Soliloquy: I’m sure I hate dogs, don’t I?
When our middle daughter was small, she wanted a dog more than anything. She’d pore over books on dog breeds and dog care, and talk about dogs all the time. Her desire was for a West Highland white terrier — but any dog would do.
I remember how her face fell the birthday she received a bike rather than a dog. We told her that her present was outside. I could sense her heartbreak as she saw the bike.
We lived in a rental house, though, and couldn’t have a dog yet. She’d hoped and lost. When we finally had our own home, we gave her a dog, but it was a cocker spaniel, and not a very bright one.
Beau wasn’t a bad dog, but he barked constantly unless we were entertaining him, and in our older neighborhood — where houses are packed together — it wasn’t fair to our neighbors to keep him. We eventually found him a better home.
I had not grown up with dogs. It came as a shock to realize that owners must bathe dogs each week and clean up their messes every time they had to go. I’d grown up with cats. Cats take minimal care. They won’t fetch or roll over, but they’re nobody’s fool. If it were up to me, I’d have two or three sunning themselves in windows at all times.
My husband and two sons, however, are allergic to cats, and, though we have had cats, my family suffered. When our last cat died, we decided that was enough. We would be free of the responsibility of pets.
But this week, we suddenly inherited — at least temporarily — a dog. This is the dog my middle daughter would have loved as a child. He is a terrier — he looks just like Toto — and he’s a smart, well-behaved creature. He almost always reserves barking for legitimate needs.
I never thought I’d like dogs. The only dogs I’d known before were smelly and obnoxious animals. They were the kind of dogs that try to bowl you over, or nose your crotch, or drool and paw you. Yuck! I thought of dogs as trouble and nothing more.
They slobber and stink. They get into things they shouldn’t. They bark at your car or scare your kids. No doggie tricks or cute looks could make up for the hassle. I was sure I hated dogs.
No. I will never have a dog. I will never like a dog. You’d have to be crazy to own one.
But Toto is giving me a new perspective on dogs. I love taking him for walks. Some genius invented leash handles that dispense dog-doo bags. I used to roll my eyes at people enslaved to their animals, walking around, flapping doggy bags, servants to their pets.
“Who is walking whom?” I’d ask.
But it’s not so bad. And bathing him isn’t so bad, either.
I don’t like getting up at 6:20 each morning. It seems Toto must walk at that time each day. Fortunately, my husband has taken early morning duty while I’m still waking up. So far, he hasn’t complained.
Toto gets me moving. Nothing else motivates me to get out and walk, but Toto does. He trots at a good, crisp clip, too, so my blood pulses briskly through the day.
Who knows? This dog may actually be saving my life, improving my cardio health.
Never thought I’d say it, but I’m actually starting to like dogs. At least one of them.
Donna Marmorstein writes and lives in Aberdeen. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.