I have an abnormal love of dogs.
At least that’s what a former boyfriend told me when he broke up with me. (see the video evidence.) Which is funny, since I didn’t have a four-legged friend of my own at the time, and I still don’t have one today.
But, I have to admit, it is true.
I love dogs too much. I am – according to those who know me – the person who loves dogs the most despite not having one.
I am obsessed with dogs the way some tweens are obsessed with Taylor Swift, or how the Jennifer Jason Leigh character in Single White Female fixated on her roommate (minus the homicide.) I attribute my affinity for dogs to the fact that I was probably was one in another life. Never, ever walk down a street with me and expect me to ignore a dog. In fact, I can spot a pooch from a block away. My ears prick up. My proverbial tail starts to wag. I absolutely, positively must say hello to every hound I meet, most likely in a funny, high (and probably very annoying) voice.
Humans, however, don’t even register on my radar when there is a dog in motion. In the late 1990s, I was walking around New York’s West Village with several family members when I spotted two gorgeous labs. (If memory serves me right, one was yellow and the other was chocolate.) I got crouched down to give them lots of love and attention, completely ignoring their owner, naturally. When I looked up, it was Janeane Garofalo. (Here is hoping she understood. After all, she starred in The Truth about Cats and Dogs.)
I speak the secret language of dogs. I am the dog whisperer. While visiting a foreign city, I prefer to address dogs in their native language, as in “Bonjour, chien!” or “Hola, perro.” My personal favorite greeting is “Szia, kutya,” which is Hungarian. I use this greeting outside of Hungary for the bevy of stellar Hungarian dog breeds, including the Vizla, Komondor, Puli and Kuvasz. (Google them!)I absolutely, positively must say hello to every hound I meet, most likely in a funny, high (and probably very annoying) voice.
My first dog romance was a very handsome, insanely crazy Irish Setter named Duffy who chased trucks. After my parents got divorced, Duffy was sent to live several miles away with my father. And yet this wild red beast (whose ancestors hunted fowl) found his way back to our house — two times. Duffy barked at our front door, ran right up the stairs and plunked himself in front of my bedroom door. Duffy was a lover, and he loved me. He would wedge his nose under your arm, begging to be stroked.
After Duffy came Zelda, a spunky, little mutt with heavy Jack Russell terrier provenance. She always seemed to be on the run. I watched her get run over by a car at age six or seven, an experience that still rattles me decades later.
I will never forgive my mother for giving away Pearl, a silvery Cockapoo, when we later moved from our house to an apartment. Pearl was my bosom buddy, bedmate and best friend.
My father had Bo, a brilliant white standard poodle. My stepmom likes to say he had a PhD. He was very smart and exceptionally passive-aggressive. My father, who draws cartoons, likes to make renditions of Bo with a halo. The only time I ever heard my father cry was when he called to tell me that Bo died.
When I moved to New York City in the early 1990s, I answered a classified ad in the Village Voice for an apartment share. But it wasn’t the apartment’s massive size (four bedrooms) or prime location (West Village) that made me lobby hard for the room. I wanted to live with Zina, a German Shepard mutt, who was the best-trained dog I have ever met. Zina liked to walk without a leash. She would carry cans home from the grocery store in her mouth. When I changed my bed, Zina would burrow herself into the pile of sheets. She died in my arms in the back of a Toyota Corolla en route to the pet emergency room at the ripe old age of 17.
My pet name for all dogs male or female is Fred, thanks to the toy poodle my roommate had in college whose actual name was Brandon. Brandon used to bounce up and down whenever someone came to our front door. His little ears soared like Dumbo, which somehow earned him the name “Floppy Fred.” I have no clue why we give animals silly monikers, but isn’t everything that gives you love worthy of a term of endearment?
Three dogs attended my first wedding, including my niece Boo Boo (a shaggy gray Schnoodle). Boo Boo was a bridesmaid, and her flower collar cost more than the other wedding party bouquets. I’m currently planning my second wedding, and we are all hoping Boo Boo, now 16, can make it until I walk down the aisle again. I’ll likely have better luck with my nephew Wallace, a jaunty West Highland Terrier who still has some pep in his paws.
While I gravitate toward shaggy mutts, I have a canine crush on practically all dog breeds. In fact, I religiously go to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show each year, which is exactly like the movie Best in Show. I spend hours walking rows, admiring the breeds: Dachshund, Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen, Irish Wolfhound. I take endless photographs and talk to the breeders in their cute dog-themed attire accented with sequins.
So why don’t I have a dog? The answer comes down to real estate. For the past 15 years, I have lived in places that do not allow dogs. But my next New York City home will be dog-friendly.
Let me be clear. I love all living creatures. While I am, and will continue to be, a die-hard dog person, I do not hate cats. I actually like cats a lot, although they do make me sneeze. Yet cats are aloof. They don’t do tricks. They are soft, sometimes softer than dogs, and can be excellent bedmates, but I will never walk a cat on a leash or push one in one of those wussy baby carriage-like contraptions. I also love birds, fish, turtles, rodents and especially frogs. I hold spiders with the highest regard. Animal love is a two-way street, and dogs, my friends, love you unconditionally.
When a beloved dog dies, my friends often post that “Rainbow Bridge” poem.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.”
And while it is cheesy, it is my true vision of heaven: being reunited with all of the dogs I love.