Can dogs be a preferred substitute for children?
Yes, particularly when the person who makes this decision is a childless forty- something post menopausal woman.
I was ready for a schnauzer during the winter of 2003 and after an extensive research, located a newly opened dog shop in Brooklyn which carried one. The owner was a hyperactive, flamboyant Hispanic male who resembled the lead character from the Almodóvar movie, “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown…” He was that spastic! His nervous energy, tinged with negativity, for he complained endlessly, was infectious. My heart raced in his company and frankly I could not wait to get away from him but his financially strapped store on Flatbush Avenue had a schnauzer.
Toby was seven months old at the time, longhaired and energetic. When the owner brought him out from the back of store and placed him on the floor, he proceeded to pee and defecate on the display stands in front. A wild dog unleashed! No, not really. He was following the lead of his nose, not interested in my display of cooing and petting or the other end of the hand doing it-me. He was free at last and intended to make full use of his sensory ecstasy. The owner, with his hyperactivity, cornered Toby and placed him on top of a petting stand. Finally, I was able to pet this salt and pepper bundle of not groomed fur as he looked at me through the eyes of a gentle soul.
I did not leave with Toby.
The decision to have a dog was overwhelming.
A second opinion was in need. Was I making the right decision? Was this mini the right one? Was seven months of age still a puppy? I wanted to return the next day with a person whose opinion would cement the deal.
I returned, with mom, my mom.
Toby, again, brought from the back of the store proceeded to mimic his behaviour of yesterday. Mom, my mom said, “No. That dog is crazy. You’re not seriously thinking of bringing IT home? He’s ugly and fat!
Toby left the shop that day.
To say it was an easy transition would be an understatement. Toby’s hidden personality took time to emerge. He left a place where he was confined to the back of a store and possibly kept in a crate most of the time. When we arrived home and brought him out of the car, he was petrified of the outside and refused to move. The traffic noise and feeling the sidewalk on his paws caused him to freeze in place and shake. The owner of the pet store carried Toby to my car when we left the shop so his anxiety was not apparent until later. This also explained his bathroom use in the store-the poor soul never set foot on the sidewalk.
In time, Toby adjusted to the outside world. He began by walking halfway down the block then progressed to a full block walk and eventually crossing streets and continuing on the other side. His nose became accustomed to the marking scents left by other dogs and garbage pick-up days were most exciting and stimulating! Our first visit to a doggy park brought out his “inner bully” and he refused to submit to bigger dogs, which led to some serious confrontations. In due time, Toby earned his place as the policy maker within the dog pack for he kept dogs in their proper places.
Toby grew into doggy adulthood, went through neutering after humping the leg of a relative and matured into a loving, playful, curious, ratter and backyard squirrel killer (it was accidental on my part-didn’t see the poor thing scourging on the ground before letting Toby out in the yard.
Obviously, another mini was later added to the household who added to the chaos, anarchy, unity and the continuing joy of living with two schnauzers.