I Have the Sneaking Suspicion that My Dog is Seeing Other People

I walk the dog in the afternoon. She is excited. She understands habits and sequences and knows that when I put on pants and grab a few blueberries from the fridge that she is going outside. She has been at the front door wagging her tail since the sweats came off.

Though I grew up with a dog and I love dogs, I am and have for many years identified myself as a Cat Guy. It’s true. And I don’t really know how it happened, but I woke up one day and I was just a Cat Guy. I talked to the cat. I knew things about cats that other people don’t know, so I became a Cat Guy Aficionado. People called me for advice on cats. It’s then I decided to put my shoulder into it. You know, really be the Cat Guy. Go all in. Some people will find it pathetic, sure. You’ll have some twinges while seeing yourself parodied in movies, but oh well. And so I have cat mugs, a cat shirt, cat implements to remove hair. My students know all about my cat. I understand that they find this sadly charming, like it’s kind of charming, but at the same time I’m not on any “if the zombies come, who do you want in your crew” lists. I get it. It’s fine. I am a Cat Guy.

But now we have a dog. “Dogs are fine,” I always said. “I love dogs,” I always said. But I’m a Cat Guy. But now, of course, I am also a Dog Guy. Oh, I’m not that Dog Guy. I’m not going camping or hunting with my dog. I see other Dog Guys out there running or hiking with their dogs and I am not one of them. I will not be one of them. I understand what kind of a Dog Guy I am. My shih tzu’s legs are three inches long. When my shih tzu is sleeping among her toys and dolls, it is genuinely hard to tell she is a dog. During play my shih tzu has perfected the tactic of hiding behind the coffee table until things cool down. My shih tzu wears a jacket if it’s too cold. Burke is considering getting our shih tzu booties for walking in the snow and I am frantically googling to find out if this is a thing that people who aren’t Kim Kardashian do. I understand what kind of a Dog Guy I am. I’m a Small Dog Guy.

The thing is, I never realized how easy it was to be a Cat Guy. My cat doesn’t need to go downstairs every three hours, and she not only poops on her own like a nine year old child, she covers it up when she’s done like a 9 year old sociopath. She portions the food I leave out each day and when she wants more she just offers subtle hints like standing on my stomach or leaving threatening notes on the bathroom mirror in meat paste. She is independent. She sleeps a lot. She does her own thing. Not only does she not mind being alone, she prefers it. She stays alone until she comes out from under the couch like a good natured but kind of disturbed hermit who needs a few head pats and a drink from the sink.

The dog is far more complicated. Our dog is driven by a desire to eat food every second of every day. She has to pee and poop, like, all the time and I have to bring her downstairs to do so. Sometimes I have to dress her to do so. This is not what I signed up for, but I slowly stopped worrying about this and took on this role of Small Dog Guy. I resigned myself to it, put my shoulder into it, and now I am it.

And so today I bring my small dog downstairs. We leave the flat and as I lock the door, her shih tzu tail wags and I am being pulled. I realize I am not being pulled down the stairs, but up the stairs. When I lock the door I see our neighbor. The dog is jumping up on him and he’s petting her. He calls her by name and she is clearly excited to see him. We chat for a moment (me and the neighbor, I have nothing to say to the dog at this moment) and then I head downstairs. The dog sniffs everything on the patch of grass and eventually pees. Two men who are doing construction in the building are organizing their materials on the lawn. The dog rushes up to them and jumps up on them. They are big worker guys but they clearly love the dog. There is a nice little reunion. Yes, reunion. They also know her by name. Well what’s all this, I ask myself? This happens again and again. The lady who wears her robe outside from next door, the guy who wears a fanny pack and always smokes, the Vietnamese shop owner who after three years still gives me a disconcerted glance when I disappear down the aisle to molest his milk unobserved. They all love her. They all know her name. If that shop owner takes out a blueberry I will put my foot down.

What’s worse, my dog knows them too and reacts towards them the way she does when she sees me and Burke. Very, very happy. We have come to terms with the fac that our dog would be easier to steal than a dropped wallet. She loves people and will trust them, we think, as long as there’s the possibility of getting some food from the deal. So, perhaps the most difficult aspect of transitioning from Cat Guy into Small Dog Guy is dealing with the fact that your dog likes other people. My cat’s a sociopath and I suppose I took (take) pride in the fact that she likes only me. But the dog would leave my house with Jeffrey Dahmer if he had pork chop juice on his fingers.

When we get back home, I am slightly salty (not really, she would be licking my fingers). I release the dog from her leash and remove her jacket. The cat is lying on the heater and her look says it all: look who comes crawling back. I put on my cat sweater and for the rest of the day I take the cat’s side in all arguments.  

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