Owning a dog has divided my time in a whole new way. I give you the four times of my life:
1. Times when it is a Bad Time to own a dog.
These are the times when, without question, my life would be happier if I didn't own a dog. (Don't worry. It's OK for me to write these words. Buddy can't read.) The number one time when I'd be happier without a dog is when Buddy has what we call "intestinal problems." I know that writing is enhanced with vivid details, but I just rejected about eight such details as too gross for a family blog. Suffice it to say, that most of these times involve me cleaning and trying not to inhale through my nose.
It is also a Bad Time to own a dog when I want to travel or have a sleep-over. So those two weeks in the summer when I try to get away, and that once-in-a-blue-moon time when I have a sleep-over, it sucks to have a dog.
2. Times when it is a Good Time to own a dog.
Most of these times are in the dog park. On a bright crisp morning in the fall, when he is a black streak against the golden leaves, and everyone else in the dog park is smiling, that's a good time to own a dog.
It's a Good Time to own a dog when your feet are cold in bed, and you are able to push him aside so you can stick your feet in the spot he warmed up for you. It's a Good Time to have a dog when you feel lonely, and you wonder if anyone loves you, and then you glance down at the floor two feet away from you, and he notices your head movement and looks up at you to see what you're thinking.
It's Good to have a dog when you're visiting two-year-olds, and they follow him adoringly, saying "Buddy! Hi, Buddy! Hi!" or "Buddy licks you!" It's especially Good to have a gentle, old lab at these times, because he is trustworthy around kids and realizes that they are his boss, even when they are small and try to climb on top of him.
3. Times when it seems Good to have a dog, but it's really Not
So, I'll admit it. I've tried to use Buddy as a litmus test for dates. I thought he would be able to suss out their true character with his doggy sense. The truth is, Buddy is not picky. He likes anyone who pays attention to him. He is indifferent to anyone who doesn't. So, um, my litmus test is really more of a test to see who likes Buddy than it is a test to see who has a good character.
Similarly, you might think that Buddy would make me safer living alone in the city. Sure Buddy seems like he should be a watchdog/protector with his dark good looks and his rapidly swishing tail, but I don't even want to think about what would happen if someone wanted to kill or maim me and thought to bring a nice juicy steak for Buddy. I'm pretty sure I'd be maimed or killed and Buddy would get a nice little treat. Good for Buddy. Bad for me.
4. Times when it seems like a Bad Time to own a dog, but it's really Good.
Today was one of these times. The dark and the weather were conspiring to make me feel a good hibernation coming on. I got home from work and all I wanted to do was curl up in my bed with a book or a video and not get out again until someone else had scraped off my car in the morning. I dread the next five months, because I don't want to be cold all the time. Still, I had to walk the damn dog, so I pulled my parka out of the closet. I found a hat and wrapped a scarf around my head. Yes, I know. It's not that cold, but I was crabby and I shouldn't have to wear a flimsy fall coat or breathe cold air when I'm crabby. I putzed around as long as I could, and then finally, Buddy would let me put it off no longer, so I hooked on the leash and we walked through the crisp, dark neighborhood. My muscles clenched against the cold, and we walked.
It's Good for me to walk, especially when I don't want to. By the end of the walk, my hands were warm, I had lowered my shoulders from around my ears, and I had poked my nose out from the safety of my scarf cocoon. It's not that Bad. We will make it through this winter, too.