Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Accidental Dog Owner

I'm not sure I like being part of the dog owner nation. Especially in San Francisco, I'm afriad that I've joined something precious and whimsical, whereas before, as a non-dog person -- even as a parent but still a non-dog person, I only had to worry about the nefarious stares of the dog people, which in many ways was preferable to joining them at their peace, love and chocolate labs table.

But here we are -- dog owners -- and not just that but owners of what is (at least for now) seemingly the cutest dog in Glen Park. Witness my quick run down to "the village" for a Sunday paper. In my prior, dogless incarnation, I could finish this task in 15 minutes, unless I was forced to slow down and pet someone's dog, or I'd taken the Jawa with me and had to stop and look at candy for 10 minutes at the corner store. Today it took an hour.

Today also for the second time someone stopped their car, jumped out and ran across the street to see Shack. She had to wait in line, because he was already talking to some other people who said they had two Corgis in their car.

Now I think my dog is pretty cool, and I have to, because he's my dog. But I've still got to wonder, even though I once had an infant child, what all the fuss is about? After all, this is a guy who urinates and defecates outside, wherever he wants, and eats cigarette butts and mosquitos. I've kept my distance from people who had habits barely half as gross.

And he has big ears. If he were human, he'd stare into the mirror and fret, waiting until nostalgia for the 1970s allowed him to grow his hair over his ears. Instead, since he is a six inch tall puppy, grown women -- who, by the way, wouldn't be talking to me were it not for this dog -- gush over his giant ears.

Back to the people with the Corgis. First the woman stopped and pet my dog, and then her husband, who came across the street from the ATM, making him the third person to cross the street for my dog in exactly three weeks. After a minute, he spoke to me in proud, conspirital tones. "We've got a wire-haired dachsund," he beamed.

Here's the part where I'm uncomfortable with this new dog-centric world. I don't give a rip about anyone else's dog, and if we'd gotten a big, slobbering dog I'd probably hate my own dog as well. But since I am a dog guy now, I had to nod and smile, to give this guy the impression that I was interested in his dog as well; that I was a guy who was into dogs, all dogs.

So not true. But I'm trying.

Yesterday, the Jawa nad I took Shack to the park, where we ran across all kinds of other dogs and dog owners. And I still think it's rude to let your dog run all over the place when the sign clearly says "No Dogs on Playing Field." I also don't find that having a huge dog bound up to you and drool on your legs any more charming than I ever have. The difference is that if I were to be truthful about this now, well, I'd be a hypocrite, and I guess I'd rather be a phony than a hyprocrite.

Wait a minute, Isn't that the same thing?

In addition, I have no idea how you're supposed to act to appear a responsible dog owner. Seems to me that whenever Shack runs into another dog, it's always the other dog owner (who is often wearing overalls or small corduroy shorts) who has to eventually rip Shack away from his or her dog. Add an enthusiastic and equally clueless Jawa to the mix and I'm looking like the guy who bought a dog without having any idea how to take care of it.

It's funny. Living in San Francisco, it's much more difficult to just "have a dog." It's political, naturally, and involves getting involved in leash laws and park use laws. You can't just have a dog; you have to advocate for the freaking thing. And you can't visibly cringe when someone refers to the dog as your "other child," no matter how clear that makes the unsettling image of your wife giving birth to a dog.

I think part of it is because, in such a small city, with space at a premium, you can't just buy a dog, toss it in the backyard and play with it when you feel like it. You have to manage the dog to give it a good life.

On the other hand, this is also a place where you can't just own a bike and ride it around when you feel like it. You have to be part of the biking "movement," and all the better if you can ride in the monthly "critical mass" rides, where, confident in your pollutant-free smugness, you take over downtown streets and force people in cars to arrive home late.

Now that I think of it, I wasn't all that thrilled about joining the world of parents, either, and I got over that once I realized that the people who were dorks without kids would remain dorks, while the ones who weren't dorks would stay cool, regardless of their life's station. And we've managed to raise a kid (so far) without becoming part of a "parenting movement," reading "Bay Area Parent," or insisting on bringing my child to places children shouldn't be because my child has the same rights as anyone.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have go buy a few bandanas before the pet store closes.


Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

at least dogs aren't people. dogs are awesome, and way more fun and funny.

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

In Alaska dogs aren't your "other child", they're your roommate. And never forget the other dog that whined and slobbered his way into your heart... you're really more of a dog guy than you may think.

3:01 PM  
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