I’m a dog person. Don’t get me wrong – I love cats, too. And monkeys and hamsters, birds and even lizards.
But maybe because I grew up in a house full of pugs, dogs have a special place in my heart. We had four of them, and they pretty much regarded themselves – and were treated – like our less articulate siblings. They slept in our beds, cuddled on our laps while we watched TV, and even stole food off our plates (yes, we violated every single dog-rearing principle the experts warn us not to).
Recently, the hysterically funny author Wade Rouse asked me to contribute an essay to his upcoming anthology, I’m Not The Biggest Bitch In This Relationship. It is, as you’ve hopefully guessed, a collection of essays by writers who adore dogs (My husband just tried to make a joke, but I elbowed him in the solar plexis).
At first I thought I’d write about my black lab, Bella, who shares my author photo. But Bella is too mellow to create good material: she likes every dog she meets, she befriends cats, she loves to ride in cars, and she happily sleeps on a big cushion on the floor right next to my bed. Bella, though one of the sweetest creatures on the planet, isn’t quirky enough to sustain a 2,500 word essay.
But the pugs. Ah, the pugs could fill the whole freaking book. Though some proceeds of Wade’s anthology will go to the Humane Society, writing my part was actually a gift to myself. I was flooded with memories of my childhood, and grew alternately giddy and weepy as I recalled the pugs’ antics. Like the time Delilah stole the giant Hershey bar my brother won at a Halloween party and buried it under my father’s pillow (sometime around midnight, he went to plump up his pillow and discovered his body heat had melted the chocolate, all over his sheets). Or the time my polite, refined future sister-in-law visited our house for the first time and watched, stunned into silence, as a pug walked under a coffee table and our iguana strolled out the other side (“What kind of coffee table was that?” she asked years later). Or the day my mother phoned me at college to tell me she had to call the vet to come to our house to put McDuff – our final, ailing pug – to sleep.
It’s impossible for me to imagine what my childhood would have been like without pets. And just today, my son asked if we could get a cat, or possibly a hamster. I’m pretty sure he’s going to have an easy time wearing me down on this issue. I know pets are messy, a big responsibility, and expensive. Yet none of that comes close to the importance of the love I’ve gotten from them through the years.
Please keep an eye out for Wade’s anthology, to be published in 2011!