Every year, in the spring, Tracy goes to Utah with a few friends, most notably Alison, her old high-school buddy, and Jane, the one who rents the house near Moab for six weeks.
Tracy and I would text or email from time to time, hers on the order of “had another wonderful hike today” and mine on the order of “more rain today; worried about the sump pump.” But we didn’t communicate much. She was out in nature, which is what she likes most on earth. She was having her David Brower-Edward Abbey moment of clarity.
So imagine my surprise when she wrote me, “Skyful of stars tonight; Jane is researching poodle mixes.”
Poodle mixes! It was then that I felt the noose tightening. Even 800 miles away, surrounded by all the majesty that southeastern Utah can provide — and that’s a lotta vistas — she is plotting what kind of dog to get.
I have already expressed reservations about the dog. I do not see why we need a dog. We have a cat; I’d certainly be willing to go to two cats. Three cats, even, if that what it takes to shut down this line of inquiry. But no. She’s fixated on a dog. A dog! Imagine.
Tracy has lot of allies. They come from everywhere. Just mention that you’re thinking of getting a dog, and they’re immediately on you, phones out, showing you photos of Butch or Lord Byron or Shaggypaws or Irene, each with insanely needy eyes, staring out and saying, “yes, yes, I will follow you anywhere and lay down my life for you if needed.”
If Musty or K-9 or Clover were a human being, it would be said to have serious boundary issues. They’re like stalkers, dogs — they really, really love you and nothing you can do will dissuade them from following you, because you are the leader of the pack.
Is that what you want? An animal that would follow a tree stump if it could perform the appropriate dominance rituals? A fickle, heart-on-its-sleeve, let’s-sleep-together-so-I-can-take-up-all-the-room-and-snore, pet-like entity? People actively seek that out? What does that say about people?
A cat does not do that. A cat does not care who the leader of the pack is, because he’s in a pack of one and he’s the leader. A cat does not place any burden of expectation on you. Cat ownership is a series of one-night stands.
I have one committed relationship in my life, plus my daughters to whom I am also committed, and a few intense friendships — why do I need a creature from way down the food chain to bond with?
Tracy thinks the a poodle mix would be good. They don’t shed, I guess. And people who own them think they’re great, because people who own a special breed of dog think that it’s the specialest in whole damn world. The famous Jane came up with a poodle/dachshund mix (Poohund?) that is, quite frankly, the ugliest dog I have ever seen.
A little googling reveals that poodle mixes are the most popular designer dogs at the moment. (Doesn’t your blood chill a little bit when you hear the phrase “designer dog”?) Among the species are Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Bassetoodles, Bich-poos, Cavapoos, Aussidoodles, Peekapoos, and the Doodleman Pinscher. Really? Peekapoos?
Great Dane is a dog. Peekapoo is a brand of lingerie.
Tracy makes many points. A dog would get us out of the house. (So would going to a movie). A dog is a lot more fun to play with than a cat. (Who said the need for constant play was a desirable trait in a pet?) A poodle is hypoallergenic. (So is an elephant; I don’t want one of those either.) And, I dunno, we could dress it up and have pretend tea parties. (OK, she didn’t say that. But you could do it. Dogs are malleable.) (Need I say that a cat would never put up with someone dressing him in a cute pillbox hat. He’d be out of there, demonstrating the common sense of cats. Dogs and common sense: Not so much.)
And also, I have a pet. His name is Pancho. Just guessing here, but I don’t think he’d like a dog in his house. And my primary loyalty is to Pancho, who is a real cat as opposed to imaginary dog. Why would anyone want to torment him with a dog? Who could be that cruel? I can’t say for sure, but I am personally acquainted with a prime suspect.
But still, this conversation persists. People who think of me as weak-kneed and passive in domestic matters will have another think coming. Sure, my wife could convince me to hike five weeks in the Himalaya, but this is different. Yes, she managed to persuade me to invest in Berkshire Hathaway, although I didn’t see what the the big deal was about a shirt company. The stone circle in the front yard? It’s there, even though I mocked it. It looks pretty spiffy now, but…she can’t be right about everything.
The Cold War continues. The Vegas odds against my eventual victory are daunting, but I persist. I’m like Rocky. Perhaps I will buy a stuffed dog and bring it home, and every so often I would put it near Tracy’s face and say, “I love you so much, Tracy. Pet me please.” Wiggle wiggle. “Now I have to take a shit.”
Photography by Tracy “just the pathetic screams of a loser” Johnston
General help by Michelle “No nickname this week” Mizera