When the Best Label is Dog Lover

Sweet Corner Bakery on Hudson Street

Sweet Corner Bakery on Hudson Street, sidewalk service.

Thanks to Brannen’s post on Undefine Me!, I now proudly claim the label of Dog Lover (more on sustainability and labels in another post).

The day that I adopted Gracie, I told her to be patient. I told her that when I retire we will hang out on the couch and read, go out for long walks, head up to the dog run, and take naps together.

It hasn’t exactly turned out that way. I’m a little too anxious to just relax and hang out at home. I’m restless. When I’m not on the computer, or in the kitchen cooking, I like to keep moving. It is not easy to take her with me when I run errands. Gracie’s behavior in public spaces is not impeccable. There are only so many places you can take a dog in New York (food trucks, banks, and bookshops are the best). When I want to fulfill my promise to her I fill my thermos mug with coffee and we walk.

I grew up in Manhattan and I’ve always walked wherever I was going. It is not unusual for me to walk eight miles in a day. It is good exercise and it clears my head. I’m a brisk, heads down walker. It is my thinking time, unless I have Gracie with me. When I’m with Gracie I am on dog time. She wants to stop, sniff, and socialize.

Gracie and I go “out” at least three times a day. There are owners who take their dog down to the corner curb, count to ten, and then go back inside. Not me. If I start a sentence with “Do you want to go…” Gracie goes and sits by the door waiting for me to put on her leash. Even if I am talking to Donna, not her. Gracie is an optimist. It is a good quality.

Walking with Gracie is not the same as walking by myself. I have to stay present. If I let my mind drift she darts for a chicken bone or gobbles some mystery meat off the pavement. I have to pay attention when another dog comes towards us. I wish she was predictably friendly, but she has a complicated dance card and I don’t always guess right. I’m still learning to read her.

legal-scholarsDogs generally read me better than people do. They don’t care about gender identity or sexual orientation or where you bought your jeans. Dogs pick up my vibe. They know I am friendly and an easy mark.

When I am out walking with Gracie I become the me that I always hid. The me that I only felt when I was in my room. The part that didn’t get expressed with other people. The part of me that can play. When I am with Gracie I let my boy out, and he is a dog lover.

People are friendlier when I am out with Gracie. Perhaps it is because I am more animated. Or look more natural than when I am walking by myself. More approachable. Maybe it is because Gracie is cute. Or maybe it is because we both look happy and happiness is contagious. 

Note: A few days ago I received an email from the New York Public Library with a survey to find out who you would be if you were a classic children’s book character. Unfortunately, I turned out to be Eeyore instead of Christopher Robin. If you want to take the survey you can find it here.

34 thoughts on “When the Best Label is Dog Lover

  1. Charlie Nicholas

    I want to rescue and own dogs, but until I find my own pet-friendly apartment (which will be in the next year once I can find a second job and start saving up for the security deposit and first/last months and other initial fees) I can’t own a dog. Parents’ house rules 😥

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I got my first dog after a three year wait (I had to find an apartment that allowed dogs and I had to convince my partner that I really wanted one). I can’t imagine living without one now. Even a rescue dog is a big expense (food and annual vet visits add up), but it is worth it for my mental health.

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    2. Smitty

      I’ve been meaning to read your posts here ever since you gave me your card at the conference, and then seeing you at the group reminded me to check it out again, and I’m so glad I did! This post seriously could’ve come out of my own journal! I can relate to exactly what you’re saying about being more present in the moment when you’re with Gracie or other dogs, and how being yourself just kind of comes naturally when you’re with dogs compared to how it feels trying to be yourself with other people. That’s me 100%. That’s why I got into the veterinary field. I went to college intending to become a physical therapist or do something in sports medicine, and that’s what I really wanted to do. I thought I could just “get over” the anxiety I’ve always felt around people, and push myself hard enough so that eventually it wouldn’t bother me anymore. But that didn’t happen, and it led to severe, recurrent major depression, and I wound up having to move back home after I graduated instead of pursuing a doctorate or PhD like I had envisioned. That was just the next obvious step on my high-achieving, perfectionist path. Even after months and months of hospitalizations due to suicidal thoughts and severe depression that were fueled by my anxiety that wouldn’t go away no matter what I did, I was still fixed on this goal of doing something in the medical field. So I got another degree in medical assisting to buy some time while I figured out what to do next, but the anxiety was still there. In the meantime I got a job at a Petco grooming salon, and it dawned on me that every time a dog came through the door, I felt happy. And when I’m with a dog, or any animal, I’m not anxious around them like I am with people. I can like let loose and my real self can come out without even thinking about being judged or anything. So I decided to switch my career path and combine my love of dogs and most other animals (mostly dogs) with my passion for science and medicine, and I got a job as a veterinary assistant at a small, family owned, private practice. Being an assistant is certainly not where I belong, but right away it hit me that working with animals feels so right. I got bored and frustrated there, so now I’m working at a huge emergency and specialty hospital, where I see so many different things that most people wouldn’t even imagine. I’m in school (again) to get another assiciate’s degree, this time it’s a veterinary technician program. And I just found out recently through working with one of our patients that I could actually specialize in canine rehabilitation! It’s like doing exactly what I went to school for in the first place, except with dogs!! It’s perfect! Now I just have to get a job in the field and I’ll be set. I’ve emailed a bunch of places so I’m hoping something works out. This is ending up longer than I intended, that always happens when I start writing…thoughts just keep coming and coming. But anyway, yea dogs dogs dogs. They’re amazing. I truly believe that my dog, Thomas saved my life, on many occassions. But one of the reasons I got him was because I was really depressed senior year of college and both my roommates were going away all winter session, so I’d be alone in the house for a month which was not too safe for me at the time, but he gave me a reason to live. I had to take care of this little puppy who depended on me for everything. And over the past 5 1/2 years he’s been the only thing keeping me alive on many occasions. Thomas doesn’t judge me, well, when/if he does, it doesn’t hurt like when I think other people are doing it. It’s actually funny to put emotions to his behaviors and body language. He has very expressive eyes. I’m not afraid to be myself when I’m with him. There are songs that I’ve changed the lyrics to and sing to him. There’s no way I’d ever do that in the presence of a human being. He doesn’t care what I’m wearing, how I do my hair, at least I don’t get that vibe from him, so in my mind he’s totally cool with anything. He’s so excited to see me every time I come home, and it’s incredibly hard to go out without him. He’s the love of my life, my doodlepie 🙂 I know I definitely don’t want to have kids, well human kids. Dogs will always be my kids. I could go on and on about how much I love dogs, but I really need to go to sleep now. I’ve been up almost 27 hours now because of this crazy overnight schedule, Ok, I’m really going to end this now. Goodnight. Sorry if I got too carried away

