OK, I’m ducking here as all the dog lovers of the world throw rotten fruit and veggies at me. But bear with me. I began my life as a dog-lover. There are pictures of me as an infant cuddled up with our cocker spaniel, Ginger. When I was in grade school, I was a dog magnet. Every stray in the world followed me home. It might have helped that I usually held out a bit of bologna from the sandwiches I hated at lunchtime. But invariably day after day, I’d have dogs literally eating out of my hand.
I petted mangy, flea-infested beasts with the same affection I showed my baby brother (Yes, I adored him. Can’t say the same for my sister, however, although we did become friends after we grew up.) I sneaked food out to them if I could manage to keep them hidden. But my mother was the dog police. You’d think having had a dog, she’d be sympathetic to my obsession. But we’d given our dog away when we moved out of the country. By the time we returned to the U.S., she’d turned anti-dog. So I knew better than to bring them into the house. I hid them behind the shed which had a shaded overhang.
Then I made surreptitious trips to the refrigerator, and all the loose dogs in the neighborhood feasted on pot roast and chicken. Some even broke free of their chains to visit me. I’d fed a stray and get attached. I’d lay beside them with my arms around them as they slept. I groomed them with hairbrushes I sneaked from the house. I borrowed china bowls from the holiday dishes (figuring they’d be missed least) for water. I took good care of the dogs. And they’d repay me by licking my face, greeting me when I returned home from school, howling at night when I went in to bed. Some even followed me to school and lay panting in the schoolyard until I emerged at the end of the day.
But here’s the sad part. They always broke my heart. After a few days (or sometimes weeks if I was lucky), the dog disappeared. I’d come home from school, and my best friend would have taken off for parts unknown. I sobbed into my pillow at night and moped around the house. I thought they didn’t love me any more. I had no idea what I’d done wrong. Why I couldn’t manage to keep a pet. It was years before I discovered the truth.
Every dog I’d brought home ended up at the pound. Then the same neighbor girl who gave me that information also explained that the pound killed the dogs and chopped them up for hamburger meat.* I was devastated. I thought I’d been helping strays. Instead I’d been turning them into meat. I refused to eat hamburgers after that. And it was months before I spoke to my mother after I discovered she was the one who’d dragged of all my pets to the pound.
So now I can’t be around a dog without feeling sad. I don’t want to pet one or let it worm its furry way into my heart. After all, you never know when a dogcatcher might be just around the corner.
* It was many years before I discovered this neighbor girl had a penchant for exaggeration.