Friday, August 12, 2011

Stop and Sniff the Fire Hydrant

For a few weeks this summer I was dog-sitting for my parents. They own two dogs, a Bolognese that I refer to in this blog as Neurotic Jr. and a Shetland Sheepdog (a sheltie) that I refer to as Jane Dog. My parents live in a different state, but they let me keep the dogs for a while and I managed to work out a deal with the landlord so that the dogs could stay with me. A close relative kept the dogs company when I had to work.

I thought that taking care of the dogs might give me some new writing material, like those inspirational dog vs. owner stories, where the dog is difficult to live with at first but ends up inspiring the owner to write inspirational stories about dogs. I thought that it might give me a new perspective on writing, because dogs like to stop, sniff, and examine everything; I thought that maybe people should try doing that too (except for the sniffing other dogs' butts part). But it didn't quite work out that way.

I took them to a small dog park on a regular basis. Even though several dog owners in Chicago live in apartment buildings, the people who own/manage those buildings freak out if the dogs venture near the small patches of grass in front of the buildings. The people will put up small fences around the grass. Or they'll put up signs that say stuff like "Keep dogs off grass" or "No Dogs allowed" (along with a picture of a dog with a big X over it) or "Please curb your dog" or "Don't even THINK about letting your dog defile the grass because otherwise I WILL come after you...and your little dog too!"

Neurotic Jr. is incredibly spoiled, because my parents treat her like a small child and refuse to discipline her. That may be why she insisted on being carried for most of the time during our "walks."

Me: Come on, Neurotic Jr.! Carrying you would defeat the purpose of the walk!
Neurotic Jr: (blinks at me and refuses to move)
Me: Oh, for Pete's sake!  Fine, I'll carry you!
Woman passing by: Oh, she's so cute! But why are you carrying her?
Me: I think she likes the view from up here. Or maybe I'm just a chump.

Jane Dog loves to bark at everything, which is the nature of shelties. Whenever a garbage truck, motorcycle, or bird passed by, her reaction was: "ArfarfarfarfarfARF!"

She also had this embarrassing habit of sniffing other people who passed by, so that sometimes a person would say, "Hey!" And I'd laugh sheepishly and say, "Oh, sorry! My dog didn't mean to stick her nose up your skirt (or shorts if it was a guy, because Jane Dog likes to sniff everyone). I guess she just likes you."

Of course, Neurotic Jr. would always throw one of her tantrums and Jane Dog would always go off into a barking fit in front of a person with the Perfect Dog, as in the kind of canine that is so well-behaved that it views barking as something that only "common" dogs do. The owner would wow the other owners with all sorts of tricks that Perfect Dog could do, like fetching a ball, rolling over and playing dead, and other things to show off its intelligence, like break dancing.

If you think I'm exaggerating about the break dancing, here's a video of a dog doing the merengue. Neurotic Jr. and Jane Dog would never consent to letting me put either of them in a skirt. Jane Dog would find some way to pull it off and then bark at it to make it go away. Neurotic Jr. would become hysterical and run all over the place, being sure to leave paw prints everywhere, if I came near her with one of those little doggie outfits.

When Neurotic Jr. refused to move and looked up at me as if to say, "You didn't really think I'd walk this time, did you? Have I taught you nothing?" and Jane Dog nearly broke free from her leash because she was barking her head off at a bench, Perfect Dog's owner would look at me and say, "That's quite the pair you have there!"

"Um, yeah," I'd say.

Perfect Dog would come running up at that moment and drop the ball in front of his owner's feet, panting, and he always looked like he was laughing at my dogs, as if to say, "Hahahahaha, you WISH you were as obedient as me, LOSERS!"

Neurotic Jr. would growl at him as if to say, "You want a piece of me? Why don't you come over here and I'll play fetch with your tail."

"I trained mine when he was still a puppy," Perfect Dog's owner would say. "Maybe you should look into obedience school."

"Uh-huh," I'd respond, even though what I was really thinking was, "WhatEVER, dude. Maybe you should look into getting a new personality. And get one for your dog, too."

But even though Neurotic Jr. and Jane Dog have their quirks, I love them anyway because really, who can resist adorable, huggable dogs who are always happy to see you? I wish I could keep them all the time, but my apartment is too small for two dogs. Plus my arms would get really tired from carrying Neurotic Jr. all the time.

What about you? Do you have pets? If you are a pet owner, do you ever find yourself incorporating animals into your stories? What do you think of those inspirational pet memoirs?

Side note: I would have included pictures of Neurotic Jr. and Jane Dog on the blog, but like me, they prefer to remain anonymous. But I think they'd be more willing to sit still for pictures and let me post the photos on my blog if they got more doggie treats and tummy rubs.


  1. I have a cat who loves and hates me in a way only a cat can. Your story had me cracking up. I've never had a well behaved dog, which is probably why I don't have one now. LOL!

  2. Hi, E.R. King,
    I think one reason I love Neurotic Jr. and Jane Dog so much is because they do whatever they want to do. I've never had a cat because I'm allergic to them. I think it's also because cats can somehow sense that I'm a dog person. (I make the exception for cats like Garfield, though. I think he's like a cartoon kindred spirit because like me, he loves naps and lasagna.)

  3. ...and dogs somehow sense that I'm a cat person and stick their heads in my lap to try to convert me! I'm slightly terrified of dogs and would probably be one of those grumpy owners with a fence around my yard (if I were so lucky to even have a yard, grr).

    Dogs are going to be dogs, just like cats are going to be cats. You can't control them 100% of the time. Besides, why would you want to? Their quirks are the reason why we're pet owners to begin with.

    It's Saturday so I'm not going to fix the prepositions at the end of my sentences. The grammar police are just going to have to let me slide for a day :)

  4. Hi Anna,
    I'm scared of cats because I always end up getting scratched every time I'm around one. I think it's part of their plot to take over the world.
    I wish I had a yard. Then I could have my own garden. I definitely would have to have a fence, though, because people might try to steal whatever's growing in the garden.
    I end my sentences with prepositions all the time. I think it would be fun to join the grammar police though. I wonder what the uniforms would look like? :)

  5. I think they sound adorable although slightly high maintenance. I'd much rather have a quirky, slightly mischievous pet than a perfectly trained one. At least they have some character!

    P.S. That dog dancing video scares me a little.

  6. Hi Alice X,
    My dogs are very quirky, especially Neurotic Jr. I think she believes that she's human. She is able to stand on her hind legs like the dancing dog, but only when she's trying to sneak food off the kitchen table.

  7. At least you got a blog post out of the dogs.

    I'm getting a dog next year for my 10-year-old daughter. I hope to be like The Dog Whisperer. I fear that I'll be more like the people he trains.

  8. Hi Theresa,
    I think that your daughter will love having a dog. I was just a little older than her when I got my first dog. And it's good for kids because it teaches them what it's like to take care of someone else.

  9. Loved this - I could just see Jane Dog and Neurotic Jr!

    I'd love to have pets, but sadly our flat is just too small...

  10. Hi Talli,
    I wish I could keep Jane Dog and Neurotic Jr. with me all the time. Dogs are a great stress reliever, especially because the fact that they're always in a good mood puts me in a good mood.