Just when I’m finally out of my childbearing years (due to miraculous surgery that has rid me of mind-bending endometriosis) and eager to embark on life again unfettered, my 30-year old neighbours recently saddled me with their dog for a week. Why? They went off and had a baby. Not only do they have a dog, now they have a baby. Show-offs. I have managed to elude both dog and baby. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like the aforementioned – but to house, feed, nurse, educate, guide, discipline, soothe, entertain, wash, stimulate, groom, indulge and train not to shit on the floor, well, that’s where I’m a spectator and not a participant. Call me cold, but I just don’t get it. Why buy when you can rent? Why tie yourself up? Maybe I’m deficient in a vitamin or something.
Perhaps saddled is too harsh a word. Entrusted. They entrusted me with their dog. Max, a cockapoo of advancing years, has the insane energy of a rowdy pup. The first night he camped out in my living room, howling like he’d killed a moose. At 2am I took him for an extended walk, trying to calm him down. He yanked me through the empty streets, plunging his nose in every shit and garbage pile he could find. At 3:30am my neighbours took Max back upstairs. At 5am, my neighbour’s water broke (better than the pipes, I always say).
For the rest of the week Max stayed in his apartment and I stayed in mine. A civil arrangement, similar to the one I have with my lover. I’d go upstairs four times a day to rouse the mutt for toilet breaks. I’d pour sad looking food pellets in his dish, mix them with hot water, say bon appetit and leave. Eventually a creeping guilt won out. Was I being a bad caregiver? Perhaps.
So off to High Park we went to join the dog people, the people who treat their pets like children and chat with each other about their dogs. I had to let William’s sitter go – she didn’t engage him enough… Max was no match for the Great Danes, Chow Chows, Dobermans, Labs and other assorted purebreds. I felt inadequate. I can only imagine how Max felt. But that’s what’s great about being a dog – you can put on weight, stink and have no money and still get laid. Even get laid in public. No wonder people love dogs. We envy them.
What surprised me was the response of other pedestrians as Max and I walked by. For the first time, I was on the leash side of a dog, a very different perspective. People would smile. Some would smile broadly. That never happens to me when I’m walking alone. Very hard to scowl or look pained when you’re walking a pooch. Some people would muss up Max, pet him affectionately. Eventually I told people he was mine. I beamed with pride. Maybe that’s what I’m missing out on by not having a dog or a baby – the ability to beam with pride and not look like an asshole.
My neighbours came home with the new baby yesterday, an eight-pound girl. Living perfection. And I’m happy to report that for the first time in a week, I got to sleep in. Through the ceiling I can hear the wee one cry on occasion. Max, on the other hand, has gone strangely silent.
I hope they can co-exist in peace. Like dog, baby and neither-dog-nor-baby people.