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      1. Jamie Ray Post author

        Glad you found that post. I hope you’ve gotten some rest and are getting your med re-synced with your schedule. You are really lucky that you figured out how to do work that you love, and how to get the certifications you will need in order to earn a professional salary. And, dogs, dogs, dogs are definitely the way to go.
        Give Thomas a skritch behind the ears for me.

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      2. smitty588

        yea, thanks. I’m glad I finally am on the right path, in a lot of ways lol. Just 5 more overnights left after tonight then I’m back on days. I was literally falling asleep on the way here, it was scary. Hopefully the ride home won’t be as difficult. I was nervous that working overnights would mess me up, but I didn’t think it would be this bad. Oh well, you never know til you try I guess. Thomas will be glad when I’m back on a normal schedule. When I’m sleeping during the day he lays in my doorway and like guards the door so no one will come in and wake me up. He’s so funny. Dogs are the greatest creation ever.

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  2. Charlie Nicholas

    After taking the NYC Library quiz, I am “The Little Prince”:

    You’re the Little Prince! You’re independent, imaginative, and you hanker for adventures – but love is the most important thing in your life. Other people love your sweetness and your unique way of looking at the world.

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  3. anexactinglife

    No dogs here because we are out of the house 8 hours a day. But I think our “pet selves” are probably our best selves. On the children’s book quiz, I got Charlotte of Charlotte’s Web…

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I arrange my life around Gracie’s schedule, but she is happiest when someone is home. Right now I am babysitting two additional dogs (Alvin and Zoe – very cute Cairn Terriers) while their parents are on vacation, so Gracie is very happy.

      I didn’t read Charlotte’s Web as a child, not sure why since I read voraciously and went frequently to the library. It could have been my bias against “girl’s books” even though I don’t think it is one. Charlotte is a great character.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I seem to have mostly Little Prince or other Eeyore’s as readers. I’m not sure what that says about us as a group…
      You are lucky to have two dogs, I’d love to get another one (preferably with all the qualities that Gracie is missing, like kissing and playing fetch).

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  4. krisalex333

    Pooch has the confidence of a Great Dane even though she is a Pug – and she tries to intimidate every other dog, yelling at them, “What are you doing in my complex!” Rather embarrassing… Eeyore is… uhm, cute? 😉

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Cute if you like grey donkeys who are gloomy and pessimistic. I adored the original A.A. Milne books, but saw myself as Christopher Robin. I used to joke with Donna that if I was going to date on-line I’d start my personal ad with “Christopher Robin looking for Jane” which is more appealing than “Eeyore looking for his tail.”

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  5. hiddeninyoursoul

    Gracie sounds a lot like my dog, Harry. We can’t say, “are you ready?” or “do you want to…” in this house unless we’re going to take him out. When he hears those words, he jumps up excitedly and stares at you, wagging his tail. He’s also unpredictable around other dogs. Sometimes, he’s excited and wants to play, but others, he barks at.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I couldn’t say the word “cheese” around my first dog because she would mow you down on the way to the refrigerator. I’d have to say “cheddar?” or “brie?” Lena once got all excited about “allergies” she thought it was some kind of French “aller cheese.”

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  6. middleagebutch

    Apparently, I’m an Eeyore, too.

