Monday, April 02, 2007

How To Tell A Dog Owner

It wasn’t my idea. In fact, I was against getting a dog. But after my wife Cheryl and my daughter Sarah wore me down, I finally caved in and agreed to the acquisition of a black and white puppy named Oreo.

In the year and a half that Oreo the Portuguese Water Dog has been with us, I have to admit that I’ve learned a lot. Like how to puppy-proof a house, how to scoop poop with a plastic bag and how to write regular cheques to the vet.

But the most interesting thing I’ve learned since Oreo’s arrival is how to spot a dog owner. Having observed various members of this interesting breed, I believe I have come to know their unique markings and characteristics.

When you walk into someone else’s house, you can tell almost immediately whether or not they own a dog. Check for chew marks on the moulding, baby gates but no kids and floors littered with bones, chew toys and worn out tennis balls. And if none of those things clues you in, the animal barking and jumping up on you is usually a dead giveaway that you’re in the home of a dog owner.

There are, of course, plenty of other signs that someone owns a dog. A hair-covered blanket in the back seat of a car usually spells dog ownership, especially if there’s a slightly wet, gamy smell in the air. Since the owner probably lets the dog sleep in his bed, he’s oblivious to the hair and odor and dismisses your complaints as "fussy" or "finicky."

Other sure signs of dog ownership have to do with the owner’s apparel. The man with the permanently mud-stained pants from the knee down is, in all likelihood, a dog owner. Likewise, the woman whose pantyhose is always torn. Although these folks invariably claim that their dog "never jumps up on people", their wardrobes say otherwise.

Another telltale sign there’s a dog in someone’s life is the sore right shoulder (or sore left shoulder for southpaws). Although a properly trained dog is supposed to heel, I’ve rarely seen one do so. Most dogs yank on their leash repeatedly thereby sending their owners for ongoing physiotherapy treatment.

My favorite way to tell if someone is a dog owner? He’s the one holding a plastic bag up to the light to check for holes before heading out for a walk. Anyone who has performed pooper scooping duties with a defective bag will instantly know why.

Dog owners are in many ways similar to new parents, only worse. Once Sarah had turned three, I figured that I had heard the last of baby talk in our house. But since Oreo’s arrival, Cheryl has apparently regressed.

All those silly nonsense words and terms of endearment have returned and are now directed to our dog. And even though Oreo is no longer a puppy, the baby talk continues and will likely continue even into his dotage.

But it’s not just the syrupy sweet talk. Dog owners are like new parents in other ways, too. They’re always buying their animals new toys and treats. And the dog tends to get the full-Kodak treatment with even more photos than the kids.

Given half a chance, dog owners will talk non-stop about their darling Fido or super intelligent Rover. If you thought new parents were insufferable with their baby bragging, just ask a dog owner about his mutt’s best characteristic or latest accomplishments and get ready to have your ear talked off.

The dog owner is also the one with the huge blind spot and memory gap regarding her pet’s behavior. While Skippy bites, barks and humps your leg, his owner will express genuine surprise and declare that Skippy has never done such a thing before. And two weeks later, when Skippy does the exact same thing, she’ll be just as genuinely surprised.

But the best way to identify a dog owner is by the silly smile on his face. Despite all the trials and tribulations of dog ownership, these folks can’t seem to get enough of their canine friends. As far as I can tell, it’s a true case of irrational puppy love.

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