"Are you a dog person or a cat person?”
I hate that question. There are days when I don’t even consider myself a people person. Why bring pets into it?
Anyway, there is only one acceptable answer. While there are certainly people who prefer cats over dogs, we all know that it’s social suicide to admit it.
If you say you’re a dog person, people trust you.
“Yeah, dogs are the best,” they say. “They’re so loyal. You can kick a dog and it will still love you.”
I’m not sure why that’s considered an admirable quality, but dog lovers fall all over themselves to point out that dogs will do anything for you.
If say you prefer cats — as I do — people recoil in shock, as if you had just admitted you sneak into unoccupied camps on the weekends and steal copper pipe. Saying you’re a cat person implies you think it’s OK to be aloof, self-interested and occasionally hateful for no apparent reason. Granted, these aren’t qualities I care for in humans — even if I have them listed on my résumé — but I do respect that cats just don’t care what you think.
Dogs are nice. But cats have dignity. No, you can’t put a treat on a cat’s nose and make it sit there cross-eyed and quivering with anticipation until you give it the OK. Is that such a bad thing?
Cats aren’t worried about impressing you. And if you fail to please them, they give you that look — a cold stare, ears flattened slightly — and then slowly turn away in disgust. I aspire to be that cool.
It all comes down to what you want in a pet. I like an animal that can pretty much take care of itself. I don’t need a creature that follows me around the house begging for food and attention; I have a family for that.
Plus, it’s a lot more work to take care of a dog than a cat. Many people seem happy to put up with the mess, expense and inconvenience of a dog — but for what? Nothing but the pure, limitless affection they get in return, as far as I can tell.
Unfortunately, I live among dog people. My husband and daughter seem to think that a pet that gives pure, limitless affection is just what our household has been missing.
They’ve been on a We Need a Dog campaign for a few years, ever since we lost our yellow Lab. I’ve held them off with reminders of the downsides of dog ownership: the chewed shoes, the shedding, the vet bills, the barfing. Anyone who has ever owned a dog that rolled on a long-dead squirrel and then rubbed up against every piece of upholstered furniture in the house has to admit that unconditional love comes at a price.
And who wants to be tied down by the responsibility of caring for a dog? They need to go out every few hours, they practically die of loneliness every time you leave, and you can’t take off to backpack across Europe for the summer because you have to be home for them. (Full disclosure: We went away for two weekends all of last year. But I like to keep my options open.)
I held the family off for a long time, but I knew I’d lose the fight eventually. It happened last Friday, when — muttering about long-dead squirrels — I accompanied them to the Homeward Bound animal shelter to check out a small brown poodle/terrier mix.
They won the vote by a two-thirds majority.
I’d like to say that the new dog came home and tore up the couch and barked at passing cars and had accidents all over the house, and that my family realized I had been right all along.
But so far he hasn’t done any of that. He wags his tail and cocks his head in an inquisitive, heart-melting way. He plays for a bit and then seeks out the nearest lap — and sometimes it’s mine.
As he snuggles in, making happy little grunts, I scratch behind his ears and explain that I am not a dog person. He looks at me with his guileless brown eyes and gently touches the tip of his nose to mine. Then he lays his head on my shoulder and closes his eyes, his tail tapping two or three times as he leans into my chest and falls asleep.
In that moment, life is perfect.
I don’t care what it sounds like. I am not a dog person. But that pure, limitless affection thing? Let’s just say there may be something to it.