Janet Sheridan: I love dogs, but …
April 14, 2011
I've read that dog owners experience less stress, produce more antibodies, and live in good health to 100.
Why then does the notion of having a dog send my blood pressure soaring? Don't misunderstand: I've owned, loved, and mourned many a dog.
I remember when Bob, Barbara, and I picked Boots out of a litter of hybrid puppies at Mecham’s farm. Standing in a shadowed barn that smelled of warm manure and moldy hay, we watched a puppy approach Barbara, chew on her shoes, and become part of our lives.
Our new pet accompanied us on our rambles and flopped next to us when we took a break. He swam with us in the lake and allowed us to hoist him up a cottonwood tree when we had the urge to climb.
During baseball games, Boots covered left, right and center for both teams and didn’t mind missing his turn at bat. Occasionally, he umpired, never hesitating to call games by fielding the ball and escaping with it into the swiftly flowing irrigation ditch.
I adored Boots and felt the same about his successors even when they rolled in dead animal remains.
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Presently, however, the thought of getting a dog raises so many red flags my brain resembles a military parade in Moscow.
First and foremost, dogs increase the complexity of travel.
I always fret before going on a trip: Did I pack enough socks, books, and medication? Did I remember to stop the paper, empty the garbage, and invite Joel?
Throw a dog into the mix and my mania multiplies.
A dog can't be left to its own devices. It would gulp a week's worth of food in the first 15 minutes and then serenade neighbors with plaintive howls — whether from loneliness or stomachache, I wouldn't know.
For me, leaving a dog at a kennel is more difficult than skipping dessert.
I'm filled with guilt at the sight of their pleading eyes and the sound of four little feet clicking and scrabbling across a slick floor as they resist being led away. "Why do I want to visit the Taj Majal?" I think, "After all, I've seen the Pepsi Center."
Taking a dog along on a trip can be like having chicken pox for Christmas.
My first husband and I took a road trip with Zak, a happy Labrador. After driving too long across Nevada, we stopped in a small town with one motel and a prominent "no pets allowed" sign.
We walked, fed, and watered a dog made hyper by a long day in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser, then left him to sleep in the vehicle — for a couple of minutes. His impassioned protests sounded like a crazed organist playing rock and roll.
Seeing no option, we sneaked him into our room. He spent the night leaping heavily on and off the creaky bed, slurping noisily from the toilet, and panting loudly. We left at the crack of dawn to avoid the stares of fellow travelers as they checked out the amorous couple whose shenanigans kept them awake all night.
Remembering these misadventures, I think, "There must be less stressful ways to lower stress. Maybe when I start wanting to get a dog, I should take a walk instead. By myself."
A Harvard study found a walk at 3 mph for 30 minutes a day cuts heart-disease risk in women as much as 40 percent. I wonder if the study included those who strolled with a dog that took off over the mountain, ate everything rotten, and spent the night whimpering outside the door because it couldn't come inside smelling like a skunk.
"Yes," I argue with myself, "but all your dogs captured your heart."
"I know," I agree, "but I'm too old to rush Rover to the vet for quill removal because he dined on porcupine."
And the doggy debate continues.