My desire to have a dog was based on Timmy and Lassie. If I had a dog I could have an adventure. I could have a trusty companion. I could be loved unconditionally. My mother was quick to point out that dogs were dirty, and that Stuyvesant Town forbid them.
I settled for stuffed animals. My favorite was Lucky the Lion. He was so big that he took up the whole foot of my bed. He was the first prize I ever won. My name was pulled out of the raffle drum at the “father and sons” dinner at Congregation Rodeph Sholom. Daughters were allowed, but I pretended I was a son. I carried Lucky the Lion home on the bus; he took up two seats.
It is hard to go on an adventure with a big stuffed lion. I sat with Lucky the Lion on my bed and daydreamed. I pretended to be a boy with a dog. I imagined that my dog would anticipate and follow all my commands. I thought all dogs were perfect, like Lassie.
When I was 10, we moved. It wasn’t a big move. It was to a slightly larger apartment up the street in Peter Cooper Village (no dogs allowed). My mother wanted us to throw out our old toys. She said I was too old for stuffed animals. I knew I was too old to want to be a boy, but I could not stop wanting to be one. Lucky the Lion was dumped into a bin in the garbage room. I left him behind.
When I turned thirty, I thought I should get a dog. I wasn’t sure because I never owned one. I had read a lot about dogs, but I didn’t know much about living with one. The books were full of warnings about being the alpha dog and making sure the dog knew you were in charge. It didn’t sound like playing Timmy and Lassie. If I made the wrong decision it could make my life and the dog’s life miserable. I waited three years and then I adopted Lena. After Lena died, I adopted Gracie.
I was lucky. I was a dog person all along. There is nothing I would rather be doing than sitting on the couch rubbing Gracie’s belly.
Being around dogs make me happy. Even an imperfect dog, like Gracie. Gracie is a good girl, but she’s a handful. She barks at all the new dogs in our building, and lunges after anyone on a skateboard. She barks every morning at 5:15 when our neighbor’s New York Times is delivered with a thud. She scratches at the couch as if she was trying to dig to China. But when she turns around and looks up at me with that goofy grin, or when she rolls over and thumps her tail on the floor, I melt. I’m a soft-hearted butch.
I’m an imperfect owner. I don’t neglect Gracie, but I’m busy. I don’t have enough time to work with her. I don’t give her as much exercise as she needs. I take her to the dog run, but I can’t tire her out enough to calm her down. She’d be happier if she was herding sheep. She’d be happier if I took her for an adventure instead of reading or sitting at the computer. She’d be happier with Timmy.
Saturday was the first real snowfall of the season. Gracie loves the snow. She loves to pee on it. If there is any leftover snow within a quarter-mile of our apartment she will hold it until we get to that patch. Because she loves snow, I love snow. As soon as it starts snowing, I reach for her leash and we go out for a walk. She snuffles it, as if she’s hunting for truffles. She paws it, she rolls in it, she’s happy. I’m happy. We are both covered with snow.
Hmmmm…..It must be Wednesday.
I had dogs as a child, but then went for decades of adult life dogless. Now, I can’t imagine life without a dog.
I spent nine months dogless in-between Lena and Gracie, and it was very strange to not have a dog to come home to (I almost said an empty house, but Donna was there). It was also strange not to have to go out and walk a dog three times a day.
My co-worker Ann, who usually has 3 Golden Retrievers at a time, says I should have two dogs spaced a few years apart. She calls this the “spare factor”. Donna disagrees with this theory.
I don’t think that I can get away with a “spare” dog, seeing as I just took in a spare cat. Snoozer and Romeo were each 19 when they died, one year apart. That leaves us with only 13 year old Daisy (as far as cats go). We had vowed to never get any more cats ( aka fur producing factories ), but then Nite-Nite showed up at our door a few weeks ago.
Now we have a spare cat to go with a dog who is constructed of spare parts!
What a cute dog! As I read this I am watching my two mutts sleep curled up on the couch. I think there’s something extra special about that unconditional love for gender variant folks. I got my older dog around the time I started my transition. I remember a lot of times, after one shitty experience or another, I hugged her and felt so grateful at least one being loved me and didn’t give a care at all about my gender.
What is great about dogs is that they are not narcissistic about their owners. They don’t worry about having to explain your behavior to their friends, or what your identity say about who they are. If Gracie judges me it is based on how much time I spend with her and what kind of treats she gets. But mostly she is happy to have me home.
You and Lucky remind me of Calvin and Hobbes, my favorite comic strip. Sounds like you and Gracie are both grateful to have one another. Cheers.
No Gracie is real! When I was negotiating getting my first dog, I threatened to walk around with a pull toy dog that looked like this if I couldn’t get a real one:
Yes, I know, I can see her beautiful picture. I’m just saying you and Gracie are lucky to have one another but the story of you and your stuffed toy lion reminded me of the comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes. 🙂
I know, I know. What I always liked about Calvin and Hobbes was how Hobbes changed from being “real” to being stuffed depending upon the context of who was viewing Calvin. I am honored to be in his (Calvin’s) company.
Feliz Navidad. Thanks for stopping by my blog.