As I write this, there’s a puppy curled up under my feet. She’s tired because I took her for a two-mile walk, in the rain. I’m happy that she’s sleeping, which led me to wonder why I could never get my children to take such peaceful naps.
I guess walking either one of them around the block, at a good pace, on a leash, would have raised a few eyebrows in the early 1990s (even though “child safety harnesses” are now available at popular stores. They come in teddy-bear-studded models with backpacks built-in!).
I’m not much of an animal aficionado—I trace it to having the toe cap of my sneaker nearly ripped off by a dog when I was four years old (my mom always reminds me that “it was a Chihuahua!” which leads me to reply, “our size ratio was closer then!”).
By the time I was nine, our family had a German Shepherd, Dame, and in home movies her arrival was greeted with great affection by my sister, who gleefully held the dog aloft. When the camera pans to me, I am nervously standing next to the confused pup, eyeing it with the suspicion I usually reserved for food that grown-ups would tell me to “just try, you’ll love it.” In my defense, I had probably just watched The Birds on the daily movie and had a lurking suspicion that animals could easily turn on us—and perhaps even pretended to be our friends as they waited to peck our eyeballs out.
I tolerated the dog, and it left me alone, finding slobbery happiness with all the other members of our family. As an adult, I had every excuse not to get a pet: “I live in a small apartment,” or “My boyfriend is allergic to pet dander.”
The arrival of children made it harder for me to press my case and those darn little kids, with their sad faces and crayon drawings of how happy our family could be with a pet, made me give in…to a kitten. I still didn’t want a dog. They’re a lot of work compared to cats, who pretty much do not want to be cuddled, dressed-up or jump on things unless they are expensive drapes or heirloom pieces of furniture.
But children grow up and do what they want (and lots of times, what their parents don’t want them to do), and now I have a grand-dog. She’s a miniature Australian Shepherd.
The breed is described as having a “strong dog work ethic.” So far, I think the only “work” she has in mind is to see me lose 30 pounds through fast walks full of short stops and neck-jerking spins. “Rosie” repeatedly pulls on the leash to smell heaven-knows-what and lick all manner of things inedible and offensive.
Of course, she’s adorable, and people stop us on our walks all the time to tell us so. But she’s also a little Cujo-like (the rabid dog in the Stephen King novel and movie). When no one is looking, she often jumps on me and growls, which makes me want to drop her leash and run away.
Even though my mom keeps telling me, “You’re getting really attached to that dog,” I know that deep down, a little girl with a Chihuahua stuck to her foot is always waiting for nature to take its true course. It makes me go home and look at our turtle (by far, the easiest pet of all time) with new appreciation. Even in my out-of-shape condition, I could probably out-run it.