“Down, Tiny, down!” my cousin Ralph snapped at his beloved pet. The dog had its front legs on my shoulders and was licking the top of my head.
I like dogs. I like to pet them behind their ears; I like to talk coochy-coo baby talk to them; I like to see them curled up on the back porch; I like their warmth, friendliness and loyalty. What I don’t like is to sumo wrestle with them. I do not like to tongue-kiss them. I do not like to have them paw my private areas like a rogue TSA agent.
ˇ”Please, Tiny, at least use the backs of your paws when you pat me down like that. And don’t use your mouth, either.”
The white shirt I was wearing now had two dirty paw prints on the shoulder, and it smelled of wet dog and something much less pleasant. I later learned that when I’m not around, Tiny likes to hunt for dead things in the woods and drag them home. And he kissed me with that mouth?
“It’s funny,” Ralph said. “He never does that. You must smell like a rotting squirrel or something.” Yeah, that’s the name of my cologne, Dead Squirrel. It’s French.
Ralph and I live several states apart and see each other infrequently, so I had no reason to doubt him when he said his Hummer of a dog never behaved this way. For an entire afternoon, despite my struggling, my pushing, my pleading, my commands, Tiny tried to put his head in my lap, his feet on my knees, his tongue in my ear. His wagging tail knocked over my drink on the side table as he bounced between the two of us, begging for attention. At some point, I stopped putting down the glass and held it, icy and dripping, for the rest of our three-hour visit. Every now and then, Tiny would run out of the room and come bounding back with a half-chewed, soggy dog toy the size of a dinosaur bone and drop it in my lap as if he had just given me a birthday present.
I did not really get to know my cousin any better during our visit, because when I asked about his work, the answer was, “Tiny, no!” When I asked about his family, the answer was, “Tiny, down!” When I asked what sports he followed, the answer was, “Tiny, sit! I mean it, sit!” When I asked about politics, the answer was, “That’s it, Tiny! You’re going outside!”
Tiny whined and barked so much that I begged Ralph to let him back in. The sliding glass door to the backyard was white with dog drool.
“Sorry I can’t spend more time with you,” I finally said, “but all good things must end. I’ve got to drive over to Aunt Helen’s to say ‘hi.’” I acted as if it was a duty and a chore that simply had to be done, because I didn’t want him to think I don’t like pets.
We said our goodbyes with Tiny jumping and running in figure eights around us. Once out of the house, I ran to the peace and quiet of my car. There were huge amounts of dog spittle all over my lap. It looked as if I didn’t make it to the men’s room in time.
“That dog always does that,” Aunt Helen said, contradicting Ralph. “I never go over there anymore unless I’m wearing absolute rags, which is basically whatever I wore over there the first time. I’d be embarrassed to put it in the trash. Even after I washed it, it smelled like dog. Once I made the mistake of taking a lift with Ralph in his car. The upholstery is dog fur, and you can’t see out the side windows for the dog lick. A 2-pound puppy is cute. A 200-pound puppy is a menace.”
“What’s the matter, don’t you like dogs?”
“I do like dogs. It’s the owners that make me crazy.”
Jim Mullen’s new book “Now in Paperback” is now in paperback. You can reach him at jimmullenbooks.com.