Early in my newspaper career, I worked at a New Jersey tabloid where the publisher was a man of few words, most of them insulting and frequently shouted at top volume. He was easy to make angry and I did so one afternoon upon returning from the scene of a row house fire in Trenton.
Most of a city block had gone up in flames, the fire spreading from home to home via a connected attic. Dozens of families were homeless, and firefighters had suffered serious smoke inhalation, but fortunately no one had been killed.
Still, per the publisher, I had missed the most critical detail of all.
“Any dogs killed?” he demanded. “People love dogs more than people.”
That was how I ended up back at the scene of a massive blaze, inquiring about canine calamities. The publisher seemed visibly disappointed that none of the now-homeless families’ dogs had been barbecued.
“People love dogs,” he assured our afternoon news meeting. “Anything about dogs they’ll read.”
That lesson crossed my mind a few weeks ago, as I was driving home from Ruff Road, a Phoenix-based dog rescue. There, the shelter’s owner, a sweet woman named Anne, had totally seen me coming. I had driven over to meet Lucy, an eight-pound bedraggled ball of fur who resembled a cross between a yorkie, a chihuahua and an old rust-and-brown throw rug.
“I’ll go grab her,” said Anne. “And I’ll bring her bestie, too. Ethel.”
The dog has a best friend?
“Oh yes. They grew up together, they’re inseparable.” Anne paused – possibly for dramatic effect. “But I’m sure they’ll be fine apart if you only want Lucy.”
This was how I ended up adopting two dogs. They’re three years old, with Ethel – a reddish 12-pound mix of rat terrier, cocker spaniel, and chihuahua – serving as muscle while Lucy appears to be the brains of the operation. Meaning Lucy’s the one who bops open the door to the closet so Ethel can fetch a Nike for a joint chewfest.
They’ve settled right in running my house, too. Back in the day, I enjoyed laying on the couch to watch golf on the weekends.
They’ve decided I’m restricted to one cushion now, while they reserve the other two for naps and wrestling matches.
Did I mention watching golf sitting up is more relaxing than it looks?
The girls also have decided that I spend too much time sleeping and my face needs additional moisturizing. Most days, the face licking starts at about 3:45 a.m., but that’s OK.
Did I mention I get a lot of work done early and under cover of darkness?
We’ve all learned quite a bit over the past couple of months. For example, having lived alone for a few years, I’d forgotten that French fries are meant to be shared equally. I’ve also finally learned never to leave my socks on the floor, or anywhere within six inches of the ground. Also, it’s unwise to leave the front door cracked while you fetch the mail or grab DoorDash off the porch – unless you’re gung-ho to practice barefoot sprints up and down the street while the neighbor kids laugh at you.
I needed the cardio anyway. And so what if all my golf shoes have bite marks now, and someone attempted to install a second doggie door by chewing through some wallboard, and someone stole the last slice of pizza off the coffee table and dragged it into the bedroom?
All of it is a very small price to pay. My old publisher was right. People, or at least this person, really do love dogs more than people.