I had an epiphany yesterday while driving to town. (Writers do their best thinking on road trips.) It started out with me already worrying about the ranch dogs at the place where we plan to park our travel trailer for two weeks while we explore the Central Coast.
Don’t hate me! But I find dogs to be rather a nuisance. Akkk! I can hear it now. In a country where an estimated 17-62% of people sleep with their dogs, I realize I am so politically incorrect. Most people would consider it a character flaw—a lack of sensitivity, coldness of heart, mean spiritedness and maybe a dark side that can be detected by four-footed little critters. I see myself in the politician who picks up a poopy little baby at his political rally and gives it a smooch for the cameras. Then hands it back to the mother before he breaks into hives.
I pet dogs with reluctance. For several seconds I’m considering the downside of extending my hand, which scientifically speaking is magnified a hecka-lotta times by the cones in a dog’s eyes. It sees this immense catcher’s mitt swooping down, blocking out the sunlight and invading its personal space. And what does it do? Wags its tail and begs for more. I find this insane.
My husband is a big yellow flower in the garden of dogdom. There is no dog too big, too growly or too stinky. He beckons and soon the dog is standing in front of us, panting and drooling, and I’m looking for froth, like with Old Yeller. Meanwhile my mouth is dry. My hands are trembling, I’m getting hot and my skin is producing fear scent. Still, I pet most dogs. And as soon as I can, I retract my hand and mentally count my fingers. Meanwhile my husband is burrowed in the dog’s fur and the two of them are romping around like new best friends while I look for someplace to wash my hands. Then there’s the matter of picking up the excrement when we walk our own dogs in town. Yuck. Can I say that again? Yuck.
Here’s the scoop (metaphorically speaking.) There’s a reason why dogs and me are a bit standoffish. I come from a long line of Norwegian women who didn’t let dogs in their tidy little houses—although to be fair, the great-greats in Norway kept goats under the house in the winter. These women prided themselves on their homes. Immaculate, germ-free homes. A huge, muddy dog on a Norwegian sofa? Think again.
Growing up, we had scruffy sheepherding dogs that stayed with the herd (and tended to kill any strange dog that entered the pasture.) Not exactly Lassie. And my cousins kept ranch dogs that were great guard dogs. I have the scars to prove it.
Full Disclosure, our Labs have the run of ten acres. They roll in strange stuff, swim in murky water and stink an hour after their baths. They fill anal glands with regularity and they don’t sleep in the house. They guard the chickens like their own, bark at the UPS man for treats and seem to be having a wonderful life in spite of having to sleep on their own beds.
Back to my epiphany. God and dog have the same three letters. I get that for many, rescuing dogs is an act of pure love—like feeding the poor, tending the sick or clothing the naked. Rescuing dogs is a Corporal Act of Mercy. For many, dogs are the path to spiritual enlightenment. For others, snakes, hamsters and little white rats.
I like the concept. I just don’t want to do it. I’ll feed the poor, diaper the poopy, anything. Does that make me crazy? Not to my friends who are cat crazy. They get my dog thing, completely.