Friends with Dogs

If one of my friends had to choose between me and her dog, she would choose her dog. This epiphany came to me one day, when my friend’s dog bit me on the hand for no apparent reason.

//by Karen Miller


Its owner (my friend) explained to me that it was because I was wear- ing a green bandana on my head, a color and style that was menacing. As I rubbed my injured hand, I glared at the little dog, who gave me an all-knowing look that he had indeed won this battle, whilst I removed my bandana in defeat.

They don’t call a dog “man’s best friend” for nothing, and I certainly don’t fit into that category. I love my friends, but I’m not about to sit waiting at their doors for hours, panting and scratching myself, hoping they will come home soon to pet and feed me. I’ll hang out with my friends, eat their hors d’oeuvres, drink their wine and pet their dogs, but I’m outta there in time to go home and watch Dance Moms on Lifetime.

If I fell off a pier, and a dog fell off the same pier, 20 onlookers would throw me a cement block and toss the dog a life preserver and a hot dog, I am sure of it. Because there’s something about a dog that teaches people about unconditional love and dependability—something that we have lost in our humanity. I want to make a connection with others the way a dog loves its owner, but I just can’t. None of us can. That’s why we sob our hearts out when we watch Marley and Me. We want the dog to win, and in his own way, he does.

The difference between dogs and humans is all about loyalty. We humans ditch our friends, divorce our spouses, de-friend people on social networks, cut people off in traffic, and carry guns into department stores. But when it comes to man’s best friend, we rub their tummies, feed them table scraps, and stand up to anyone who would criticize their demeanor or behavior. “If you don’t like my dog barking at you, then don’t walk past my house,” my neighbor says.

My daughter and her husband have a miniature pinscher named Vita. Vita likes to wear clothes, and her wardrobe is twice the size of my own. Apparently Vita is much more loyal than I am because she receives an enormous Christmas stocking from Santa every year, and I’m lucky if I get a card or phone call. I watch Vita videos on Facebook on Christmas morning; she’s sporting her new designer dresses, danc- ing around the Christmas tree on her hind legs while everyone claps. I, however, am drowning my sorrows in a wassail bowl, wishing I had
a new dress that would make me want to dance like that. Once I accidentally stepped on Vita’s tiny paw and my son-in-law lambasted me for hours. “I didn’t mean it,” I said apologetically. “It’s just that she’s so, well, tiny.” “That’s why you must be more careful,” he says, sternly. “She’s not a human, after all.” No, she’s not a human. Humans are stupid, disappointing, and disloyal. I am all of those things. But dogs are smart, kind, and lovable. Even poorly-behaved dogs have a certain quality that makes them stand head and shoulders above the human race. Even a dog who pees on the carpet will regret his shameful act—with his head bowed humbly, he will seek out contrition and a Milk Bone. But not me, the arrogant human. If I peed on the carpet, I’d simply toss my hair and scowl, “So what’s a little pee? Get over it.”

Surprisingly, friends frequently ask me to dog sit. Apparently I’m likable enough, according to the canine set who sees me as a pushover, ready to offer up biscuits and lengthy walks in order to avoid having to clean up “accidents” as they’re called by their human owners. And I don’t mind spending a few hours or days with my friends’ dogs, who I’ve discovered are mini-animal-extensions of those human friends. I’ve realized that most people who have dogs are truly nice folks; people who are smart, kind and loyal—just like their dogs. And perhaps by spending more time with my friends’ dogs, I, too, can learn to be more like them. And maybe someday, I, too, will have a dog.

It would be nice, after all, to come home every evening to a canine companion waiting at the door for me, wagging his tail. I would scratch him behind the ears and tell him about my day. And he would sit loyally, tongue hanging out, grinning at me, his fresh pee soaked into the carpet, hanging on my every word.