Anyone who ever said “Dogs are man’s best friend” has never been caught on the smelly side of a doggy poop bag. No matter how cute the dog is, why does their poop have to smell so bad? It makes a dirty diaper smell like a walk through a tulip park.
I’ve worked in a rendering plant shoveling roadkill into a pit, cleaned kennels in a dog shelter filled with dogs who obviously had far too much roughage in their diet, and yet none of that bothered me. Picking up poop from an 11-year-old miniature poodle now has me gagging at 7 in the morning. Have I become a wimp at the age of 68? I guess so.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some clear advantages to having a dog in your life. They shower you with more love than Tom Brady gets in a Boston pub. After a long day at work you arrive home and they act as though they haven’t seen you since the Great Depression. Cats might feel the same way about you but they’re too proud to show it. Cats are the prom queens of mammals while dogs are the kids in chess club on their first date.
I talk to my dog. It’s not like I expect Skippy to answer any of my questions but he genuinely appears more interested in my life than just about anyone else. Dogs are the best actors. They always come across as though they were totally fascinated with everything you say. I can honestly say Skippy has never interrupted me once. Occasionally he turns his head while I’m talking but that’s only because he smells meat in the kitchen.
My wife, Sandy, is a true animal lover. She’s the only person in her entire office building who puts a Tupperware bowl of water outside her window for a pigeon family that is currently vacationing in Van Nuys. We can be watching a news story on TV about the crisis in a Syrian refugee camp and while my heart goes out to the people, my wife only perks up when she sees a dog walking in the background.
Men are vain. Like that comes as a shock to any of you women. While walking my miniature poodle I’m quick to explain to other men that I’ve only had Rottweilers my entire life. The other day I came across another guy walking his dog and was quick to explain, “I only ended up with a poodle because I was donating excess cat food to our Burbank animal shelter and saw this poodle look up at me with these expressive eyes asking, ‘What am I doing here?’ I called my wife and we adopted him three days later.” I looked back up and the other guy was halfway down the block with his Pomeranian.
At our animal shelters they want to know if the animal bonds with you before adoption, so they put you in a small room and then let the dog or cat in. Skippy jumped up onto my lap and then back to the floor, where he immediately peed on a plant in the corner. Now I don’t claim to understand animal behavior so maybe one of you can explain if peeing on the plant after being on my lap is a good or a bad thing. I don’t have a clue. If it helps, Skippy hasn’t jumped on my lap or peed on a plant since I brought him home.
The love between people and their pets is special. They are the Christmas decorations of our daily lives. But then, if you have a pet you already know that, don’t you? If you love your pet you represent the best of us. If you love animals you are an inspiration to all of us. Next time you look at yourself in the mirror just remember that.
Tom Neuhoff is a former Coeur d’Alene resident now cracking jokes in Hollywood.