Generally, people fall into one of two categories: cat people and dog people. Sometimes the two categories overlap, but most of the time, they don’t. And there can be as much animosity between the two camps as there are between Democrats and Republicans, jocks and nerds, Razorback fans and LSU fans. Cat people pride themselves on their emotional superiority. They don’t need an animal to worship and adore them, they say, they can handle an animal who isn’t always happy to see them, who doesn’t always welcome their affections, who doesn’t require constant stimulation and attention. Dog people enjoy having an animal who can be trained, who responds to commands, who can be taught tricks, and who can be taken to parks and out on other fun outings. Some people even try to genderize cats and dogs, suggesting that cats are more like females, and dogs are more like males.
I think I take a different tack. I am firmly in the dog-person camp, though I think cats are adorable and sometimes wish I had one to sit in my lap, purring while I read or watch TV– though I am convinced that the mere fact of this desire means that any cat I ever had would absolutely refuse to participate in such activities. No, to me, a dog person, there is division even among dog people. Dogs are, you see, like different types of girlfriends, and I fear that in this respect, I’m like the dog-owning equivalent of a male chauvenist pig.
I grew up in a house that always had terriers. Or terrorers, you be the judge. Terriers are known for their intellect and their tenacity. You might say they are known for being too damn smart for their own good and hard-headed to boot. Terrier owners, and other fans of “intelligent” breeds are like egalitarian men who date smart women and go on creative dates. The types who will stay up all night discussing literature or philosophy. They enjoy being challenged by an intellectual equal, the give and take of a good relationship. While I may enjoy this in my dating life, this is not the kind of relationship I’m looking for in a dog.
Nope. I like ’em dumb and pretty and always happy to see me. I want them to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, and I want affection on demand. When it comes to my dogs, I’m like a chubby middle aged MBA with an overeager trophy wife. And despite my otherwise feminist sensibilities, I’m fine with that.
You see, I didn’t know that I felt this way until we got a second dog. Our first dog, Bessie, a lab mix, is beautiful and loyal and eager to stick by us and make us smile. Perfect trophy dog material. Sure, we get some liberal cred because she’s a mix and a shelter dog at that, but overall, the perfect not-too-smart, affectionate companion. Our second dog, Olive, on the other hand, is some sort of shepherd mix (we think border collie/lab) and is one of the too smart for her own good types. She’s always plying us with cuteness and cuddles, only to demonstrate how eager she is to leave us at any point in time for better company who buys her expensive things– namely the back yard neighbors who like to give her treats. She’s the two-timing hussy of the dog world. And if she weren’t so cute and cuddly, we’d probably have ended this dysfunctional relationship a long time ago. But instead, we’re keeping at it, while committing one of the cardinal relationship sins: trying to change the other party.
And this is why we’re dog people in the traditional sense of the word: because even though Olive is the dog equivalent of a smart and independent girlfriend, she’s still a dog. And with enough treats, repetition, and firm discipline, she will (WE HOPE HOPE HOPE) one day be as sweet and well-behaved a dog as Bessie. So, you terrier toleraters and cat cohabitators, my hat’s off to ya. I’m not evolved enough for that kind of animal relationship.
This entry was inspired by a conversation with my friend Stacy, a more evolved cat cohabitator.