i hate dogs

I hate ‘em.

That’s me a few years ago. Mom raised me a cat person. Cats seemed quiet and affectionate just the right amount of the time, compared to the needy, energetic, yipping dogs I’d been around. Like my childhood friend’s Chihuahua. Bug-eyed stares. Nervous and cold. It’d poop in their den and my friend would bribe me to clean it up. Our cats were house-trained.

My future mother-in-law had two Miniature Schnauzers. They’d hop on the couch and sniff, brushing me with their salt and pepper beards, and I’d cower. “You don’t like dogs, do you?” I decided brutal honesty was called for in case this was a deal-breaker. “Can’t stand them.” It went over okay. They said at least the dogs liked me, and dogs sense good people.

One of the Schnauzers belonged to my wife. She assured me, “My mom is so attached to those dogs, she’ll never let one go.” The phone rang immediately after we were married and in our first house. “Come. Get. Your. Dog.” The honeymoon was over.

I won the battle over the dog sleeping on the bed, its head on the pillows between us like it was used to at the in-laws’, but I didn’t win the war. That dog passed, succeeded by a Jack Rat despite my protests. I wear the pants in this family. Monday through Friday, 7:30 to 4:00.

Our daughter wanted a big dog. Sounded like a problem multiplied. Bigger barks, vomit, puddles and poop. I put my foot down because we had a small backyard, but promised that if we ever moved to the country, she could have a big dog. Maybe two.

We moved, and this happened…

2016 02 06 tilly

We got into our country home in October that year. I told my daughter to wait for Spring, that if she got a big dog, it’d be an outside dog, and I didn’t want her whining that her puppy was freezing in the cold.

She brought Tilly home in December. German Shepherd and Canadian Wolf mix. “Legit,” said one of my son’s friends. A typical small dog, as far as I was concerned—it being a puppy and all. Running, biting, yipping, occasionally howling. Once, it lost track of my wife in the house, sat, pointed its nose at the ceiling and let loose a long howl. Cute, for about a sec. My son had friends over and one noted our puppy was freezing outside. My son said, “It’s a wolf. From Canada. It ain’t cold.” High five.

Tilly grew big. She destroyed everything. The corner of the entertainment center. The sprinkler system. The satellite dish wires. I had to put a steel dryer vent on the back of the house. She jumped and put her mouth on our arms—perfect bite inhibition, but you’d look down and see your forearm in the mouth of a wolf and yank it back and, well, her teeth were serrated like a shark’s. We have scars.

At a year and a half, Tilly abruptly matured. No jumping and scarring. If she ever barked, we checked around the house because something or someone strange had shown up. She didn’t growl in play, which was a little unnerving, being used to the frothy snarls of the Jack Rat. Tilly became calm and unobtrusive. Like a big cat.

I ran across a passage in a book that explained my mindset. From Drive, Ride, Repeat by Al Macy:

Ted and Britta have a little dog named “Sophie.” It’s some kind of Lassie Apso, or Cocka Shitzel. I’ll now draw on my vast scientific background to tell you something about dogs. Here is an actual brain of a dog:
2016 02 06 dog brain barrier
The lightning bolt things are neuroses attempting to enter the dog’s brain. Large dogs have a “dog brain barrier” (Canis cerebrum obice) which keeps the neuroses from entering the brain. This barrier is absent in small dogs.

I apologize. If you have small dogs and love them, great. I’m sure they’re the best. Maybe I’m not quite the good person those Schnauzers sensed. But for me, Al Macy hit the nail on the head. Why I love dogs, big dogs, and took so long to discover it.

Then came Taiga, our Siberian Husky. And that’s a different story.


The dog brain illustration, courtesy of Al Macy.

Those are Taiga’s eyes at the top of the post. She has the attitude to match.

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