    Animals bring out the best in us. I’m a lot less Eeyore-like when I am interacting with our cats. Some might even say that I am a big old softie. Shhh … don’t let anyone know.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Donna is the cat maniac in our family; I keep encouraging her to get one but we have two good friends who claim they are deathly allergic to cats and won’t visit us if we get one. I’ve investigated the hypoallergenic cats but they are really ugly (when compared to a labradoodle).
      I’m still a bit of an Eeyore with Gracie – I wish she would play fetch and kiss, but you can’t have everything (Donna kisses but doesn’t play fetch).

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I couldn’t live without a dog either. The connection with a dog is real – and like I said, Gracie doesn’t care if I am a boy, trans, queer, or what – as long as I am home or taking her out. In my situation I need all the unconditional love I can get.

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      1. Lesboi

        I hear you. I’m sorry to hear that Gracie isn’t a kisser. My old dog was what I called a “stingy kisser” but was otherwise very affectionate. The new dog is crazy affectionate and loves to kiss, cuddle, and play ball. She’s an Australian Shepherd. They’re great dogs but need a lot of exercise or they get bored and will drive you nuts. Luckily we live in the country and have a big yard.

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  7. txbridgefarmer

    I would have to say I too am a proud dog lover! I love my Riley unconditionally and he gives me that same unconditional love in return!
    I’m glad to know that Gracie has a way of making you feel comfortable in your own skin..even if it’s not an intentional thing. That’s a hard thing to come by!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I think if you answer pragmatically or seriously, you get Eeyore. I tweaked my answers are little and I got Max from Where the Wild Things Are or The Little Prince. But the survey was right, I’m a bit of an Eeyore unless Donna or Gracie is actively trying to make me have fun.

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  8. Veronica Haidar

    As a fellow city-dweller (different city), I’m a great walker too. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered to go underground; it doesn’t always save you much time, especially if you aren’t going too far. Plus walking helps keep me in shape (a bit).

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m fortunate to live in the part of NYC that was built before the “grid” was established, which makes it more interesting than walking in midtown. It also has more brick and less glass, so the blocks look different depending upon the light. Early morning is the best for walking, up until full sunlight.
      I spent a week in London (about 10 years ago) and found it a great walking city, but I was surprised by how monochromatic the buildings were – that neighborhoods had a distinct style and symmetry to them that I hadn’t expected. I did ride the Underground a lot; a busman’s holiday since I worked at New York City Transit.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Sorry for not getting back to you faster. Thanks for the nomination, but I have a pathological and irrational avoidance of blogging awards. On the other hand I am always pleased when someone thinks I am an inspiration rather than just a thoughtful confused person.

      It is great that WordPress has fostered a bunch of non-binary/butch/queer/trans* bloggers and I am happy to be part of it all.

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      1. krisalex333

        No problem, Jamie – I know, they are like chain mails, but serves a purpose too for new bloggers in the sense of giving exposure. This one was really a thank you note. I started reading your blog when I was still confused. You helped me get on the trans* track. Thank you again.

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  9. myarousal

    Your words…..”Dogs generally read me better than people do. They don’t care about gender identity or sexual orientation or where you bought your jeans. Dogs pick up my vibe. They know I am friendly and an easy mark.”……So true. they simply do not acre about any of the things that create judgements in people. Dogs read me better than most people do too. Really…..dogs read everybody better. The want to be safe, loved and not forgotten, and if you ooze that vibe, they will be your friend, confidant, and companion forever.

    Recently my wife and I lost our 11-1/2 year old Yellow Lab to cancer. One day I knew it was to be his last day with us. He was my buddy, my best friend, and simply the most courageous dog I have ever known. He had more soul than most people I’ve known. He never judged me, never ran from me, he was always close by, and never on a leash unless it was dangerous for him, because of “man’s” environment……I cried for weeks after we said goodbye…….*sigh*

    He made me a better man, I only wished I knew him as a boy. I wonder ow might my life might have been different. I sure it would have been, he was a gift, a blessing.

    I have a new pup I rescued in some odd way. A 15 month old German Short Hair Pointer….he will test me….he will be the dog to again remind me of things I’ve forgotten……

    Thank you for writing such an amazing blog….*smiles*

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for reading and sharing your kind thoughts. I’m very sorry to hear your story about your Lab – it is heartbreaking – they are so much more than “just dogs”.

      Gracie constantly tests me (and my patience), but I keep trying to train her out of some of her obnoxious habits. She is a wild child – but very sweet in her own way. She is eight and only showing slight signs of slowing down.

      I’ve known a couple of German Short Hair Pointers through my dog run – they’ve all been high energy and good natured – so hopefully you will luck out with the new pup.

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      1. myarousal

        You are very welcome. Our gentle lab was docile, but this boy is a bit of rascal….but very sweet…..It will take time and a lot of love to settle him down, as he came from an environment where he was not given very much attention and was forced to live outside. He sleeps in or bed and loves the closeness we offer him……I love it that he runs like the wind and listens quite well. I’m in love……..*sigh*

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