Dogs

I’ve never been a dog person. Something about their too-curious tongues and the way they smell like dog. I always suspect my hand will come back sticky when I touch one.

Growing up, we didn’t have dogs or cats. My mom didn’t care much for litter boxes. And my dad had a horror story about a paper route where a big dog would always chase after his bike, snapping at the tires.

Instead, I had fish and hermit crabs. My favorite crab was a tiny guy in a bright blue shell named Hercules. I liked to lift him out of his tank—carefully, keeping my fingers out of range of his claws—and let him scuttle on the kitchen table. Dad would joke about cooking him. One day, after a fulfilling life in the rocks I’d bought for him, Hercules crawled out of his shell, laid on his back, and died. I was heartbroken for a day or so.

This weekend, my wife’s friend asked us to babysit her dog, a little Shih Tzu type named Onyx. He was house trained and could stay home by himself. He only needed to go out once in the morning and once in the evening. Would we mind?

When he first arrived, he explored the house. He put his paws up on the windowsill in the bedroom, like he was admiring the view. He sniffed around the bathroom. Then he came and found me in the den. He stood still and looked at me. Wagged his tail.

A cute dog.

I was confused. Was I supposed to play with him? I thought dogs did their own thing most of the time. I shrugged and went to the kitchen for a glass of water. He followed me.

“What do you want?” I said.

Blank stare.

I took my water to the living room and flopped on the couch. He jumped up next to me, put his paws on my leg. I sipped. He stared some more. My wife laughed at us. I told him to get down, but he laid his head on my lap and snuggled up to me.

OK. He smelled like dog, but maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.

It wasn’t, but my wife’s friend had greatly overstated how easygoing he was. Over the next two days, this guy peed on the floor twice, pooped on the floor twice, followed us everywhere, barked when we left the house, begged to go out every few hours, refused to poop outside, and whined when he couldn’t sleep in our bedroom. We put his blanket just outside our door, but he ignored it and slept on the bare couch once he realized we weren’t coming out.

Despite all that, I found myself unable to sleep when I thought about him alone in the dark. I worried about how he was doing. When we left the house the second day to visit my wife’s grandmother in the hospital, I heard his barks echoing down the stairwell. They tugged at both of us. My wife even suggested that one of us stay home with him. Instead of visiting her grandma. Sitting around the hospital bed, we spent the whole time telling stories about our troublemaker house guest. You’d think we had never met a dog before.

His momma picked him up that afternoon. The house felt empty after he left. I didn’t have to step around the pee pads we spread on the floor anymore. I kept expecting to hear little clicking toenails following me.

We might get a dog, I don’t know. We have been scrolling through some puppy websites.

Maybe we just want kids.

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