Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I have been wanting a dog for years. I grew up with dogs and was the only member of my family not to have one. I could barely take care of myself, how could I add a dog into the mix?

On the other hand, when you are sick you spend lots of time at home, alone. If you are a writer you spend lots of time at home, alone. It's not as exciting as it was for McCaulay Culkin. In fact, it gets lonely. It makes sense to have a pet.

"It's really too bad you're allergic to cats," the Poet kept saying. "A cat would be perfect for you." But I am allergic. A ferret? A gerbil? Tropical fish? None of these things conjured up what I wanted, which was companionship.

For a while I thought about getting birds, until my massage therapist for an inexplicable reason brought her two parakeets to work and had them in the massage room during my session. The birds spent the whole hour diving at the massage table (i.e. at me) only to swoop away at the last second, return to their perch and chirrup frantically until they were rested up for their next dive-bomb feint. No, I decided, birds were not for me.

It was a dog I wanted. As I got stronger and more active, a dog seemed in the realm of the possible--maybe just a glimmery figure barely within the far edge of that realm, but within the realm nonetheless. And the trick, I told myself, was getting the right kind of dog. Dogs came in all shapes, sizes, ages, energy levels, and temperaments. I could get a suitable dog. For example, not a puppy, not a puppy that needs to be potty-trained and walked at six a.m. and taught not to eat books or tear your clothes to shred. Definitely not a puppy. And not a Grate Dane either. We live in a tiny apartment.

And now is when I need to come out and say I hate lap dogs. I have friends with tiny dogs, and you, dear reader, might love tiny dogs. More power to you. I don't love tiny dogs. Anything can be said to yip I do not find comforting. Anything that yips gets on my nerves. Anything that is so small that I would have to slow down to walk it would get on my nerves, because walking slowly gets on my nerves. Walking slowly is high on my on-my-nerve-getting list. It might be number one-- or number three, after yipping and blue grass music.

And also I go running. I needed a dog that would run with me so I didn't have to walk a dog after I went for a run. There are just so many hours in the day.

Last March the Poet and I were at the Ballard farmer's market when we saw two dogs, spotted brown and white and in the forty-pound range. They were dogs that looked built for running. Not ghostly-skinny greyhound type dogs, but athletic looking dogs. Their owners had lean, runner-type bodies and were wearing jeans and windbreakers that were not the windbreakers they would wear while out for a run but announced nonetheless that these people were runners. Were distinct from the grungy REI hiker fleeces you see in Seattle.

I followed these people until I caught up with them and asked them about their dogs. Pointer, French Pointers, to be exact. Yes, they were great runners. "She just ran six miles with me," the man said, petting the smaller one. "And then when they're in the apartment they just want to curl up on the couch and take a nap with you."

This was my dream dog. I needed a pointer of approximately 40lbs. A 40lb, rescue pointer that was four years old.

On August 14th I adopted a 37-lb, two-year-old, black and white pointer-mostly mix. The rescue lady had named her Oreo. As in Nabisco, as in health-rotting, environment-destroying, soulless coorporate greedsters who call what they sell us food when it is really poison. (Yes, I loved Oreos too when I was a kid.) I renamed her Cleopatra, or Cleo for short.

Cleo has a good, strong bark, but she only barks at appropriate times, for example when someone's at the door. She loves to run with me. She chases her tale and catches it several times a day! She laps up my bathwater when I am taking an epsom salt bath and gets really upset that I don't let her into the shower with me. She licks the shea butter lotion off my calves and arms and is the reason I now have under-lotioned skin. She follows me from room to room in the apartment. When take a nap she climbs on my legs and slumbers with her head on my lap. When I write, she lies on the floor at my feet and chews her bone.

She also needs to be walked, which is good. Although she will sleep however late I manage to sleep, I have to take her out every morning, and no matter how crappy I feel when I get out of bed, I'm always a little better for having walked a few blocks and then let her off the leash to chase her ball for ten minutes in the yard.

Last night I got home and was in a Lyme-medicine induced terrible mood. Plus I'd gone to the dentist. The dog walker had taken Cleo out for a long time that morning (one of my bargains with the Universe was to spend a small fortune on dog walking in exchange for having a two-year-old dog while undergoing intense Lyme treatment) so I thought I didn't really need to walk her more than a short bathroom outing. But not so. Cleo has this way of hurling herself at me when she needs to burn off energy. I was just going to have to walk her. I was tired and hungry and in tears over some stuff that had gone wrong with my rental property and it was rainy in Seattle for a change and I wanted to stay home and be miserable. I had to walk her instead.

I put on my raincoat and found my Dorothy Sayers audiobook on my iPod and got Cleo leashed up and out the door we went.

A friend had once told me about a scientific study that concluded people who own dogs walk more. It is true.

There is also a study, or two or ten thousand, that says walking elevates your mood and balances your blood sugar and lowers your heart rate is good for what ails you. It is true. I felt a whole lot better after Cleo and I walked for half an hour.

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