I’d Be Wishing They Were Dogs

Do You Want the Dog Honda or the Child Honda?

Honda in Japan is giving childless customers the option of installing a dog crate or a Pekingese-sized glove compartment nook instead of child car-seats. With the childless rate nudging toward one-quarter of the population, the car manufacturer figures if they build it, people will buy it.

Since I have no chance of having a baby at this point,I would. One dog Honda, please.

I recently read an article on Boston.com by Reuter’s Sophie Hardach (“In Dog We Trust: Japan’s Childless Turn to Canines”) about Japanese professional women pushing prams with tiny dogs inside, tiny dogs dressed in little doggie clothes. A surgeon quoted by the author said she was too busy for husbands and children, but she got lonely, so she adopted dogs. Does this not sound like little girls torturing the family dog with bows and doll clothes? Suddenly I think of an old joke where a guy looks into a carriage at a dog in a baby bonnet and says, “That’s the ugliest baby I ever saw.”

Over the years, we’ve all known people who treat their pets like children. Look at my friend Carol, whose parrot Barney runs her life. The other day when we met at the mailbox, she said she had to hurry back in because Barney knew she was home from work. If she dallied outside, he would get angry and poop on her.

On weekends, Carol wears shirts torn by Barney’s talons and teeth and stained by his droppings. Every day she plays music for him, takes him into the shower with her and shares her meals with him. She and her human partner never leave town together because they can’t leave Barney alone. After Barney bit Carol recently, leaving a deep red gouge in her finger, I said if it were me, I’d smack him so hard there would be green feathers flying all over the house. She just smiled and shook her head. “I just told him not to do it again.”

Childless interviewee Bonnie says, “I treat my dogs like children at times. My adoptive mom always said she’d like to come back as one of my dogs. Maybe I treated them better???

It’s probably good that I don’t have kids. I might kill them. One night shortly after we adopted our dog Sadie, I dragged home from work exhausted and hungry, put my dinner on the counter for a minute and turned around to find she had eaten half of it. I whacked her so hard I felt bone against bone. I apologized afterward. Being a dog, she forgot all about it. She’s still trying to cadge my chow 10 years later.

I flash on my Grandma Rachel’s dachsund, Gretchen, whom she referred to as “Gretchie.” She coddled that dog, much to the frustration of my grandfather who preferred the big old mutts that used to keep him company on the ranch. Grandpa’s second wife, Rachel never had children of her own. She was such a terrible cook that her offspring might have starved, and she was more than a little eccentric. I can still hear her reading poetry to us one visit and see her behind the curtains pretending she wasn’t home the next. But she was completely devoted to her dog.

Two generations later, I don’t have children either, but I have Sadie. And yes, she runs my life. If she breathes funny or limps, I’m on the phone with the vet. Every little sneeze or wheeze and I ask, “Are you sick?” Lately she has taken to moaning. I jump down to the floor, asking, “Are you all right?” She eases away from me, annoyed.

“She’s fine. She’s just trying to talk,” my husband says. Typical father. He’s not the one who gets up in the night to let her out. He’s not the one who abandons whatever he’s doing to open a door or feed her a “cookie.” He’s not the one who says, “Sadie’s bored. Let’s go for a walk.”

He’s also not the one who makes faces at the dog to see if she’ll make the same face back. I have gotten her to yawn and to lick her lips. I think I can make her smile, too. Okay, I’m a little nutty like Grandma Rachel. Every generation should have a crazy artistic relative, right? But maybe she shouldn’t reproduce.

When other people call me Sadie’s mom, I say, no, I’m not her mother. Her mother was a canine with four legs and a tail. And yet . . . I know every inch and scar of my dog, but I don’t even know if any of my stepchildren ever had the measles. Furthermore, while other women go gaga when someone brings a baby into the room, I stand off to the side, not sure what to do. Bring in a dog, and I’m all over it. I gush over puppy pictures the way other women melt over baby photos.

Dogs and I connect. We communicate. In fact, I would love to be surrounded by dogs, all rolling around together in a pile. Babies are complicated. Dogs are simple. Eat, sleep, poop, play. They never grow up into something that wears size 13 shoes and decides you’re an idiot.

Good thing I didn’t have kids. I’d be wishing they were dogs.

copyright 2007 Sue Fagalde Lick

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