Dog People

Bramhall Square
By CAITLIN SHETTERLY  |  October 25, 2006

There is a distinct breed of person out there who I might never have happened upon had I not gotten Hopper: the hard-core Dog Person. Unlike the closeted personalities of Cat People, whose cat obsessions are more discreet and whose personalities tend toward the artistic and the sensitive, Dog People are often loud, athletic (or at least ex-high school sports stars), outdoorsy in nature, macho (even the women), unsubtle in their aggressions, and know-it-alls. There’s a subgroup of neurotic women who no longer love their husbands and their children no longer love them, who have found the perfect child/husband in the permanent toddler of a dog.

None of which describes my relationship to my dog. Maybe to my cat, Ellison — the cat part — but not the dog part. For me, when Hopper comes to my study door and kicks it open with an “I know I shouldn’t be in here, but can I rub my slobbery Kong all over your desk and chew on your ankle while you work” look, I think "Who’s this stranger in my house?"

Dog People love to tell me what to do. They offer all their advice unsolicited. They tell me, with full certainty, what breed Hopper is (he’s Heinz 57); they like to tell me what’s good for him to eat (he has allergies, so they do not know); they tell me what is good and bad about Hopper’s playing style (he’s been behavior-tested and passed with flying colors); they tell me he’s rough or he’s a sweet boy, and they love to blame Hopper for their own dog’s behaviors.

Last Friday Hopper and I went for a run at Mackworth Island, where we met a Golden Retriever. In my experience, Goldens are the worst dogs out there. They are always aggressive, possessive, nasty, and too stupid to heed their owners’, or anyone else’s, commands. Also, their owners just assume their dogs can do no wrong because they’re “golden.” A friend once confessed to me that she swears her Golden is a racist — that the dog hates black dogs. Hopper is black. Goldens hate him. Soon he will be organizing a beach boycott.

The Golden was off-leash — against the rules, but everyone breaks them; especially, I’ve found, the people with the worst dogs and the most self-righteous natures. “Oh, no, my dog is great with other dogs,” her owner assured me as I tentatively let Hopper sniff and then play and romp. And the Golden attacked Hopper. Unprovoked. He was just giving her kisses, which he loves to do. She tried to bite him, twice. So Hopper, who is a very strong dog, took her and flipped her on her back and stood on her with one foot, holding her down. He never growled, he never showed his teeth, he just stood there and then looked at me like “What do I do now, Mom?” The Golden started screaming and her minivan-driving self-satisfied suburban PC owner started mewling, “Oh my God. Get him off her, he’s hurting her, he’s going to kill her” and she started jumping in place. Both Hopper and I stared at her.

I walked over to Hopper and gently took his collar and said, “Okay, buddy.”

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