25 Mar

Confessions of a Canine Curmudgeon

“To put it bluntly, I don’t like your dog” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (March 25, 2011).

I have a confession to make: I’m not a dog lover. Never have been, never will be.

There, I’ve said it. Friends, relatives, neighbors, now you know the truth: I don’t love your dog.

For years, I’ve been putting on a friendly face, bending down with a fraudulent smile and pretending to enjoy combing my hands through Spot’s smelly mane. Or faking my way through a playful boxing match with Fido as he stands on his hindquarters to greet me at the door. Or pretending to enjoy putting my fingers into Sparky’s slobbery mouth to retrieve a tennis ball.

It was all an act, my fellow Homo sapiens. The truth is, I’m not too crazy about your adorable best friend.

I know this admission doesn’t bode well for my writing career. I’ll never be able to write that best-seller about my four-legged friend’s fellowship and frolics. I’ll never fill a newspaper column with stories about the time Charlie got skunked during a midnight bathroom break. Best-sellerdom is for the dogs, and I’m destined to a life of literary mediocrity.

That’s not to say that I have never enjoyed a canine’s company, or that I don’t appreciate the benefits of dog ownership. Dogs provide constant companionship, faithful friendship, and an opportunity for humans to make use of monikers they only wish they could give to their kids – like Mugsy, Maximus, Rocky, and Bandit.

All that being said, I still don’t want one. I know many people will find this curmudgeonly, blasphemous, and even un-American. That seems to be an especially common trait of dog owners: a failure to understand that there are some of us out there who just don’t love their dogs.

Hence the empty words of reassurance one often hears called across a field or sidewalk as a dog owner moseys over to retrieve her charging Rottweiler:

“Stop snarling, Chopper! It’s OK – he likes kids!”

“Oh, he may growl like a grizzly and have fangs like one, too, but that’s just his way of saying ‘Hello’!”

“Don’t worry, he won’t really bite. He just ‘nips’ when he’s playing!”

“Oh, he’s just a puppy. Get down, Killer!”

Tell that to your 7-year-old daughter as she clings to your leg in terror. Or the paperboy scared to collect his monthly fee because of the angry Doberman on the other side of the screen door.

Dog owners, take heed: Your assurances are not comforting to the rest of us. Yes, Fang may in fact be friendly, but if I wanted to be friends with him, I’d be the one running up to him and sticking my nose in his nether regions.

Dog owners could go a long way toward changing our opinions if they simply practiced a little more public relations for their canines. In addition to keeping the dog’s nose out of my private parts, a little due diligence in cleaning up after the fella would be appreciated. Neighborhood parks and nature preserves (not to mention my own backyard at times) have become doggy minefields. While I appreciate composting, I’d like to keep it out of the treads of my children’s sneakers.

And for those who do pick up after their dogs, while I do feel a bit sorry that you have to carry it around in a shopping bag, do you have to deposit it in my trash can? Things smell bad enough in there without a surprise souvenir on a sweltering July day.

Of course, not all dog owners are discourteous. But far too many of them are failing to recognize that some of us don’t want to be hounded by their dogs, or reminded of them by something on our shoes.

I suppose many animal lovers will think this sounds grumpy and irritable, and that perhaps the companionship of a pet would make me less cantankerous. Perhaps I could look into getting a cat. Unfortunately, though, I don’t like them, either.