Saturday, August 7, 2010

How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?

I want a dog. I say this and people ask, "What kind of dog do you want?" I tell them I want a medium-sized black one with pointy ears and a bandanna, and they grin and back up a couple steps before saying, "You know a dog is a lot of work, right?," like the work I currently do best at is fingerpainting in the locked ward.

I'll admit that most of my previous dog experience comes from repeated viewings of the Guestian masterpiece Best In Show, and rolling around on the sidewalk with a fat Leslieville malamute that is just too adorable for words. Since my dad doesn't like dogs - he's afraid, which is natural, seeing as how they're cousins with wolves - we didn't really have them when I was a kid. Before my family moved to Japan, we had a mellow German Shepherd; Brea was given away because owning a large dog in Tokyo makes about as much sense as a bachelor owning a minivan.

My family has owned a series of mentally ill cats since we returned from Tokyo. Kasha ran away; Maggie used to hang out under the refrigerator when she was a kitten, and remains, eighteen years later, as skittish and spooky as ever. Molly has a fetish for sparkly pompoms, and will bite you when you feed her. My sister has done her best to damage them further, notably by taking them to inappropriate activities against their will. She once stuffed Maggie and Molly inside her parka (as she was wearing it) and took the dynamic duo sledding for half an hour.

As a result, I have a wary respect for my cats that borders on fearing them outright. I like other people's cats; I pet kittens on the sidewalk and cuddle with friend's cats on their couches. But cats don't really do it for me. I admire their independence and like petting the soft ones, but cats always seem to be rushing off to appointments or doing nefarious things in my closet.

I'll admit that I'm not really invested in pet culture as a general rule. The "fur kids" phenomenon that single people and couples without kids indulge themselves in is a little loopy for me: I don't want my pets to be my children, or my boyfriends. I want my pets to be my pets. Companions? Sure. Well-behaved roommates? Okay. A constant source of poop and shed fur? That just sort of comes with the territory. But I don't want my pets to wear outfits or sleep in my bed with me. I'm not looking for a surrogate baby. That creeps me out.

But the desire for a dog remains. Why? Who knows? I've had housemates with various forms of pets - I've lived with lizards and cats, gerbils and hamsters. Other houses in my sprawling co-op have lived with rats, snakes, and small, yappy dogs...sort of a bizarro food chain in some locales. People like pets. They like taking care of something, they like being outside themselves. Plus, the cuteness is a pretty big selling point. There are pets that are not totally cute, of course: the rodent family is kind of smelly, ferrets are pointy and icky, and don't get my started on the snakes-and-tarantula people. Those people are nutjobs. Dogs are standard issue kids of pets. I want one of those.

It might just be that I'm romancing the idea of a pet because my lifestyle right now can't really incorporate a dog. I live with, like, a jillion other people, and have zero cash monies because I am underemployed. A dog represents stability, keeping it together, having a plan and a schedule. Cats, while more flexible an option, always seem like they're running a business from your basement; like you're just their landlord. The only time I get any lovin' from cats is when I feed them. That's not nice. Dogs seem interested in the world around them. I like that interest. Plus, the cuteness.

We'll see what I can get. Maybe I'll sign up to be a dog walker at the Toronto SPCA; maybe I'll befriend a cabron with a pooch so I can spend some time rasslin' the thing. Maybe I'll get my life sorted out and get a freaking dog, like I've wanted to for years.

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