Learning to Love a Dog (When You’re a Cat Person)

I am a cat person, through and through. I love their aloofness coupled with their affection (when they deem you worthy), and their adorable curiosity. There is nothing cuter than a cat chasing a laser pointer or a kitten getting ready to pounce. My heart becomes a puddle when I hear them purr. I want to kiss them and love them and squeeze them and call them George.

But I have never liked dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always felt appropriately sad when Sarah McLachlan commercials came on TV, showing abused or neglected dogs. I’ve spent a lifetime tolerating the dogs of my friends, occasionally patting one on the head, but always keeping my distance. I don’t like being jumped on or licked, and it seemed to me that unlike cats, dogs are slobbery, messy, and decidedly needy and clingy.

Now, lest I make over half our readers mad, I need to confess something. Though I still consider myself to be a cat person, I accidentally learned to love a dog. And it changed me.

It happened a few months after I begrudgingly adopted a black lab for my husband’s 40th birthday. We named her Beth. It took me a bit to warm up to her. At the time we adopted her, she was 3 years old. Immediately, we both felt that we’d bitten off more than we could chew and seriously regretted our decision.

She was wild and unruly. She couldn’t walk on a leash and, unlike every other dog we knew, she hated being in the car. She was completely unaware of how disproportionate she was to my husband’s Yorkie Poo (who quickly learned to get out of Beth’s way to avoid being trampled).

She was also destructive. When we left the house and put her in her crate, she would bite and tear at the metal wires to the point that she cut her paws. When we realized that wasn’t going to work, we tried to leave her in a bathroom when we weren’t home, but she shredded the door.

We looked into other homes for her, feeling discouraged that this dog was nothing that we expected her to be. Then, finally, about two months after we brought her home, it finally clicked for both of us. We stopped trying to make her fit into what we wanted her to be, and decided to accept her for the crazy, galumpy girl she was. And once we did, wow. Her personality blossomed.

And I fell in love with her.

Almost five years later, Beth still can’t walk on a leash. She still hates to ride in the car. She will turn circles until she crashes her head into the wall and keep on circling. She’s incorrigible and still overly excitable. We apologize to guests who come over who feel they are going to be tackled by this bucking bronco of a 70-lb dog who just wants to love them with all her heart.

She may have been my husband’s gift, but make no mistake about it, Beth is my girl.

From her, I have learned the joy of being greeted by a wagging tail, even during the 2 minutes it takes me to walk to the mailbox and back to the house. I’ve learned the immeasurable comfort that can be found in the presence of a dog when I’m sad or stressed. I’ve learned that what I once regarded as neediness and clingy behavior is an immeasurably fierce loyalty. Most of all, I finally understand the depths of the soul that shines through the beautiful brown eyes of Beth, and why my dog-loving friends are so attached to theirs.

I finally get it. And now that my son has a puppy of his own, I’m able to snuggle with this new member of our family and play with my grand-puppy and know that going forward, while I may be first and forever a cat person, deep inside, I’m also a dog person (whether I want to admit it or not).