Not a Dog Person?

I am not a dog person. Always loved animals; especially cats and horses, and birds are nice too. Cats, like birds, take care of themselves. No one needs to teach a bird to sing or fly, or a cat to poop in a litter box or outside. They do their business on their own; keep themselves clean; helpful for a busy woman with a full life and career.

Cats are fascinating, elegant and agile. They purr when you hold them. They find their way home. But what of dogs? Very high maintenance. Everyone says they’re so smart but they can’t keep themselves clean or learn to relieve themselves in a designated spot. They’ll eat anything – a leaf, your iPhone, the Sunday NY Times. Common sense eludes them (please don’t walk under feet!) and they are so needy.

Our tiny Havanese smells like a dog park. She’s just 10 weeks old and already has racked up nearly $1,000 in vet bills due to a bout with hypoglycemia. I find myself feeding her by hand, dipping my fingers into pungent dog food and offering it up, then preparing fresh chicken when regular food won’t suffice. She has more toys, fancy blankets and special beds and other accoutrements, including her own coat, than most human babies. My cat meanwhile, waits outside in the cold, happy for a momentary scratch on the neck and a handful of dry chow.

You’ve got to admire the temperament of the cat. She refuses the leash. No one owns her. A “domestic cat” is an oxymoron said George Will. She is graceful, patient, affectionate and courageous and did I say clean? Leonardo da Vinci said, “The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” He should know. Albert Schweitzer called “cats and music” the two refuges from life’s misery.

Thousands of years ago people worshiped cats like gods.

Known for their independence, and dogs for unconditional love, it’s been said cats have staff while dogs have owners. Sure the dog may lay down her life for you while cats merely lay down. But we’re not looking for a bodyguard, right?

Over the years I’ve had many cats. They get old and sick and die. It’s sad. But that’s the way it is. You probably won’t fly your cat to Salt Lake City for eye surgery or dialysis.

As I write this my “toy puppy” named Zuni, nearly falls off my lap. Cats don’t fall.

As an allergic child, I couldn’t have a dog. Grew up in LA with goats. How could I understand all the fuss?

The very next day our puppy does fall off my lap; a full foot to the hard wooden floor. She cries and whines this achy wail like a small child. I envision her back in the ER with her limbs in little doggie casts resting under pressed white sheets in a toy-doll hospital bed and then the $$$ bill. I hold her close and she nuzzles her little face into the center of my chest gazing up at me. My heart breaks. In seconds she’s forgiven my transgression. Loves me again.

What of this two pound pup looking at me with doggie eyes, flapping her ears and wagging her little tail whenever I walk into the room and following me around like I’m a gift from the gods. She sleeps on my chest watching me breathe with love sick puppy eyes, and later, stands on hind legs prancing in delight when I say, “Good job Zuni,” as if my words are the Westminster Best in Show trophy.

Dogs are so darn happy. Who finds joy in a piece of bark or a patch of snow?! Maybe people like dogs because as much as we have to teach them, they also teach us.

They remind us about moments and I guess about the goodness we want in ourselves; that perhaps we aren’t so bad after all. Maybe others, critical parents and bosses, and society in general missed something innately worthy and loveable in us that the dog sees. And maybe if they can accept us, we can feel this way about ourselves. Even when we let them fall.

By Cynthia Good

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