Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dog People

A few days ago, I turned to my wife and said "Perhaps we are not dog people".

For all of our life together, my wife and I have had cats as pets. Our current feline, named Boo, showed up at our door one cold winter's night, eventually working his way from our detached garage to our downstairs powder room to visits to the vet for shots and a check-up to "our" cat.

But earlier thise year we purchased a puppy, a "rescue".  He is a mixed breed, allegedly a beagle/lab mix.  I can see the lab portion readily enough; he has enormous feet.  It is a trait which is commented upon by most people who meet him for the first time.  I can hear the beagle portion when he howls.  "Bubba" is big on howling.  He howls to go out, he howls for more food, he howls when he is lonely.  He howls at any time of the day or night as his awareness of the time has not quite developed.  Regardless of his true lineage, our experience with him has been incredibly different as compared to that with cats. 
For those of you who have not "gone to the other side" in terms of per ownership, here are a few things to consider before you attempt it. 
Cats are self potty trained.  Dogs require lots of patience and paper towels.

Cats will graze from their food bowls, at times even leaving food to go bad.  Dogs eat virtually whatever is placed in their bowl, as quickly as possible, as well as anything else they encounter, indoors or out; food, wood, grass, trash, plastic, stones, gum, bottle caps, socks.  The list is endless.

Cats will snuggle and purr and rub against your leg, sometime for your attention, sometimes for affection, sometimes even for food.  Dogs step on your foot, collapse in your lap, nip your fingers, hair, earrings, zippers and bark in your face, also for attention and affection, but mostly for food.

Cats stare out the window as life passes by.  Dogs break through the screen to grab life by the neck.

Cats will tolerate other humans who might come by to visit, perhaps even meow a hi if the guest is a regular but generally treat them like just so much furniture.  Dogs bound towards new human guests, greeting them with licks and vicious tail wags.  I suspect they sense a new source of food.

Cats will go outside on their own, explore a bit, find a warm place to lay, then come home again.  Dogs drag their masters outside, sniff everything, pee everywhere, and go up the wrong steps more than once before they grudgingly allow themselves to return home.

Perhaps because a puppy requires so much work, perhaps because we do not have the same energy we did when our kids were young, but my wife did not disagree when I made my "not dog people" comment.

But today, while walking Bubba around town and through our neighborhood park, I was struck with the thought that Bubba is much more social than any cat we have ever had.  Everyone he encounters during his walks, he greets equally, with the same happiness and desire for affection.  Old or young, male or female, alone or in a group, Bubba is happy to meet new people and allows them all to pet him without nipping or jumping.  No judgements based on skin color, dress, age or gender.  Just pure joy to have his head stroked or pet by someone new.

Clearly, cats are the safer pet.  Less molded by their caretakers, self contained, even aloof.  Easier to own, assuming we own them and not the other way around.  But while dogs require more work, they also seem to embody the phrase "lust for life".  Whether bounding around the house, running amok at the dog park, or simply walking in and drinking from the local creek, they remind us that life is about meeting new people, taking chances, being vulnerable, depending on someone for food and affection.

Perhaps then, my wife and I will be able to bring out the inner dog in ourselves, and each other as we continue our life together.    

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