My relationship with dogs started when I was a young child, on a sunny day in the dining room of my best friend Susan’s house. Her dog, Sabrina, who was as large as a baby elephant, chased me around Susan’s dining room table, like I was the tastiest doggy treat ever. Luckily, I was a fast runner.
Still, I barely made it out of there alive.
So you can understand why I now choose my best friends based on their dog ownership status. I try not to associate with people who have dogs, especially those who are bigger than me.
Which begs the question: Why did I move to Asheville - a city that has roughly 326 dogs per square inch? A place where you can’t hear the crickets at night over the baying dogs. Where you have to pass by a pooch on your way to the fiction section at your neighborhood book store.
Quite simply, I didn’t do my research. And it’s too late to move – I’ve unpacked all of my important knick knacks.
One of my favorite people in Asheville told me, “You are too removed from nature to appreciate a dog licking you.”
This - coming from a man who enjoys terrorizing the pit bull who lives on his street - is hard to swallow. After all, I love nature. I appreciate the importance of all living things. I can’t even squash a beetle. Do I have to love being licked by dogs, too?
And do I have to watch dogs licking other people? My cousin recently sent the entire universe a video of his baby daughter with their dog. The dog was licking the child all over, even on the lips! Quite frankly, it was unnerving.
The other day, I was in my local grocery store (which I now have to consider a strike against), innocently on my way to some cheese, when I happened to glance at a frozen food display case holding French fries, chicken cutlets and….ice cream for dogs. Ice cream for DOGS? Did I read that correctly (or is it just another sign telling me I need to suck it up and buy those reading glasses I’ve been avoiding?) Are we soon going to see these furry beasts lounging on park benches, licking ice cream cones?
The only good thing about dogs is that they can be a topic of fairly animated discussion when you’ve run out of things to talk about on a lunch date, particularly if you’re dining with fellow dog-averse people. I was recently at a restaurant with some friends and we were discussing how people who own dogs treat their dogs like people. They take them everywhere and talk to them like they have a clue. We were conjecturing about where dogs would live if they weren’t pets and when (and why, of course) people started keeping dogs as pets. Then, we spent the next hour listing all of the bad things about dogs and I have to say, it was quite cathartic.
Dogs have special powers that frighten me. They are, most of the lot, mind-readers. They know that I think they smell and they’re insulted. Like my neighbor’s dog, who for a time, would run towards my car, barking in a frenzy and hurling himself against the trunk, as I drove by his house. I nearly ran over the dang critter a few times – by accident, of course.
Last month I was suffering at the YMCA, trying to contort my body into all sorts of unnatural positions in an exercise class, when I looked up to find a rather large dog staring right at me. Dogs at the gym now, too? Turns out it was a service dog, being trained and “learning how to be comfortable among people.” I’m opposed to that. I don’t want dogs comfortable around people. I want them to be scared silly when I'm around. Mostly so that they will choose not to bite me, despite their natural instinct.
Meanwhile, the bitter irony is that I can’t seem to keep dogs out of my otherwise serene life. Two dog-loving editors have forced me at gunpoint to write stories about dogs. My book club has selected a book about dogs (if I’d have known, I would have protested, believe me.) Then, I get the June issue of Oprah magazine in my mailbox (I’m, now, of course, not going to renew) and on the front cover, the woman is holding a bunch of dogs in her lap! Is someone trying to tell me something here?
Yesterday, I was driving behind someone whose license plate read, “YAP.” She’s probably a dog lover. I'm surprised she didn't have one of those "God is Dog Spelled Backwards" stickers on her bumper. I'd like to meet the people who make those stickers and tell them a thing or two. I’d like to chase that woman's car and hurl myself into her trunk in protest.
I might just do it, if I were a dog.