14 June 2007

Good Dog!

Last Sunday Arthur Phillips penned a lovely paean to his former and present beagle. Yes, it was about dogs and it was in the Sunday Times.

We do not own a dog, nor any pet for that matter. My younger son has begged us for a good for a long time and we have stoutly declined. When we lived in an apartment it was easy – too small, too noisy, and the rules forbade it. Actually only dogs were not allowed, but we were evasive on this one for a while to buy time. Now that we live in a house, and we see folks with dogs and watch other critters moseying about, it is harder. Fortunately, he has hit puberty and his affections are drifting more toward girls than beagles.

Emotionally, he would be happier with beagles right now. The sturm und drang of adolescent love is a miserable passage. So far he has weathered it well enough, largely by staying close to shore. It is only a matter of time, though. But I digress.

I grew up with pets all around. My folks had cats from before I was born. Mother told of the one they had as a couple that followed dad to the bus stop each morning and met him in the evening. He did not stay there all day. According to her, the cat came home after ‘dropping him off’ and somehow knew when to leave to meet the right bus when he arrived. Weird huh?

We had lots of other cats over the years, often the remains of litters born among us. I remember a fourth generation of a matriarchy that began before I was nine and lasted into my late thirties of not my forties. Others came and went. I tell folks that I did not know that one’s nose was for breathing until I left for college, for only then did the stuffiness go away.

And not just cats. We sheltered at least two dogs of long standing, an assortment of guinea pigs and turtles and other school day denizens. I enjoyed them all and know well the valium like value of a pet. So why don’t we have any now?

I tell my son it’s because we already have a pet, you. I then talk about the mess, the cost, the effort, but mostly it’s because they deserve better than us. My cynical self says it is a good thing humans tend to live in cities because that leaves more room for animals to go about their business unharried.

Truth to tell, when the boys leave I think we shall take in a companion creature. Then I may have the time and attention it requires. I suspect it will be a cat, as they suit me well. But a dog is not out of the question.

The poopy baggie thing is a disincentive though. Long ago, when I lived in Texas and had business that took my to NYC for the first time in my adult life, I remember my walk one morning.

Across the street I saw an elder woman walking her dog. She was quite tiny and dignified, with her long mink coat and matching mink hat. Even at that hour she had heels on. Without doubt she was a woman who was someone at least to herself. And why not, living there in fashionable Murray Hill, along Park Avenue within sight of the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station. Then I saw her pausing to collect her dog’s droppings, and then move on carrying a little steamy brown package. The irony stayed with me all those years, as it happened fifteen years ago. I grew accustomed to it when I lived there, but the irony of elegant upper classness carrying about bags of dog droppings never went away entirely. On my good days I admired their affection for their animals. On bad days I wondered why they could be so nice to an animal and so immune to other people.

Animals. The more we try not to be one, the more we become one.


Paul said...

I will never forget my first dog. We were such pals. :)

elwin said...

A bird. Get a bird. A neighbor gave(!) us a cockatiel a year ago. Harrison (named after George) is a darling. He kisses my nose in the morning. He says "Good Morning." He whistles like a construction worker watching the gals go by. He goes off like an alarm clock when he's scared or lonely. He chirps/barks when I drive up in the car. Then there's his special little chirp when his cheeks are smoothed or his neck is scratched. Really amazing, interactive, easy to care for, affectionate. Who needs a dog or cat?

And the poops are ever so managable.