This is dedicated to Harley, the Wonderdog, and to my sister, who promised she wouldn't take offense:)
I grew up with a dog; loved the guy. Smokey was purchased two years before I was born, which meant that for the first fourteen years of my life, I only knew a household with a family dog. I walk with him, played with him, brushed him, and sneaked him food underneath our green melamine kitchen table. I remember being told one day, on my way home from school, that Smokey had passed away at the age of 16 1/2; I grieved. Conversely, my closest childhood friend had a pair of Bouviers in his house; he couldn't stand the things. He kept kicking them out of the room when they wanted a belly-scratching. Whenever he sent them away, I would call them over to my side of the couch for some love and attention. I couldn't understand how anyone couldn't want and love a family dog...until now.
We have three permanent, non-human residents in our house: Casper the guinea pig, and a couple of fish: Spot and Oscar. Since our household has that magical formula of tw0 young children and no dogs or cats, we happily volunteer to take care of other people's pets when family members leave on vacation. I'm happy to do it; it's like being an uncle: all the joy of having the kids frolic with a boisterous canine, and the freedom to hand the creature back to its rightful owner after a couple of weeks.
However, during the doggy daycare period, I become repeatedly reminded that I am far from being ready to become a full time dog owner....it's the little things:
* Like cuddling with the kids on the couch, wondering what my four year-old ate which gave her such foul gas, only to realize there's a dog panting on the carpet at my feet. I'm never sure if that smell is the pooch's breath or some emanation further down her digestive track; it always takes me a couple of days to identify one as the perfume of old fish, the other as, well, just plain funky.
* Like finding time between work, cooking, folding laundry, up-keeping a home, and crawling along in bumper to bumper traffic hoping to make it home for dinner only to make it on time, but first having to patrol the backyard for canine droppings before they become pancaked to little sneakers and bare feet. At first I would follow the dog into the backyard and immediately attempt to pickup any bowel movements, but found they were easier to grip if I waited a few hours.
* Like trying to take two steps from the stove to the sink while balancing a pot of boiling pasta, only to stub my toe on a furry rib cage belong to the animal who is once again lying on the floor three-and-a-half inches from my feet. (My son also tends to hover, but since he's taller than a dog, the result is usually my elbow in his eye).
* Like seeing what I, from a distance, perceive to be large spiders on the carpet and sofa, but realize are two of two thousand tufts of dog hair creating a new rug in the den.
* Like being greeted first thing in the morning, not only with the questions: "What's for breakfast?", "What are we doing to day?", "Can you sit next to me?" and "Do I have to brush my teeth?", but also with a barking dog rubbing my shins because she really needs to poop in my yard.
* Like having a guinea pig who's been given some sort of cheap kibble which causes her to drink abnormal amounts of water, giving her guinea pig diarrhea, so once I'm done picking up gag-worthy piles of doggy-do outside, I'm greeted with the scent of a rodent-with-the-runs inside.
I know, it's official, the older I get, the closer I am to completing my transformation into a stodgy old man. But we are who we are, and though I may one day find myself alone on a porch in a rocking chair making sure the neighbourhood kids aren't playing on my property, for now I do consider myself an animal lover. It's just that at this stage in my life, there are certain species I can love only a week or so at a time.