There is a new kind of crazy going on and it has reached epidemic proportions. It's called Dog Crazy. Somehow we went from casual dog owners to vigilant, self righteous, pet owners extraordinaire.
Collectively we have redefined loyalty. Some of us are more devoted to our pets than our pets are to us.
Take for example "George," a 2-year-old Labradoodle (half labrador, half poodle). I said hello to George's owner in the park the other day as he (the owner) regally sat in freshly mowed grass with a plushy chew toy in hand.
"Fetch," bellowed George's owner as he tossed the toy towards the late day sun. George wanted no part of fetch and was clearly happy just to rest in the shade.
I stopped long enough to pet George and comment on his ultra soft, cinnamon colored fur.
George's owner quickly corrected me, "George's HAIR is mocha, NOT cinnamon." I then got an unsolicited seminar on George's 6th generation pedigree line.
This is not the first time I insulted an owner on the color of their dog. A few years back I spotted famed children's author, Rosemary Wells, walking her West Highland Terrier, Sofie. Over the years, Rosemary has featured many of her westies in her books. During my daughters preschool days, Rosemary's "Bunny Planet" books were some of her favorites.
"It must be hard to keep her clean," I remarked as I admired Sophie's silky white coat.
"Well..." huffed Rosemary Wells, "at least I KNOW when she's dirty."
Pointing in disgust at Miss Lucy, my black, tuxedo Shih Tzu, she continued, "If you took the time to bathe your dog you'd see she's filthy."
Somehow I had unwillingly embarked on a racial war of words.
Today, at our neighborhood park, we met Chowder. Chowder was romping freely through the field with his owners, a dad and his young son, closely in tow. When Chowder spotted Sasha, our 95 lb Bernese Mountain dog, he quickly galloped up to greet her.
Based on Chowders size and color, my dog sense thought he looked part Golden Retriever, part Great Pyrenees.
Weary of inciting yet another racial war, I said, "what a handsome ...dog" (not wanting to assume that Chower was a boy).
"He's a Golden Retriever," said Chowder's dad, "but my sister insists he's part Great Pyrenees."
"I can see that," I hastily agreed.
"Well," he added, "my sister's an idiot. I paid a LOT of money for this dog and he comes from a great line."
Really? This time, clearly, I was set up.
Until our recent addition of Sasha, Miss Lucy was hand fed. We started this because we worried that at just over 5 pounds, her tiny size was due to lack of nutrition. That and she hates getting her chin and ear hair stained with kibble. When people remark on how small she is, I joke that, like the fables involving young asian females, we bound her little puppy paws with bandages to keep her from growing. And then I watch the horror come over their face.
Yet Beauregard's owner, who we also met this afternoon, easily out trumped me when, from his super-sized cell phone, he showed me video of Beau Beau, his 11 year old Lhapsa Apso, being fed his breakfast - at the kitchen table, with a bib on, from a silver plater, with the aid of a spoon.
"Sometimes Beau wants me to feed him and other times he wants my wife," boasted Beau's dad - a commanding, tattooed titan with a thick, portuguese accent.
"How do you know?" I ask.
"If he doesn't want you to feed him, he won't eat," insisted the proud papa.
I then watched video of Beau barking excessively.
"We taught him swear word from our country," bragged Beau's dad, "He learns so quick."
What I heard was "WOOFAH, WOOFAH, WOOFAH," but Beau's Dad hears "FODA, FODA, FODA," the portuguese word for FUCK.
What I did witness was Beau taking care of their 6-month-old daughter. While the baby lay on a colorful, cotton quilt, Beau obediently sat by her side. When the baby's squirms caused the blanket to fold, Beau quickly used his paws to flatten it out.
I watched in amazement as Beau did this time and time again.
"That is his job," insisted Beau's Dad, "He loves taking care of the baby."
But what was most remarkable about Beau and his owners is that, despite a history of being aggressive, they adopted him at the age of 9. Shortly there after he bit his owners, numerous times, and their vet insisted they put him down.
"We refused," said Beau's dad. "We just kept showing him love and look at him now."
Clearly they had not only saved Beau's life but they transformed him into a peaceful, proud, happy, little fellow.
I feel that, in many ways, my dogs have transformed me.
Some taught me loyalty. Beginning with Bosco, a pitbull with a heart of gold that we rescued back when I was pregnant with my daughter and then Bogie, a stoic pug with a blind eye.
Bogie's son Brutus, who was nothing but trouble (beware of what you name your dogs), taught me patience.
As did Mylo, an unruley rat terrier discovered roaming wild on a Georgia highway.
Miss Lucy and Sasha feed my ongoing need to nurture. They have steered me away from a self centered world and taught me how to focus on goodness. These devoted, constant companions cause me to rise each morning with a smile. Together we step outside with a sense of wonderment - walk into our day with joy in our hearts.