The Crazy Dog Lady
My dog is controlling my life and everybody knows it. They all think I’m crazy, but I don’t care.
Here is my logic: I do not have children. If I did, I would be less likely to think there was a person trapped inside my pet and treat her accordingly. If there was a human child in my life, I would be too busy to anthropomorphize my dog.
I am an unmarried, childless adult, and as a woman, I am hard-wired to want to nurture something. What a lucky dog I have, that she is the recipient of every ounce of mothering I possess. This means daily walks, gourmet dog food, doggie day care and a fierce reluctance to leave her alone for more than an hour. This translates as me spending exorbitant amounts of cash on her, staying home nights to be with her, and many dedicated hours of wrestling on the rug.
That’s a lot of effort poured into something barely the size of a human head. Cooper is 8 pounds of spotted pink flesh and chaotic, wiry hair. She suffered from mange as a puppy and never recovered her hair fully, leaving it sparse on her head, and completely naked on her chest. She has the appearance of an expensive jacket that was left in the dryer too long, shrunken and disheveled. Once, I passed a woman at the dog park who said to me, with slight distaste, “What IS that?”
To say that she is energetic is a ridiculous understatement. Imagine a manic, woolly, gremlin hurling itself at you as it frantically tries to stick its tongue up your nose. Imagine a small blur of black and white fuzz as it gleefully chases a ball for the thousandth time. But also imagine an intelligent and perceptive beast, who peers into you with the most guileless brown eyes you have ever seen. That’s Cooper.
When we walk down the street together, people stare at her. She inspires squeals of delight from children, and soft cooing from grown women. I’ve heard teenage miscreants marveling at how fast she runs, and tough looking men in leather jackets talk to her like a baby as they scratch her ears. Nearly everyone smiles when they spot her trotting along by my feet (or yanking me defiantly down the sidewalk). She, in turn, welcomes everyone equally, eagerly, with an unrestrained joy that is hard to resist. I have seen Cooper turn a scowl into a grin on dozens of faces.
If she were a human child, she would be the kind of kid who shaves her head and joins a band, but still wants to please her parents. She would sneak out of her room at night to hang with her friends, only to confess in the morning. I would catch her smoking, but not be able to bring myself to punish her when she starts crying. That’s the kind of kid she would be.
But she’s not a kid, she’s a dog, and aside from myself, she’s the only responsibility I have. That is how I justify treating her like a human being. If, in my life, she is the only creature that ever depends and relies on me, I damn well better do it right. However small and simple, that dog gives my life an added sense of purpose.
When you’re a kid, you hear the tale of the crazy cat lady, a mousy old spinster who prefers the company of animals to human beings. So what if I’ve become the crazy dog lady? So what if my friends roll their eyes when I announce that I cannot go to dinner, because Cooper needs company? At the end of the day, what makes me happy is knowing I did the best I could for my small family of two.