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Authors: Edie Jarolim

Am I Boring My Dog?

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Table of Contents
 
 
ALPHA BOOKS
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Copyright © 2009 by Edie Jarolim
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eISBN : 978-1-101-13989-9
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For the rescuers, who rescue us, too, by bringing dogs into our
lives, and for the first-time dog owners who’ve discovered it’s
never too late for puppy love.
INTRODUCTION
“You’re writing a book about dogs?” my friend Sharon asked, sounding surprised. “I never really thought of you as a dog person.” Sharon and I have known each other since we were 5, so I wasn’t surprised by her surprise. I never really thought of myself as a dog person either, until I got a dog, which made me a dog person by default. Before then, I was convinced there was a dog-person demographic—one that I didn’t fit.
Not that I didn’t like dogs. Far from it. But I grew up in pre-hip Brooklyn, with a mother who feared all creatures great and small. The dogs I saw on TV romped around the country-side or chased balls down suburban streets. They didn’t board elevators in rundown apartment buildings or beg for pastrami from the corner deli. Nor did actual dogs frequent my early circles. The occasional hamster and odd budgie found their way into my friends’ homes, but our childhood menageries were canine-free.
Marriage, tiny Manhattan quarters, graduate school, publishing jobs with long hours … all, I decided, ruled out getting a dog. Even when I bought a house with a backyard in Tucson, Arizona, I remained dogless. Everyone knows that coyotes, not their domesticated kin, live in the desert.
Besides, I had become a travel writer.
I might have rationalized my prime dog-rearing years away, secretly worried that, like my mother, I lacked the canine caretaking gene. Then in 2004 I met Rebecca, fellow writer, fellow foodie—and evangelical dog rescuer.
The next thing I knew, I was palling around with terriers.
Or, to be specific, one small terrier mix: Frankie.
I didn’t take Rebecca’s canine bait right away, mind you. Sure, the picture she e-mailed me was cute, but Frankie was about 5 years old when he was found skittering around the streets of Tucson. I’d always pictured myself with a new model dog. And then there were my travels—not as frequent or far-flung as in the past, but still a good fallback excuse. What would happen to Frankie when I went away?
Rebecca informed me that older dogs were much mellower than puppies—and thus a better fit for a newbie like me—and that Frankie was very low maintenance. She promised to take care of him while I was gone, but pointed out that many hotels accept small dogs. The fact that I was always holed up, writing, when I was in Tucson was a real advantage, Rebecca added. She was certain I’d give Frankie a great home.
It was this last assurance that finally reeled me in. If a dog rescuer thought I’d be a good dog guardian … well, maybe I would be.
And so, after deeming my home dog-safe (
Hint:
neatness is not a criterion), Rebecca asked me to suggest a date to begin Frankie’s two-week trial stay with me. I optimistically chose my upcoming birthday.
I would like to report that Frankie and I bonded immediately, that as soon as his trusting little face looked into mine I knew I’d made the right decision. I would like to, but it would be a lie. Frankie’s little face wasn’t trusting; it was terrified. He glued himself to my couch and went on a hunger strike. His sole demand: Rebecca’s return. I spent my birthday in tears, certain I’d made the biggest mistake of my life.
But pride and obstinacy have their rewards. I prefer not to admit that I’ve done something stupid (unless I’m certain to be found out, in which case I confess, all cheerful selfdeprecation) or that I’m inept (ditto). I knew I was ignorant about all things canine, but I also knew that people far meaner than me managed to get dogs to like them. Surely I could win over one small, dejected pup.
I started calling friends and asking questions, reading dog books, going to training classes, asking more questions, reading some more. Frankie pitched in, after his desire for food overcame his ardor for Rebecca. And slowly, despite Frankie’s fears and mine, we built a life together—a rich, complex, and frequently goofy one.
And that dog person profile? Feh. Anyone who likes dogs can—and deserves to—be a dog person. It’s just a question of getting some basics under your belt.
Which is why I decided to write a book about dogs.
The result
, Am I Boring My Dog?,
is geared toward those who are contemplating getting a dog, those who have just gotten a dog, and those who believe they can do better by their dog—in short, the confused and the guilty. I remain among their vast ranks. I know a great deal more about dogs than I did before I got one and before I researched this book, but I learn something new each day. Frankie, in particular, lets me know that I still have a long way to go toward understanding his species—as, he believes, do animal scientists.
I’m not pleading ignorance as a disclaimer for anything I may have missed or gotten wrong (although I’d be very pleased to be excused for both). Rather, ignorance was at once an inspiration and a qualification for this project. People who grow up with dogs often don’t know what they don’t know. It’s like the friend from California who came to visit me in New York and couldn’t stop laughing when he discovered there was a neighborhood in Queens called Flushing. I’d gone through a childhood full of potty humor—including the entire I.P. line; remember
The Purple River
by I.P. Peculiar and
The Golden River
by I.P. Freely?—without ever noticing this fine local example.
Ignorance wasn’t my only qualification for writing this book, however. As a travel journalist, I was charged with trying to make sense of foreign cultures—an excellent preparation for exploring Dog World. Looking back on my
Complete Idiot’s Travel Guide to Mexico’s Beach Resorts,
I’ve decided that Frankie is the Acapulco of dogs: charming, a bit older, but with fame that—I hope—is about to be burnished.
Getting a Ph.D. in literature turned out to be surprisingly useful, too. Compared with the writings of critics like Lacan and Derrida, even the most arcane of the many books I read by dog experts seemed lucid. My graduate school years at NYU also accustomed me to taking direction from a small, hairy creature, although Frankie is far handsomer—and considerably nicer—than my dissertation advisor was.
It turned out to be the best of times and the worst of times to decide to write a book about dogs. The current interest in all things canine suggests the existence of many potential book-buyers, which is excellent. But that interest also generated a vast amount of information that needed to be sifted through, much of it incorrect. (This includes the popular notion of dogs as furry children; children are, in fact, hair-challenged dogs.) Rather than risk data overload—and risk boring you, oh gentle book buyer—I outlined the basic issues, citing additional resources for those who want to explore them in greater depth.
For the same reasons, I’ve concentrated on first-dog—and therefore single-dog—households. You’ll read about the importance of being a leader to your dog, for example, but not about introducing your second pup to your first. I’ve also resisted throwing too many humans into the mix. My prime focus is on the relationship between one person and one dog, with other people pretty much serving as support staff.
BOOK: Am I Boring My Dog?
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