93: Yuck! Dog Germs!

93: Yuck! Dog Germs!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog

Yuck! Dog Germs!

The nose of the boxer has been slanted backwards so that he can breathe without letting go.

~Winston Churchill

My mother loves to tell the story of my dog Skippy, who protected me in my playpen when I was a toddler. She claims I would often share my treats with Skippy, licking my ice cream cone, and then allowing Skippy a lick. I have no memory of these events; however, I have no reason to doubt my mother’s word.

Allow me to clarify my personal feelings about dogs during the first fifty years of my life, at least in my own memory. “Yuck! Dog germs!”

I have never truly liked dogs in general, although there were a few I was faintly fond of. We had a St. Bernard named Tonka that was a beautiful, kindhearted creature. Unlike my siblings, I did not care to have Tonka kiss or play with me. I suppose my attitude towards most of the family dogs was one of detached amusement.

My mother had a Pekingese for a few years when I was a teen. It was the only dog we ever owned who lived in the house. I tolerated Tippy, as long as it stayed out of my room. I apologize for the pronoun, “it,” but I don’t recall if Tippy was a male or a female.

My favorite line in regard to dogs was from the Peanuts character, Lucy. I remember Snoopy licking her face, and Lucy responded with, “Yuck! Dog germs!” My thoughts, exactly. I thought of dogs as bad-smelling, germ-carrying, hair-shedding, lawn-defecating nuisances. My husband was no dog lover either, so I had support from him when my older daughter would occasionally plead for a dog.

My daughter grew up, moved to another state, bought her own house, and promptly adopted a sixty-pound Boxer named Tyson, who was in danger of being sent to the pound. She called me with this news as if I were going to share in her rapture. “What does a Boxer look like?” I asked. “Where will you keep him? How are you going to pay for his food and veterinarian bills?” None of my questions deterred her enthusiasm.

She proceeded to e-mail me pictures of Tyson, announced that he was an “inside” dog, and assured me that she would be able to give him proper care. I responded with typical motherly comments like, “You must not want me to visit anymore!” and “Does he bite?”

These were followed by such thinly veiled threats as, “I don’t want dog hair all over my good clothes!” and “Your house is going to smell like dog!”

I briefly considered boycotting my daughter’s home, for a fleeting moment thought of forcing her to choose between this dog and her mother, and had I been extremely wealthy, I might have threatened her with writing her out of my will. This last idea was quickly discarded as being totally ludicrous, as I had neither a will nor wealth.

The holidays were approaching, and my husband and I packed for our first visit with my daughter and the new addition to her family. I distinctly remember packing clothes that were not my favorites, in case the dog shed or drooled on them. I left at home anything silky that might easily snag and anything light in color. I believe most of my wardrobe during that visit consisted of jeans and sweatshirts.

My first impression did little to change my opinion of dogs. Tyson is a typical Boxer, excitable by nature, and his desire to jump and lick me in the face reinforced my “Lucy” instincts immediately. “Yuck! Dog germs!” My daughter attempted to calm him down and had me sit in a rocking chair from which I could pet him without worrying about being knocked off my feet by his exuberance.

I would like to say that I was immediately won over by his sweet brown eyes and his wriggling short stump of a Boxer tail. I would like to say it, but it would not be true. It has taken several years to win over this “Lucy.” I am now, however, the woman in Wal-Mart with the box of Milk-Bones, the lady in Target with the large doggie stocking, and the tourist in the doggie bakery with a bag of gingerbread men dog treats.

I was not won over by the sweet brown eyes or the wriggling stump of tail; I was won over by the love and comfort this devoted canine companion brings to my beloved daughter. He is her shadow. He is her friend. He is her protector. He is my granddog. Dog germs? Who cares?

~Kim Seeley

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