Thursday, November 1, 2007

So I'm not a pet lover

I can’t help it. I’m just not. Perhaps it is because my family never had any pets growing up other than two goldfish from a church festival. When one died, my mom flushed them both down the toilet, claiming the surviving one would have died of loneliness anyway. At age 10 you just go with it. Also, there was a very scary dog that lived near my grade school bus stop, and though none of us was ever attacked, I was intimated with every vicious bark. Eventually, my sister and I just switched bus stops.

Aside from the fish flushing, I have never been involved in any cruelty to animals. Well, once in grade school, I did drop a friend’s rabbit … it started to nibble my hand and I just freaked. No damage done. I don’t hate animals, I just have never really warmed to any in particular. I get the connection that people to do make with them. I understand that dogs, for instance, can be wonderful companions and truly become part of a family. While I understand and appreciate that bond, I have never personally experienced it. From my perspective as a non-pet owner, they appear to be a lot of work with the shedding, potty training (I struggle enough training humans), financial requirements, and other responsibilities you take on if you take your role as a pet owner seriously.

The bottom line, though, is that I am simply not comfortable around animals. They know it too. I firmly believe that dogs sense my fear. They seem to linger around me, even when there are other new faces, as if they know I’m the one who needs to be won over. I have tried not to pass these fears and anxieties on to my children, but one lick to the face from an overly friendly black lab has turned my 3 year old against the creatures. There is still hope for the younger one.

I understand that it is not cool or popular to not like pets and try to keep my feelings to myself. Last night though, I accidentally expressed my feelings on dogs to my neighborhood. Here’s the scene: A pre-Halloween bash on the driveway of a neighbor’s house. There are roughly 30 kids in costume as well as the accompanying parents. There’s a buffet table set up with delicacies such as hot dogs and chips. My husband was feeding our younger daughter, and I was taking my little Cinderella through the line. The homeowner’s dog kept darting under the food table, nearly taking out my little princess. We played through. (I sometimes get nervous taking items to a potluck, so I was busy reveling in the fact that the dish of mac and cheese I brought had been scraped clean, NTB.) Meanwhile, the dog blazed past again. Fortunately, I reacted quickly enough so that my Cinderella’s plate of food didn’t fly everywhere. OK, so I am thinking it would be nice for this large black furry dog (that’s the best description I can give as I have no idea what kind of dog it was) to go inside, but I will be a trooper. The dog goes over to a table and starts to eat some food off an abandoned plate. The plate’s owner comes to retrieve it, prompting the homeowner/dogowner to direct the dog away from the table. It’s my experience that dogs are about as cooperative as toddlers in these situations…he may go away for now, but rest assured he will return.

The tables are all taken so we set up shop at a chair. The dog immediately comes over to try to eat off our plates. I put the plate up on a high ledge as both children are now hovered around me. I cut the hotdog into pieces and put it in a separate bowl for Cinderella while I guard the main plate. The princess is happily eating, but makes the mistake of turning to talk to her dad, leaving an opening for the black beast to dart in, and consume the bowl of hotdogs. He knocks Cinderella out of the way in the process, sending her into hysterics.

At this point, I stand up and proclaim that WE DON’T LIKE DOGS AT THE R’S HOUSE. I am not a loud person, but apparently this was said with enough passion that I found many eyes staring at me. I tried to recover with WELL, IT’S JUST THAT WE AREN’T COMFORTABLE WITH THEM. The damage had been done. The homeowner came over, removed the dog, stating she didn’t want to upset Cinderella. I don’t think she was being sarcastic when she said that, but I honestly don’t know her well enough to know. I turned to my husband to ask if that was too much. He offered no comfort, simply saying, “yes.” I turned to clean up the scene of the crime and said to another neighbor that I thought my outburst might have been too much. She immediately responded, “Not at all. I loved it. I’m with you.” Had I just caused a great divide? Those for and those against canines on the loose? Her husband also subtly expressed his support.

So, I tried to be breezy the rest of the night. I engaged in conversation with a circle of three dogowners and didn’t feel any hatred. Perhaps they understood where I was coming from. I get that people are really close to their dogs. Dogs become part of the family, let’s even go so far as to say they become like children. Well, the truth is, you don’t let your child run wild and eat off other people’s plates so you shouldn’t let your dog do that either. Granted, had the subject in question actually been a child I certainly wouldn’t have proclaimed that WE DON’T LIKE KIDS AT THE R’S HOUSE, but hopefully you can see where I am going with this.

Dog etiquette should be in place at a party, especially one with kids, right? Or, is this just my issue?


M said...

You'll certainly get no argument from me. I am appalled at the number of people that bring dogs to people's home, uninvited. By now, it is obvious that I am not a dog lover but I saw firsthand the bond between her dog and my dear friend. Her dog was just like a private duty nurse, and I warmed to the dog for that reason. Under normal circumstances, leave the canine at home with all the slobber, and shedding, and deposits. (Deposits living on a corner lot is a whole different blog.) I would have been cheering you on.

MEP said...

I have been opening my heart to animals over the last few years. I admit, I am still quite unnatural and uncomfortable around dogs. I am pleased that the bub seems to love dogs and cats. He approaches them with no fear and lots of excitement.

I think you are in the right here. Most pet owners I know are really good about making sure non-pet people are comfortable. It sounds like these people were just a little late realizing that guests were uncomfortable and that intervention was needed. Plus, you weren't dissing their dog, just clarifying that you're not from a dog household. Don't sweat it and give Cinderella and the butterfly kisses and hugs from me.

hamilton mark said...

sounds like you created some akward tension at the party. In Pater fashion, pets of any kind don't seem to hold a soft spot in my heart. We certainly won't deny Rogan or Grace a pet but they will have to make a very strong sales pitch for one.
Lap i think your street credit has gone up in the neighborhood. This issue will blow right over and many functions will follow. Hell, your mac and cheese went like hotcakes. that's what people remember

WPA said...

PAL, I was moved to comment on your story. Firstly, I believe animals belong in the zoo or in the wild--not as pets in people's home. What I do enjoy about animals are stories of animals doing things to stupid humans. For example, did you hear the story of the Chinese Panda Gugu, who was first bitten by a drunk tourist last year and who recently attacked a person who got in his enclosure? Who would blame the Panda for that? But back to pets...Did you see The Office episode where Dwight mercy killed Angela's cat? Clearly, this anti-pet current is running strong in mainstream America to have made it on to TV. Only in America do people take pets so seriously and treat them like they are people. This was, I believe, Dwight's reason for the euthanasia of Sprinkles the cat (who was suffering). Congratulations for speaking up on this important issue.

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