The Heirs, having grown up experiencing puppy toilet training, are not dog people. Oh, they like our dogs well enough. But they don’t feel compelled to chat with total strangers walking their dogs and never say things like “oh, look at the puppy” in a baby voice when a random dog walks by in a movie having nothing to do with dogs.
I grew up in with dogs. Big dogs. Big, you-can’t-just-treat-them-as-accessories-type dogs. Dogs that you’d better notice, if you know what’s good for you. I can’t imagine not having a dog around and when we’ve dropped the dogs off at the kennel before a trip, I still open the door to let them out and listen for them to knock to come in.
Dirtman never experienced dog ownership firsthand until he met me. Growing up he briefly had a dog that was kept in the backyard, so that doesn’t count, and his parents got a Sheltland Sheepdog after he had gone to college. The fact that there was no dog ownership continuity shows he did not come from Dog People.
So our world is divided between Dog People and Non-Dog People. There is always this moment when someone arrives at our house where we hold our breath and wait for the reaction when they hear our four “sound the alert,” then fight over who is going to “protect the perimeter” and then fight over who is going to be the first to say, “hello.”
A Dog Person pats each on the head and makes the appropriate doggy talk. We breath a sigh of relief and can move on with the visit. The dogs will make occasional attempts at being noticed but, by and large, they’re happy they’ve been validated and respond to “go lay down.”
Non-Dog People, though, freeze and refuse to make eye contact. Then I know all is hopeless. We will look like eccentric crazy animal collectors with an unruly mob of undisciplined mutts. We have since learned to hold Gaspode (our “problem child”) back, since he will go to extremes to be noticed. But we know that a Non-Dog Person visit will be fraught with behavioral problems as the dogs beg for validation. Even when we send them all out into the backyard (the dogs, not the visitor), we still spend the visit apologizing for the barking or for the dog hair or for anything else around the house that give us away as Dog People.
In a way, you can’t blame the dogs. Can you imagine entering someone’s home and their children come up to you and try to shake your hand and instead of greeting them back, you don’t even look at them, but push them away? (All the Non-Dog People readers are now saying to themselves, “Can you believe she’s comparing a dog to a child?” See? Typical Non-Dog People behavior.)
As an interesting side note: You can, in fact, be a Non-Dog Person and have a dog. You can tell a Non-Dog Person who has a dog because they refer to the dog as “the dog” and not by name.
So usually it’s just easier to meet our Non-Dog Friends elsewhere. Most don’t even know we have dogs, certainly not multiples of dogs. I keep one of those sticky roller things in my car, so not only do they think we don’t have dogs, they actually think I dust on a regular basis. (The jig is up if they look into the car, though, since it’s loaded with leashes, water bowls, bottled water and treat boxes all under a skiff of fur.)
Our true Dog Friends can’t even imagine us associating with Non-Dog People. What do you talk about? they wonder. How can you relate to people who think your babies are…are…(shudder)…animals.
Yet I know that someday, when we are no longer living in the House of the Creeping Mold of Doom, we will have a party and our Non-Dog Friends will have to meet our Dog Friends. And a Non-Dog Friend will innocently sidle up to someone they don’t realize is a Dog Friend and say something like, “Thank God she caged up those beasts of hers,” and or a Dog Friend will say out loud (Dog People are very direct), “I can’t believe you locked your babies up! What is the matter with you?” and the crowd will immediately separate in two.
I guess I’ll take the Dog People outside with me and explain to them the Facts of Non-Dog People (“When a Mommy and Daddy really love each other, sometimes the Daddy will make certain concessions…”).
Dirtman will stay with the Non-Dog People and explain that “’Those people’ are not crazy. Really.”
Well, not all of them, anyway.