2006-09-07 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

...by Joanne Anderson

Siamese mix kitten Siamese mix kitten Dogs shouldn't play favorites. I'm not jealous, but when I watch my dogs fuss over my husband, I wonder: "What am I... chopped liver?" Their answer would probably be a qualified YES. They'd say: "Perhaps we'd like you as much as we do him, if you smeared some chopped liver all over your face." They would much rather go for a walk with him. I doubt if they'd notice if I stayed home.

A twice a week walk with him is heaven. A routine walk with just me is mundane. It doesn't help when he tells them that I am the Dullard. Dogs delight in anticipation. They rejoice (impatiently) as soon as they pick up visual clues. Who says that dogs are colorblind? In winter when my husband opens the closet to get his blue ski jacket, they start romping around the house. He only wears it for dog walks. They also understand that if he fills a water bottle and puts on a fanny pack, it is going to be a good walk, not a Joanne walk. While our Afghan snaps her joyous jaw castanets, our Cavalier squeaks: "Let the ruckus begin".

The pooch prompting is more insistent in summer. He can't put on sneakers without the duo trying to convince him to take them along. They've gotten so pushy that I must leave first with them and head in the opposite direction, when he plans to run. If we bump into him, he tries to trick them by grabbing a leash for a block or so, and then exiting stage left to jog. They aren't fooled. They know they have been short-changed, and are stuck with mundane me.

Ms. Toto, Cairn Terrier Ms. Toto, Cairn Terrier Canine unconditional love is over rated. Dogs, as a species, must have a great PR person because everybody buys that claimhook, line, and sinker. Unconditional, no way. It's all about them; not us. My dogs don't appreciate me though I'm the one that adopted them. Both are rescues. Charlotte would still be living in the squalid home of a collector if it wasn't for me. The Beauty Queen has no idea that I spent weeks strategizing to convince him that we needed another needy Afghan. I even drove across state lines to get her. That should be worth a few Brownie points.

Can't help feeling sorry for myself: I'm the one that feeds them. I cook for these ungrateful bratsjust switched from chopped meat to steak because my picky pups were getting tired of burger embellishments. I'm the one who brushes them. I bathe the tiny one in the sink before drying her with my hairdryer. I suffer pangs of guilt if I don't have the Afghan up on the table at least a half hour a day. I schlep them to the vet, groomer, obedience school, and agility. I make sure they are protected from heartworm and fleas. I brush their teeth. Should I go on? I buy all their toys, chewies, and designer outfits. I pet them non-stop and stroke their egos. For heaven's sake, I just catered a wedding for Charlotte at the animal hospital. What more do they want? Why don't they worship me too?

There must be a reason why I'm second fiddle. I am their caretaker, so the dogs approach some of my chores reluctantly. Dogs are creatures of habit, and sense what is about to happen. For Afghans, it takes pains to be beautiful. I move the grooming table, and she starts running procrastination laps. I pull my car into any spot in her groomer's parking lot, and she refuses to get out of the car. For the last few appointments I've parked at the church across the street, to hide where she is. She'll catch on to this stunt. Soon I'll be parking miles away.

The mental associations dogs make are a tribute to their memory and cognitive powers. They know what is to follow. Dogs with separation anxiety freak when their owner picks up car keys. My husband represents FUN to our dogs. Everyone (pets included) needs things to look forward to. The dogs love when he wrestles the Cavalier and chases the Afghan around the yard. He never wrestles or chases them to rub yucky sealant on their teeth as I do. My walks are for taking care of business; his are strolls in the park that last for miles. They foresee when they'll be leash-lunging at the poor geese at Argyle Lake, or sniffing the Palomino at the stable. Since his jaunts are an occasional treat, the blue ski jacket and water bottle become symbols of FUN. No wonder they don't care about me. I'm only the symbolic chopped liver and the pushover that will hand feed it to them on demand.

The adoptable pets at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset are filled with anticipation also. They are hopefully waiting for the moment when someone loving takes them home. The shelter is overflowing with cats and kittens some real beauties. This female Siamese mix kitten #850, about 4 months old is gorgeous, but we did notice what looks like an umbilical hernia when we picked her up for this photo. A vet can easily repair it when she is spayed. There is also a litter of tiny orange polydactyls with extra toes galore. Meanwhile "Ms. Toto" #847 is a purebred Cairn Terrier. This sweetie is scared because she knows that There Is No Place Like Home. See additional photos on the shelter's Petfinder site.

More dogs: "Daisy" #811-a mature Beagle; "Sheba" #735a cream Shepherd; "Block Head" #739a young black Lab mix.

 Free Rabies Clinic sponsored by the Town of Oyster Bay on Sat. 9/16 from 10 am to 2 pm at the shelter. Dogs must be leashed; cats and ferrets must be in carriers. Call the shelter for further information.

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