Confessions of a Canine Curmudgeon

“To put it bluntly, I don’t like your dog” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (March 25, 2011).

I have a confession to make: I’m not a dog lover. Never have been, never will be.

There, I’ve said it. Friends, relatives, neighbors, now you know the truth: I don’t love your dog.

For years, I’ve been putting on a friendly face, bending down with a fraudulent smile and pretending to enjoy combing my hands through Spot’s smelly mane. Or faking my way through a playful boxing match with Fido as he stands on his hindquarters to greet me at the door. Or pretending to enjoy putting my fingers into Sparky’s slobbery mouth to retrieve a tennis ball.

It was all an act, my fellow Homo sapiens. The truth is, I’m not too crazy about your adorable best friend.

I know this admission doesn’t bode well for my writing career. I’ll never be able to write that best-seller about my four-legged friend’s fellowship and frolics. I’ll never fill a newspaper column with stories about the time Charlie got skunked during a midnight bathroom break. Best-sellerdom is for the dogs, and I’m destined to a life of literary mediocrity.

That’s not to say that I have never enjoyed a canine’s company, or that I don’t appreciate the benefits of dog ownership. Dogs provide constant companionship, faithful friendship, and an opportunity for humans to make use of monikers they only wish they could give to their kids – like Mugsy, Maximus, Rocky, and Bandit.

All that being said, I still don’t want one. I know many people will find this curmudgeonly, blasphemous, and even un-American. That seems to be an especially common trait of dog owners: a failure to understand that there are some of us out there who just don’t love their dogs.

Hence the empty words of reassurance one often hears called across a field or sidewalk as a dog owner moseys over to retrieve her charging Rottweiler:

“Stop snarling, Chopper! It’s OK – he likes kids!”

“Oh, he may growl like a grizzly and have fangs like one, too, but that’s just his way of saying ‘Hello’!”

“Don’t worry, he won’t really bite. He just ‘nips’ when he’s playing!”

“Oh, he’s just a puppy. Get down, Killer!”

Tell that to your 7-year-old daughter as she clings to your leg in terror. Or the paperboy scared to collect his monthly fee because of the angry Doberman on the other side of the screen door.

Dog owners, take heed: Your assurances are not comforting to the rest of us. Yes, Fang may in fact be friendly, but if I wanted to be friends with him, I’d be the one running up to him and sticking my nose in his nether regions.

Dog owners could go a long way toward changing our opinions if they simply practiced a little more public relations for their canines. In addition to keeping the dog’s nose out of my private parts, a little due diligence in cleaning up after the fella would be appreciated. Neighborhood parks and nature preserves (not to mention my own backyard at times) have become doggy minefields. While I appreciate composting, I’d like to keep it out of the treads of my children’s sneakers.

And for those who do pick up after their dogs, while I do feel a bit sorry that you have to carry it around in a shopping bag, do you have to deposit it in my trash can? Things smell bad enough in there without a surprise souvenir on a sweltering July day.

Of course, not all dog owners are discourteous. But far too many of them are failing to recognize that some of us don’t want to be hounded by their dogs, or reminded of them by something on our shoes.

I suppose many animal lovers will think this sounds grumpy and irritable, and that perhaps the companionship of a pet would make me less cantankerous. Perhaps I could look into getting a cat. Unfortunately, though, I don’t like them, either.


  1. Humpf! We cannot possibly be related! You must be adopted. 😉

    I appreciate, and respect, your opinions on one of God’s most perfect creations — next to the cat. (Yes, I said it, and yes, I believe it. Humans could take a few lessons from the unconditional love domestic animals show us.) Don’t worry — no need to cart me off to the looney bin. 😉 It seems your beef is more towards lazy owners than the dogs themselves. It’s ridiculous when an owner lets his dog do his business in everyone else’s yards, but to place the bag in your trashcan? I’d have put some sort of trap in place. 😉 And, even as a fierce animal lover, I cannot stand when big dogs a) jump up with no reprimand from the owner b) jump into my lap without invite and c) constantly bring a toy over when you’re in the middle of a conversation. Again, I think this all comes down to the owner and how the dog was trained. If the dog was never told, “no,” how is it supposed to know that jumping and pooping in my yard is bad? Just like some people shouldn’t have kids, a lot of people shouldn’t own an animal. But, if you still just don’t like Fido, that’s fine, too.

    I applaud your honesty and enjoyed your fantastic writing, as usual. 🙂 And, I still love ya.

  2. I hear you on this Doles! I should have gotten a stuffed dog but my wife and son love them. I guess that is because they don’t have to feed, walk, clean up after, or any of the other not so fun things that come along with being a dog owner. Oh well, the things we do for love.

  3. I have just read your article and I am a dog lover and owner. But I have to agree with you on several points. I carry spray to protect my dog from “friendly” dogs who are unleashed. He has been bitten twice now. The lasted incident was yesterday as I, with my leashed dog and mandatory bag (which I take home to dispose of), were walking across a lot as this person drove into the lot talking on her cell phone. She stopped the car, still on the phone, and opened the door so that a large black dog could exit. He immediately spotted me and my dog and came charging. I yelled to watch her dog and she yelled, Oh he’s friendly and I proceeded to tell her I was going to mace the dog. At this point she told the person to hold on and started running and yelling at the dog who was getting closer with his fur straight up. A sure sign he was friendly to me!!!! He finally stopped a mere few feet from me because of her yelling. She proceeded to yank the dog back to the car, open the door while the phone came back out, and get him in the car. Off she went! This is not a responsible pet owner and unfortunately there are too many out there right now. If I hear the words, “Don’t worry he’s friendly” I immediately go the other way. Thanks for the article. I wish the people that need to read it do and think twice before they take Fido out. Thanks again

  4. When did dog urine become such a desirable substance? Dog walkers want to share their dog’s urine with me by having their dogs urinate all over my property. Hey, I garden out here! And across the street, three little children play on their front lawn. Stop allowing your dog to urinate on property that doesn’t belong to you! It’s a filthy, despicable habit. Please, please, please have your dog empty its bladder and evacuate its bowels on your lawn before you take it for a walk. It’s the decent thing to do.

