IF YOU HAVE EVER FOUND YOURSELF in the unenviable position of telling the determined, relentless 5-year-old girl standing before you with feet planted in fighting stance, arms defiantly crossed on her chest, and a disdainful frown marring her cherubic face that you have no intention of getting her a dog, then you know you are in for a battle. A losing one, I might add.
It doesn’t matter if you already have two cats and a tarantula, and zero desire to add to the menagerie. Numbers are arbitrary to a 5-year-old. Reasoning that you just finished potty training kids and don’t want to potty train a dog won’t work. You can’t reason with a 5-year-old. Bribery is equally as futile. The toy dog that barks and walks is reliant on a functioning remote control leash to make it work. What happens when that leash “accidentally” breaks? The threat of an eternal time-out is nothing to a 5-year-old girl who wants a real dog.
Yes, she wore me down and I caved. We chose dog adoption and found it’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. Our prerequisites were smallish size, short hair, minimal drool. The resulting addition to our family: a dachshund-terrier mix (we were told he was a Chihuahua), with an underbite, outie belly button, wart on his chin, and what we have been told is a face only a mother can love on a head too small for his body. I immediately fell in love. We named him Reggie, and just like that, I became a dog person.
What they don’t tell you is that with dog ownership, you become a member of the exclusive Dog People Club. Other members are easy to spot. They don’t blink an eye when your dog sniffs the derriere of their dainty Maltese in a pink argyle sweater in the middle of Home Depot. At the dog park, they smile and simply wipe off the muddy paw prints your dog puts on their pants, as he has yet to grasp the “down” command. They offer you coffee instead of throwing you out of their house when your dog can’t decipher between a Christmas tree and all other trees, and pees on their Christmas presents. You, in return, gift this altruistic dog person with a new roll of gift wrap and a jug of Nature’s Miracle.
But it was when I landed the greatest gig ever, planning charity dog parties, that it became evident just how special dog people are. They will bring their pups to a Paw-dicure party to get manicures, doggy tattoos and massages to raise money to rescue high-kill shelter dogs. They’ll pay for a ticket to attend a doggy fashion show at Nordstrom and cheer shelter dogs modeling the latest haute couture, to give a face to all those sweet pups awaiting adoption. They’ll show up en masse to a Halloween pup crawl and bar hop in costume to support the local pit bull rescue. Believe me, there is nothing quite like the sight of a bulldog in a ladybug costume lapping up dog beer next to her bumblebee-clad owner drinking human beer.
Why are dog people like this? Because we know that dogs are pure good. They cuddle our children, calm our anxiety, entertain us, protect us, comfort us and love us, and ask nothing of us in return. Their souls are non-negotiable. Dogs only want the best for us and deserve the best of what we can give them in return.
This point was brought home to me on a recent Monday morning after I dragged myself out of bed to get ready for work. I emerged from the bathroom to find Reggie had taken my place, his head squarely on my pillow, covers up to his chest, paws crossed leisurely in front, with a quizzical look on his face, as if all were as it should be.
I recalled an encounter from one of my dog parties and laughed. A nice girl had come up to thank me for throwing the event. “Our dogs are our kids,” she said. “We don’t go to birthday parties or kids’ sports, so it is nice to be able to take them out and socialize.” Her words were kind, but what I remember most was the bright green T-shirt she wore, emblazoned with the words: “I WORK SO MY DOG CAN HAVE A BETTER LIFE.”
I looked down at Reggie, gave him a pat on the head and headed out the door to go to work. Enough said.*
Michelle Thompson is a children’s book author, freelance writer, marketing guru. She resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, two children, a dog, and a tarantula.