I came to dog ownership late in life - three years ago, to be exact, when we were adopted by a seven-month-old, escape-artist chocolate lab with a beguiling smile. The cats hated her on sight. My husband was both charmed and determined not to take her in. The kids adored her.
It all came about as my GrandDaughter and I were getting ready to go shopping. I had the car doors open (can't remember why they were all open, but they were...) and I was buckling GD into her booster seat when this gorgeous chocolate lab hopped into the car and sat down right next to her, tail thumping, tongue flapping, just pleased as punch to be going somewhere.
GD let out a scream I will never forget. She was terrified. Terrified.
The dog gave her a little tiny lick on the cheek.
This was not helpful. Also not helpful, I suppose, was the fact that I was whooping with laughter. My husband, who was working in the yard, got the dog out of the car. The rest of the family poured out of the house and surrounded the dog adoringly. Somebody said, "She's got a tag. We better call the owners." GD continued to wail.
GD and I left. The shopping calmed her down, but when we got back the dog was still there, still surrounded by worshipers, still thumping that tail. When the owners finally arrived they asked if we'd like to keep her; circumstances were making it very difficult for them to give her the attention she needed, and they wanted her to have a good home.
Here are some things I've learned:
Dogs will eat anything. And then they'll either throw it all back up or they'll crap it out in nasty puddles all over the yard.
Dogs are psychic. I don't mean they can read our minds (although they can). I mean they can make us read their minds. When Roxy wants something, she plants herself as close to me as she can get and gives me a meaningful stare. And I get up and let her out, or I fill her water bowl, or I get the leash off the hook and we go for a walk. My husband will see her staring at me while I'm trying to watch The News Hour, or Heroes, or some damn thing, and he'll say, "What does she want?" And I'll look at her for a minute and say, "She's thirsty." It's weird.
Dogs are really good at meeting people, and forcing their owners to meet people. I have a whole crew of friends who became my friends because of Roxy. My husband calls them the dog people. We have potlucks and go to football games and meet twice a week so our dogs can play.
You can't teach an old cat to like a young dog, but eventually the cat's sense of outrage will win out and the cat will reassert its property rights.
Dogs don't carry grudges. Lock them on the deck for hours while you're having the carpets cleaned, and they're thrilled when you let them back in the house. Same with leaving them at the vet's and the groomer's. Same with dropping them off at the kennel for a weekend. It's embarrassing. "Show some pride," I say to Roxy. "Hold me accountable." She wags her tail agreeably, which can be interpreted to mean, "Sure. Whatever you say."
Awkward introductions aside, grandchildren love dogs. Dogs love grandchildren. Dogs love to be trained by grandchildren because there are treats involved. Grandchildren love to train dogs because there are commands to be given. It's a match made in heaven.
Dogs know who will drop the most food at the dinner table, and they position themselves under that person's chair. That person's chair is never my husband's.
Dogs need to be walked every day, preferably twice, which results in improved behavior and health for the dogs and weight loss, lowered cholesterol, and lowered blood pressure for their owners. It's an all-around good deal.
Dogs can be taught to air kiss. Mwah, mwah. Good girl, aren't you clever?
Dogs can be shared. Eldest Daughter owns a house in the mountains near us, and Roxy lives there with her most weekends. She does not seem to find this confusing in the least. When she's on the mountain, she makes ED read her mind. When she's here, it's up to me.
A man can claim to be unhappy about owning a dog, but it won't keep him from playing with said dog at all hours of the day and night. The man might even be observed throwing balls for the dog in the house. Actions definitely speak louder than words when it comes to men and dogs.
There is no moral to this post, unless it's this: I was always a cat person. Now I'm a cat and dog person. It could happen to you, too, so don't be judgmental.