[belly rub]
The Wet-Nose Express
How one woman learned to relax and let dog be her co-pilot

Since the first time a kitten crawled up in the crook of my neck and tried to nurse my earlobe, I knew I was a cat person. After all, what could be sweeter than a ball of fluff nestled on your lap, gently digging tiny claws into your flesh? Over the years, I’ve had tabby cats, fluffy cats, shy cats and cats who thought they were famous. I’ve invented games like Kitty Disco Love Fest — which involves wee spinning mirrored balls, young kittens and windows full of sunlight — and rushed to the kitty ER when one particularly dim feline tumbled out of a four-story window to land head-first on the concrete below. (He was fine. A bit slow for years afterward, but fine.)

Dogs, on the other hand, were a mystery. I never quite knew what to do with Lady, the middle-aged poodle mix who showed up on our porch when I was a child and refused to leave until she was invited inside. She never really wanted to go outside again, content to follow my mother from one end of the house to the other, suffering in martyred silence when left alone for minutes at a time. Frankly, I didn’t see the attraction.

It took years for me to even pretend to entertain the idea of living with a dog. In the end, it was the constant pleading that did it. “Please? Pleasepleasepleaseplease? Please can we get one? I’ll take care of it! I promise!”

And then my husband would let his lower lip quiver, just a little. “If you let us get a dog, we’ll do anything.”

Even pick up doggie-doo? “Anything.”

Just like having a baby, when the day came, I wasn’t quite prepared.

“Mom. We found him.” My daughter was breathless, yet calm. “We found our dog. He’s a white puppy with spots and he’s so cute and can we get him please oh please can we?”

I paused. Thought. Mentally shrugged. Gave in. “All right. Get him.” I had to hold the phone six inches from my head to avoid having my eardrum punctured by her screams of joy, but her delight made it worth it. Mostly.

Well, the somewhat unimaginatively named Buddy has been a member of the family for nearly a year now. And it turns out that I was right: Dogs are nothing like cats. Buddy needs walks and love and lots of exercise, and more often than not I end up being the one to pick up the doggie-doo. Funny thing is, I don’t really mind. He’s our big, goofy boy, and I can’t imagine our lives without him. When I come home, I’m greeted with pure joy every single day. And — much like the altruists we celebrate in this issue — he doesn’t expect a single thing in return. The cats, on the other hand, still hope we’ll come to our senses and evict him. Dream on, kitties.

— Julene Snyder, Editor