Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dog People: Are They Nicer Than the Rest of Us?

By Mahlia Lindquist


There. I said it.  

Like a gay man who dates women or a light skinned person of mix race before integration, as an owner of two dogs I’ve had the credentials to “pass.”  By pass, I mean fitting into our dog obsessed society.  Even knowing I will be a reviled outcast, confession feels good. 

At last, I’m free to be me. I can admit I don’t like dogs on the furniture.That getting licked in the face is not charming and makes me want to vomit. 

Not so with Dog People. Dog People stop to admire random dogs on the street. They make blanket statements like “I love dogs.” 

I don’t.  For me, dogs are like people, not to be approached indiscriminately. Some I adore and for others the best I can muster is indifference. Others I find to be downright distasteful, such as my ex-mother in law’s Airedale. (Talk about a silver lining to that divorce! It was pure joy not to have to pretend to like that beast ever again.)

In My Defense

Just for the record:  I am not a dog hater.

I have two, Annie and Willow, and I love our pooches. 

I feed and walk them everyday. I rub their bellies and buy them treats. When Annie was attacked by a pack of coyotes, I paid thousands of dollars so that she might live. Now she is 16, howls in the wee hours, relieves herself inside exactly 5 minutes after her walk, and still I resist the temptation to toss her in the pool. I even fish her out when she stumbles in every few weeks. 

My ex-husband will confirm that while I have never called him weeping about our children, I have called him in tears about the dogs. Heck, a photo of Willow is my screen saver and I even wrote a blog post about him

If it isn't already obvious, I am defensive about not being a Dog Person. Is this sense of relief combined with the dread of public scorn what it feels like to come out of the closet?

Also for the record: Everything I’ve said so far about dogs mirrors my attitude about kids, especially the licking part. I have two girls and luckily I like them. When it comes to other children, it depends. 

What It Means to be a Dog Person

As a confessed “not a Dog Person” I wonder if, like a sociopath who cannot empathize, I lack something fundamental possessed by Dog People. I dated a self-proclaimed Dog Person, "Jack," who suggested as much. In retrospect, I think his point was that he, a Dog Person, is inherently a kinder, gentler, nicer human than I could ever be. 

Probably true. It's also true that while I adore Annie and Willow, I can't compete with his passion for dogs. But then, I don't know anyone who can.

The man wears his deceased dog’s ashes on a chain around his neck.  For real.  

When the dog died, Jack created a memorial shrine in his front foyer. The shrine included flowers, candles, photos, doggie toys, bones, and condolence cards. It's like what they do for Day of the Dead in Mexico, except in this case, it was more like Year of the Dead Dog. When Jack and I went our separate ways, fifteen months after the dog died, the altar was still there.  

Jack's heart hurts at the very thought of a dog in distress, so he was aghast when my family laughed the day Willow almost died. During our morning walk, a coyote made off with Willow. Horrified, I shouted, threw rocks, and chased the dog thief. If coyotes can laugh, this one certainly had one at my expense as he considered what would happen if I caught him. Happily, although I did not catch the coyote, it was not Willow's destiny to be dog meat that day and he escaped without a scratch.  

Willow's brush with death was a major family event and the girls and I replayed the scene many times. Always fanciful when it comes to our pets, we imagined Willow as the star of a Roadrunner episode and laughed at the juxtaposition of the two canines. Our fluffy, white, dog of privilege with his bandana and sparkly collar wriggling in the mouth of the scraggly,  wretched coyote who can't catch a break. 

Jack drove right over when he heard about Willow thinking, I suppose, we would be in need of comforting. Apparently, he did not expect to find laughter and goofy renditions of Willow in the jaws of death.

At first silent, he finally blurted, "it's not funny."  Confused, we looked at him blankly. As if we were cannibals who can't understand why humans shouldn't eat other humans, he tried to further explain,"this could have been Willow's last day on earth." 

We were still confused. 

Yes, it could have been Willow's last day, But, it wasn't. If he was hurt we would have been upset. But he wasn't.  If he died we would have been devastated. But he didn't. Willow was alive and well, and already back to his cheerful self. And so we were happy.

We all have close calls with disaster and even death.  At the time, we experience a jolt of fear, our heart skips a beat, a moment of gratitude and then, at least in my case, it's time to laugh. And then life goes on, until it doesn't.

Understandably, it was not long before Jack made an escape from our den of iniquity.

It has been a couple of years, but I still think about Jack. I'm curious if the shrine to his dog is still there. Jack is also a cat person, and I also wonder if when his cats pass Jack will wear those ashes too. Then there’s the question of what happens as other dogs and cats come and go in Jack's life. I imagine the menagerie of pet remains accumulating around Jack’s neck over the years as his various pets complete the circle of life.

I recently heard Jack got married, which got me to thinking. I wonder what he will do with his wife's remains if she predeceases him...

Why, oh why, am I cursed with such evil thoughts? I guess it's true, Dog People are kinder, gentler, nicer than I could ever hope to be.


  1. knowing how you feel about animals I wonder why in the heck my dog loves you so much and follows you around when you are here. Maybe because he can sense you are a kind, loving person and likes the fact that you are not in his face---he hates that.
    He doesn't know you don't like him and really doesn't care .I just love it!!!

    1. Mom, I love bandit. Any dog of yours is a dog of mine.

  2. I would say you are a dog person and your friend Jack is demented. I can't believe you dated him for 15 months. Anyway, I am very much like you' Two stories: I adored my dog Muffy but when she died at 18 yrs old in my bed - I was screaming - get her to my husband - I can't have a dead dog in my bed. I did cry for weeks and my Mom sent me a sympathy card - I missed her a lot. I had another calloused dog story which I can't remember right now, but to me there is a cycle to life and a dog's cycle is pretty short. Regarding kids, - yes I worship mine but opk - not so much. I think there are more people like us than there are of the "other kind".

  3. Yes, yes and yes. After I was done with this post I was thinking that I must seem like such a witch so I really appreciate the feedback.