By this I don’t mean that I find dogs disappointing – far from it. Although I really am a “cat person” we have always had dogs, when I was growing up, and my mother still has dogs now. They are family to me – I learned to walk holding on to our rescue greyhound, Gypsy, and a succession of German Shepherds have been sister dogs and companions to me.My older son doesn’t get this… it annoys him if the dogs look at him while we’re eating; whereas to me, sharing my food with animals is second nature…I am often to be found eating my lunch with one cat on my knee and Ting reaching out a long brown arm in an attempt to swipe something. If I am having dinner at my mother’s and Erin sighs at me and says “Nom-noms!” how am I supposed to resist?
Alex, my younger son, has a similar affinity with animals. Some of my fondest memories involve visiting petting zoos etc. with both my sons – Alex would engage directly with all the animals, talking to them, touching them, my older son was nearly eaten by a goat and refused to participate.
My mother’s dog Rowan was a great playmate for Alex, he would take his toys outside to play and explain the long and complicated game to her. She gave every appearance of both listening and being interested. Alex loves our canine family members too and they sense this and respond – when he came home at Christmas, Rocky was so pleased to see him he jumped straight over the four foot high garden gate and into his arms.
Likewise, my sister, who has three dogs of her own, two crossbreeds and a bulldog – they adore Alex. When we visit, the room is full of waving tails, grinning jaws and panting breath.
Then. And then. Then comes the disappointment. Alex returns to university. It’s just me. I go to visit my sister – the dogs are crowding at the door, panting and eager:
“Where is he? Where’s the fun one? Where’s the boy? Where … oh. It’s you. Just you.”
They look at me, having first looked behind me to ascertain that Alex isn’t hiding behind me… under my coat or in my bag… just in case he isn’t somehow immediately visible. Or perhaps delayed. I am subjected to a cursory sniff and a polite wag of the tail, then they return to their beds, disappointment evident in every line of their body.
“Yeah… just her then.”
“She’s boring – she screams when I snot on her…”
“I know – she doesn’t like muddy paw prints either…”
You get the idea.
So, leaving one set of disappointed dogs, I carry on down to my mother’s, mentally preparing myself to fail the next lot of canine expectations. My mother’s dogs hear the garden gate and they’re up at the windowsill, smiling and smearing their noses on the glass – I can hear my mother –
“Get off the bloody curtains!”
And then they see me. Just me. The tail wagging decreases a gear, the grins are slightly less frantic…
“Oh. Just her then.”
“Oh no! Oh no. The boy’s gone! But I love him!”
This from Rocky. I open the door and am quickly nose-frisked –
“Nope, she’s seen her sister, but no boy…”
I am subjected to the same inspection:
“No, he’s not behind her… check her bag… not in the hallway..”
Rocky and Erin resume their previous activities. I am left feeling distinctly lacking in dog -worthiness.
I cheer up at the thought of going home, having spent an afternoon disappointing dogs. Surely the cats will be pleased to see me… won’t they?