Sunday, January 20, 2008

Portland's Going to the Dogs

I must make a confession: I am a dog scrooge.

I realize that as we traverse the Portland Farmer's Market in the spring, summer, and fall, and countless Portlanders bring their dogs to the market, and I do everything I can to avoid them. I would never knowingly buy a house near someone who owned a Pit Bull, a Rottweiler, or any other aggressive breeds. I don't understand why people are drawn to these breeds. I steer my kids away from strange dogs in fear of dog bites.

Before Mike and I were married, we housesat for a month near Multnomah Village for my cousin's widow, Ann, while she and her son went to Hawaii. Ann had a 1/2 Husky, 1/2 wolf dog named Kaya. She was a beautiful dog, and Mike, staying home during the day, really bonded with her. Not me--I could either take or leave her. When she pooped all over the carpets one day, it did nothing to increase my fondness for her!

I have always been more of a cat person than a dog person, perhaps because I didn't really grow up with dogs. Our first family pet was a dog, Sunshine, although she had a very short life before she was hit by a car. After that, we always had cats. Maybe that's why I lack the dog gene--fear of commitment?

My disinterest in dogs is a recently discovered admission of mine. It is not popular to be disinterested in dogs in modern-day Portland. In this month's Portland Monthly, writer David Wolman writes about Portland's dog mania.

Apparently, Portland has 136,332 registered canines that use 31 off-leash areas at dog parks, and more dogs per capita than anywhere else in the country. Dogs can enjoy $60/hour massages, or doggy day cares with the latest toys and on-call nail care technicians. Then there are also gourmet pet bakeries, which prepare birthday cakes decorated with fire hydrants. Furthermore, employment in the pet care industry is 40 percent higher in Multnomah Country than the national average.

I don't have any problem with people being dog lovers, but I just can't relate--probably much in the same way that purposely childless couples cannot understand why anyone would want to have children. I like my sister's family's dog, a Golden Retriever, and I have no antipathy toward dogs. It's just this obsessive affection for them that baffles me.

According to the Portland Monthly article, 42 percent of dog owners let their dogs share their bed, and 55 percent bought their pets holiday gifts. How many dogs really understand the idea of Christmas? :)

For those of you who are dog lovers, please forgive this guilty confession of mine. I feel better getting it off my chest!

2 comments:

  1. Well, I do think maybe you should try a little harder to understand it, even if you don't like them. Excepting the total jerks who have redirected their frustration with the pressure to have children onto parents, most child-free animal people *can* understand why people want children. They just don't share the need. :)

    Re: your daughter, it is good to teach her not to approach strange dogs. It's also a good idea to teach her how to behave around dogs, interact with them (even if through school/a friend), and to ask owners if she wants to touch them. Because people who are afraid of dogs tend to act in a really interesting and attractive way to dogs and that makes everyone uncomfortable. :P

    Dogs are rewarding because they love and need you (regardless of debates on the meaning of love and whether dogs can feel it), and you can teach them all sorts of things that is rewarding to watch them learn. Mostly people like them because your dog is *always* happy to see you, and it's easy to make them happy. :)

    As for "aggressive" breeds, there are a multitude of reasons to like all sorts of breeds. American Pit Bull Terriers are extremely human focussed, affectionate, tolerant dogs that are prone to dog-aggression and high prey drive. Rottweilers, like most guardian breeds, generally bond closely with their family and can be pretty indifferent to other people.

    I have always liked big, "tough" dogs, despite growing up with small-medium dogs, because I think they're gorgeous and I think because as a child I was really sad people would dislike them because of what they look like. I grew to love American Pit Bull Terriers because they are beautiful, small-med (should NOT be large, they ARE out-crossed if they're over 60lbs) dogs who are absolutely adoring, depressingly tolerant of abuse, quiet (not barky), loyal loyal dogs with lots of drive and incredible strength. I would never get a herding breed because they are prone to being nippy and have sneaky body language. And are hairy. But that's my personal preference. :D

    All dogs are a species with the urge to chase and kill, even if it is severely damped by years of breeding. That is how a dog survives on it's own.

    Terriers have been bred to kill small animals, bullies have been breed to fight one another, guardian breeds have been bred to guard their humans and property from other humans, herding breeds have been bred to herd, sighthounds have been bred to chase and kill small animals. Many of the small breeds that are just supposed to be lap dogs tend to be terribly fearful due to lazy, money-orientated breeding. :(

    Even with relatively minimum training, most dogs are totally safe. There are things to be aware of, such not jumping on a dog on it's bed and suchlike but generally it's common sense. Basically the bare minimum an owner can provide is consistency, socialisation, exposure to lots of types of stimulus the dog has to tolerate, and enough exercise. Even without being amazingly competent, if they have those traits, a vast majority of breeds and dogs will be totally safe.

    Anyway. Sorry, I could go on even more than this. :P Bearing in mind I like all animals better than most people, and hate the way we feels the need to set up this weird dichotomy of children vs dogs vs cats... you can like/tolerate all of the above!

    /ramble, from a vet nurse and animal freak. ;)

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  2. I actually don't have a daughter--I have three sons, two of whom desperately want a puppy. Our reasons not to get one are more because of the three kids and not wanting to be tied down than anything.

    My sister and her family have a lovely golden retriever, and they adore her. I'm not a dog hater...I'm just indifferent.

    I think it's interesting how people's lives revolve around their dogs and it's impossible for them to consider going anywhere without them. (Yes, some people with kids are the same way.)

    I do recognize how wonderful dogs can be...if you're a dog lover. I'm just not so much.

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