Sitting in Starbucks writing this, I have equal parts of my brain devoted to my assignments, my family’s debt, my husband’s life-threatening illness and my kid’s recent tween boundary-pushing. Also, why are my jeans so tight? So the usual stew of low-level anxiety with spikes of acute uneasiness. But out of the corner of my eye, there’s a little bit of sunshine: A woman has just gotten in line with two of the most adorable French bulldogs, who are happily snorting, biting each other’s faces and sneezing. For a minute, I’m transported and I know what I have to do.
Back up a minute: Everyone knows pets make you feel good and dogs help their owners live longer, yadda yadda yadda. This is not a story about any of the great benefits of pet mommyhood—of which, by the way, I’m a huge supporter, with three (!) dogs in our home. (That’s a 1:1 ratio with humans in our nuclear fam.)
What I’m talking about here is how I’ve learned over the past few years that, when the going gets tough, I need to find the nearest canine. Specifically, I find myself seeking out someone else’s dog when I’m in a high-stress, low-resilience situation. By interacting with an unfamiliar pup, I have to completely set aside whatever worries are preoccupying me and pay complete attention to the dog’s demeanor (welcoming wag or trepidatious hair at attention?), her preferences (oh, so you like a tummy rub, do you?) and if I’m lucky, her offer to lick my face (with or without salty tears). And of course I have to quickly convince the human at the other end of the leash that I’m not some sort of crazy dognapper.
Au contraire. I am a transactional romancer of dogs.