Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Simon vs. The Purse Dogs

*** I wrote this post five years ago and it never made it online***

I needed a dog. When you own a mountain home with a big fenced yard, you live at the base of a network of hiking trails and are a single girl, it’s a natural progression. I combed the humane society website every day for months looking for reasons to spend my lunch hour at the pound. I was very clear what I wanted: a medium-sized, short hair female with intelligent eyes. To non-dog people it may sound odd, but you really can tell how smart a dog is by looking in her eyes.

One day, I came across a photo of a bright eyed dog with a huge grin all over his giant, furry face. I kept clicking back to it until finally my coworker pulled out her keys and said, “Get in the car.” The next day the paperwork was handled and I was leading an 85 pound, shaggy, male Shepard/Collie mix out to my tiny hatchback.

“How am I going to get you in there?” I asked him as I contemplated just how much lifting 85 pounds would kill my back. He cocked his head, looked from me to the car, jumped in the open hatch, sat down and looked at me again as if to say “like this?” I knew we were going to get along just fine.

Back at the start, I discovered why Simon had been turned in to the pound. He had an issue with bolting. On several terrifying occasions, he slipped past me as I opened the door and ran toward the highway near our mountain home. He usually chose to do this when I was barefooted or carrying armfuls of groceries. So I’d drop eggs and milk and fly after him, ripping my feet to shreds, convinced I was about to prove myself the worst dog owner ever as he got flattened by three semis and an ice cream truck. On the third or fourth chase, I realized he wasn’t actually running from me. He’d keep looking back over his shoulder, grinning, to make sure I was still playing along. He just wanted to play, to have my attention, to be listened to. How like a human.

Five years later, I have learned to listen to him and he to me and we usually walk through the Hollywood hills without a leash. We are companions, not master and beast. Listening to the second major Simon in my life has taught me I don’t need to force my will on a situation.

I’m not proud to say there have been times when I considered selling out on him for certain human males in my life who didn’t like dogs or found my having to go home to walk one inconvenient. Simon has been very patient with me, waiting for me to realize these men are not worth my time.

When I decided to move to LA, suddenly having a giant, trail-loving mountain dog was less of an obvious pet choice. Everything here seems to be small enough for a purse, or lunch depending on your perspective. On observation, it seems many of these “dog” owners are more in it for the accessory cache’ than the companionship. The conventional wisdom is that you can tell a lot about the owner from the dog. Maybe it’s the mountain girl in me but Chihuahua with rhinestone collar and crocheted sweater does not say good things. At least it doesn’t say down-to-earth person of substance, intellect and world consciousness. Maybe it’s just me.

Simon avoids purse dogs as they tend to have Napoleon complexes and lunge at him snapping and biting. This allows me to avoid their owners who tend to be blonde and covered in brand names. Sometimes with matching rhinestones and crochet.

Sure, sometimes it would be nice if Simon were more portable and welcome at Hollywood shops and eateries. But only so he could see for himself. Sometimes I don’t think he believes me when I tell him about what I see in this town.

Having a big dog in an apartment town has certainly been extra work. If I were just getting a dog now, I might make a more convenient choice. But when has convenience been interesting? When have you grown from taking the path of least resistance?

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