pet Popularity Poll. Cats were a distant second, but if that fact bothered them at all, you would never know it from their demeanor. Even at a young age, I saw through the phony baloney of a dog’s talent for sucking up to its owner. All that drooling and humping and barking. OK, we get it, Rex. You like us. Great.
But cats? You have to love that ‘blow-it-out-your-ass’ feline attitude, the absolute ‘oh-it’s-you-again?’ indifference when you enter a room, all this as you’re busy fending off the dog’s obsequious fawning. As far as cats were concerned, if it was a soulless robot that filled the food dish and cleaned the litter box, that was just fine by them. Who needed to be stroked or cuddled? That was for those mindless, favor-currying mutts. The palpable whiff of disdain that I sensed from cats was powerful, so I gave very little thought to joining the cult of the dog as Pet Poobah. That is, until I did.
Of course, caving into that impulse would come back to haunt me later in life, so much so that I have even gotten to the point where I can honestly say that…
No, I can’t. I can’t say it. I don’t quite know how to put this without sounding like a serial killer… or a Nazi… or worst of all, an NFL quarterback. Ahhh, screw it, here it is: I don’t love dogs. Boom.
If that sounds like a hedge, it’s because it is. I got tired of the reaction to the statement “I hate dogs,” which often elicited horrified gasps of shock from people. I may as well have said I hate children or that I ATE children, even. I found myself on the defensive so often with the Hate position that my heels were rounded permanently after a while. I knew in my heart that somewhere, in a back alley on a dark side street, the entire membership of the Amalgamated Brotherhood of Cats meeting was having a good hearty laugh at my expense. Couldn’t stick your neck out with us cats, eh?, they mocked. Had to go with the populars, right?, they taunted. And they were right. They were.
I hear the murmuring bubbling up through my keyboard, so let’s tackle straight away the question you’re all asking: how is it that I came to hate dogs? Good question. But it has a good answer, too. Nay, that’s not strong enough; it has a GREAT answer, which is that dog OWNERS sucked worse than dogs did.
In the same way that bullets aren’t bad until they meet up with a gun and its owner, so it goes with pooches. And that’s precisely the situation I found myself in some years back. The people who lived next door to me at that time seemed absolutely hellbent on putting together a Hall of Fame roster of annoying dogs, a real Dream Team this was. Listen to this lineup: a Doberman, a yippy little lapdog, and a mutt, just for good measure. These bitches ticked every box of neighbor nightmares imaginable: they barked too loud, too long, and too early. They stank up the yard constantly and scared my young kids every time we tried to play in the yard.
The Doberman was especially scary to me, thanks to a crappy old TV-movie I saw when I was 8 years old called “The Doberman Gang,” about dogs that robbed banks. Apparently, I must have thought the film was a documentary because I never shook this wariness of that breed, even into adulthood. The early morning barking, though, would eventually become the first straw, the last straw, and the 800 straws in-between. When I confronted my neighbors after one of the many unscheduled 4:30 am wakeup encounters, they couldn’t fathom why I was upset. “He only barked once,” said the defensive owner. “That’s all it takes, though,” I replied, as the owner brazenly stroked the guilty barker’s head right in front of me. I think I saw the dog smile at me. He also may have mouthed a swear word at me, but I can’t be sure. (I’m totally sure he did).
Welcome to the World of Amazing But True Dog Owner Logic. It’s the same thing I hear when I’m in a NYC park and I see a dog off the leash, marauding his way around wherever he wants to go, and often frightening many people along the way. When I remind the owners that it’s against the law to have an unleashed dog in the park, they look like they might spit on me. “He doesn’t bite, he’s very friendly. What’s YOUR problem?” is the typical riposte I hear.
He doesn’t bite? Oh. Sorry, I didn’t know that. That probably means he’ll NEVER bite, right? Wrong. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that sounds a lot like when a guy shoots up his office and then all his neighbors say, “Cain’t believe it, he was a quiet guy, real friendly, he never hurt a soul.”
The moral: Dogs never bite… right up until the moment that they do. I’d rather not be their first victim. But dog owners don’t wanna know. You’re just the old man buzzkill that hates dogs, so piss off. I know it’s not all dog owners, but it’s a lot. All I’m asking for is a little inter-species agreement: stop barking so early and we’re good. (Cue the hate mail. Commencing Hate Mail Sequence).
PS – I now love my mother’s dog, Bailey. And also my friend Susan’s dog, Floppy.
One Dog At A Time.