  5. I am a dog owner and loved your column and agree with the other Marie about dog owners. I got my first dog at 63 years old (a month ago). I’ve always liked dogs enough but didn’t want the responsibility. Found I really liked it after dog sitting for a friend. However, I work really had not to be the kind of dog owner who’s driven me crazy before. Imagine if your kids treated guests in your home the way some dog owners actually let their dogs treat guests!
    I can relate to your sense of being ostracized for saying this. I once cleared a room by ranting against SUVs as gas guzzlers and road hogs(before the gas crisis and after finding out these “family autos” were classified as trucks, but in memory of the 70’s gas crisis-all present had sat in those gas lines). Several years ago, I received some seriously mean responses to a column I wrote for the Chestnut Hill Local titled “Let’s Make Chestnut Hill a Hummer Free Zone.” after watching one chew up the cobblestones as it cruised down the avenue.

  6. Alleluia! Someone who dares speak the truth.
    Thank you for your piece informing animal (DOG) lovers that not all of us share their enthusiasm about their choice of A HOBBY !
    Pure and simple pet ownership is a hobby. Never once have I ‘cleaned up’ after my neighbors parrot, been annoyed by the constant glub, glub, glub of the goldfish down the street or been awakened by splendorous noises of the copulating ferrets outside my window at 3am.
    To anyone who believes in their dog’s ‘unconditional love and devotion’ see what happens if you let your one of your neighbors feed it for a week or so.

    Don’t be so crushed 🙁 !

  7. Holy Crap, Michael… you have just written the column that I have wanted to write, or have somebody write, for about 45 years! I don’t care how many copywrite rules I’m violating… I’m making about 300 copies of that sucker to give to every leash-breaking, child-threatening, fright-inducing, slobber-flinging, frisbee-mangling, poop-ignoring canine ‘handler’ that constantly circle around me!! And have you ever noticed that Savage Pup always knows instinctively who is most terrified and heads directly for us? This is Epic, Michael… well done!

  8. I own a dog (a snarling Doberman by the way) and loved your article! I am afraid I am not really a dog lover. I like my dog…sometimes. I feed him expensive food. Give him an obligatory scratch on the belly. And take him for a couple mile run each day. He is well trained. Curiously the most grief I have is dealing with the very things you mention in your article (people who allow their dogs to jump on me (or the Doberman…whose response is a lot less accommodating than my own), avoiding the land mines of canine fecal matter that dot the otherwise lovely park near my flat). The result is i am left with a bad impression of the dog…and more pointedly a poor opinion of it’s owner. Cheers! For stating an often unsaid truth!

  9. Thanks for speaking on behalf of the silent minority. I suspect there are plenty of us out there but it is un-American to admit to anyone that we don’t think everyone’s dog is just adorable….fur flying, barking, jumping, smelling each others’ behinds. I loved Marley and Me ~ both the book and movie but there are too many pet owners who have no interest in investing the time and patience needed to properly care for a dog.

  10. I don’t assume that your beliefs are based in your lukewarm feelings toward dogs. I am a passionate dog lover but I whole-heartedly agree with your editorial. The whole poo issue is very clear cut, your dog – your poo responsibility. The other issues that you shared are a good reminder to all of the dog-lovers out there; we need to be aware that our dogs are not as adorable to other people as we think they are!

  11. FANTASTIC ARTICLE !!!!!!!!!!!
    BRAVO !!!!!!!!!

    I’m sick of hearing about people’s stupid dogs and cats…

    This is a topic that needs to be talked/written about every week.
    Dog people must learn that their dogs are NOT wanted on many others private property, restaurants, stores, public street fairs, festivals, etc.

    To make thing worse, now they call them “therapy” dogs so they can bully store owners and others into letting them in with their dogs.

    Dog owners need to keep their dogs on their property – perild. When taken in the public domain, any dog over 10 pounds should to required by law to wear a jaw strap.

    Please protect our children from the nut job dog owners !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Bravo! I came to the conclusion years ago that dog lovers and non-dog lovers will never understand each other. As a kid, my first experiences with the pooches involved stepping in fresh dog doo several times while wearing my ripple-sole shoes (anybody remember them? Very comfortable, but you had to find enough sticks to start a bonfire in order to clean the soles off) and witnessing a couple of dogs being run over. That, along with the barking, the jumping all over you, the shedding, the fleas, the drooling/slobbering, the stench, the ralphing on the carpet, owners treating them like “children,” etc.—and people wonder why I don’t love dogs. Seriously?

  13. Thank you For saying what I feel. I am scared of dogs that jump, run at me and wipe their noses on me. I really don’t care if they are friendly. I really don’t want to see you kiss them either. Do you know where their tongue has been?

  14. Mike, you are on target with your honesty and the need to make dog owners and dog lovers aware of neighbors’ rights. I used to bring my golden retriever to a park and wrinkle my nose when I beheld a tennisball framed with poo. I could not refrain from naming the stuff.Worse, when the park attendants dutifully refill the plastic bag rolls and some visitors ignore their obvious use, it has me wonder, “What do their homes look like?” Further, I enjoyed all the comments above knowing that the bottom line reminds us to be more aware of the rights, sensitivities,and responsibilities that must be shouldered by the companions of the canine species.

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