Well, I don’t actually hate dogs. I don’t want dogs to suffer, not even my landlord’s big hyper dog that jumps at me barking when I open the basement door to do laundry. I just don’t want that dog, or any other dog, to bark at me or hang around me. Personally—and it’s taken me a long time to be brave enough to say this—I would be happier if no dogs existed anywhere in the world.
As you might have guessed, I didn’t grow up with dogs, and I don’t remember anyone in my family ever talking about wanting one. As a child, when I encountered dogs I was scared of them—especially big dogs like my grandpa’s dog Spike. I was terrified that Spike would eat my hand when I tried to take the tennis ball from him, and I was angry that Spike made it such a chore for me to get the ball from him when he obviously wanted me to throw it to him.
I remember standing in my grandpa’s backyard—which Spike had transformed from a green lawn into a muddy, cratered landscape that looked like the Western Front—and trying to get Spike to drop the ball. “Drop the ball, Spike! Drop it! Drop it!” People would tell me to “be firm” with Spike, and they would tear the ball out of his mouth. I just had no interest in wrestling with this big, scary, growling, drooling monster to win a tennis ball only to throw it away and have the monster bring it right back to me.
As I grew up, though, I started to understand just how many people harbor a deep love of dogs. Most to the point, I realized that many potential girlfriends were enthusiastic dog people, and that if I was openly disinterested in dogs, they might be disinterested in me. I heard women talk wistfully about their exes: “He sure loved my dog. He treated me like shit, but I really miss having someone around to love my dog with me.”
So I came up with the line that I’ve been using for my entire adult life: “I like dogs. I don’t feel the need to get a dog of my own, but dogs are fun.” I’m now coming out of the closet and apologizing to all of you: the first and third statements in that line are, and have always been, total lies.
In my last two serious relationships, I’ve had to hide my dislike of dogs—in fact, I hid it so deep that I almost convinced myself that I did like dogs. Most recently, I dated a woman who owns two Boston Terriers who shared the bed with her—and, when I stayed over, with me. I’d wake up several times a night, trying to keep one dog from snuggling into my crotch and the other from sharing my pillow. I’d mummify myself in a sheet so that the dogs’ cold, poky little feet couldn’t get at me. But I really liked the dogs’ owner, so I told myself that it was fine, that I liked those little dogs too and didn’t mind the minor inconveniences associated with dog ownership.
When my girlfriend went on a trip and I stayed with the dogs, I really tried to be a good companion, but their boundless need to be played with and loved was fundamentally inconsistent with my personal need to work at my laptop without guilt. They’d just stare up at me, their little bodies literally quivering with anticipation of the moment I would have mercy and play with them. So I’d stop working and play with them for a while—but that wouldn’t satisfy them! I’d go back to work, and they’d go right back to standing there quivering with anticipation.
Why do people own dogs? I seem to be completely immune to the kind of emotional rewards that dogs somehow bestow upon their devoted owners. I just don’t get why people bring into the world these little bundles of need who are completely dependent on their owners for care and entertainment.
Dog owners always talk about feeling guilty for not being better dog owners—and no wonder! You can never give a dog enough attention. The dog always wants more. Kids are like that too, but at least kids grow up into independent adults, so when you raise a child you’re participating in a constructive project with a clear trajectory. Dogs never grow up. A dog just needs, needs, needs, needs, needs—until it dies, at which point its owners are very sad, and then go get another dog. Why?
People talk about what good companions their dogs are. Well, of course your dog is your companion—the dog has nowhere else to go. A human friend means something, because a human friend could go find a different friend. A dog is unconditionally devoted, but it’s meaningless devotion because dogs are captive: they’re cute little emotional slaves. Isn’t there something unseemly about that?
I’m not trying to convince anyone here—I’m just being honest, because I’ve realized that it’s not healthy to be a closeted disliker of dogs. After my most recent girlfriend and I broke up—amicably, for reasons unrelated to her dogs—I was genuinely surprised to discover how much joy I found every day in not having to interact with dogs. I really missed waking up with my girlfriend, but wow, did I ever really not miss waking up with those dogs.
I will conclude by again affirming that I don’t wish any ill upon dogs. A dog is just a dog, and I would never hurt a dog or take pleasure in its discomfort—which is exactly why they drive me crazy. I want dogs to be happy. I just want them to be made happy by other people, in their homes, away from me.