Must Love Dogs

I was pretty sure I had found my soul mate. For starters, none of his pictures were taken shirtless or with an iPhone in front of a bathroom mirror or from obscure side angles that automatically suggest you have a busted face. In the world of online dating, this was rare.

Even more promising, he was 6 feet tall—5’10” in the likely event he was lying—and had no self-imposed dietary restrictions, such as not eating Oreos before 10 a.m.

After sifting through 300 questions he had answered on everything from global warming to dolphin fellatio, I learned that God was “somewhat important” to him and gays and lesbians adopting children was totally acceptable. This combo was as rare as meeting a Mormon who enjoyed a hard lemonade every now and again.

I just needed to take a quick look at his main profile page and then I could start planning the wedding.

The remaining information looked promising. Works in TV, studied abroad, loves “Arrested Development,” calls his mother, can’t live without…

“Son of a bitch!”

“What’s wrong?” my roommate yelled from the kitchen, where she was making popcorn to snack on as I trolled for dates. “His profile was good.”

“One of the things he can’t live without is his dog.”

“Oh God.”

“It gets worse. At the bottom it says ‘must love dogs.’”

“Well, you hate dogs, so this will never work.”

“I don’t hate dogs. And why is someone putting ‘must love dogs’ like this is a singles ad in the classified section from 1992? You don’t see ‘single white female’ anywhere on my profile!”

“Lauren, you don’t like dogs. And you can’t fake it.”

I don’t dislike dogs. But truth be told, I don’t really like them, either.

Perhaps this is because I didn’t grow up with pets. We briefly had fish when I was little, but Bubbles and Spot died tragically after choking on a chicken breast and suffocating in a tank full of baby-doll stuffing, respectively.

A few years later, my brother—who was already responsible for two horrific pet deaths—threw a football at a rabbit, accidentally breaking one of its legs. The next morning we found it dead in the backyard.

So yeah, we were better off without animals.

When I tell people I’ve never had a dog—and never felt like I missed out, either—they tell me your dog is your best friend. I guess that’s true…if you don’t have any human best friends.

I certainly don’t wish any harm upon canines—though I do find it a little ridiculous when a friend’s dog has a debilitating bout of arthritis or an exposed rectum. These are ailments that should be strictly reserved for the elderly. Plus, if your dog really was your best friend, he wouldn’t guilt you into cashing in your 401k for reconstructive paw surgery. My best friends don’t burden me with medical bills.

Still, I respect dogs. Sometimes I even pet them, though this usually involves me awkwardly stroking them with two fingers—the same way, it turns out, that I touch little children. Then, whoever I’m with feels compelled to explain my behavior by announcing that I “hate dogs.”

“I don’t hate dogs!” I quickly correct. “I just don’t love them.”

The owner’s face contorts in a mask of horror, the severity of which would suggest they had just watched their child burn to death in a grease fire.

“Oh no, I think you misunderstood!” I offer. “I didn’t say I skin puppies and use their fur to make couture ear muffs. I just said I don’t love dogs.”

Tears are streaming down their face, pupils dilated.

“I think we had a miscommunication,” I plead. “I didn’t say I was going to rip out your dog’s rear molars with a pair of pliers and string them together to make a necklace. I just said I don’t love dogs!”

At this point, despite all my objections, I’m accused of not having a soul.

Maybe they’re right. Only truly heinous people groan every time they hear the opening notes of “In the Arms of An Angel,” followed by 59 screen shots of Sarah McLachlan cradling dogs with missing eyeballs. I am a monster.

Or maybe I would simply prefer to donate my money to a child with a cleft palate and wear sweaters covered in my own hair and take a spontaneous trip without worrying that my Shih Tzu is going to have explosive diarrhea the second I leave.

Then again, I could probably handle an errant bowel movement or two if it came with the man of my dreams. And right now, that man was on my computer screen. If he was to be my husband, I would have to make sacrifices. Much like a woman who inherits step children and learns to sort of love them, I, too, would learn to love this guy’s dog. It would be a struggle, but I could do it.

“You know what—I’m going to message him.”

“Aside from the dog thing, he does seem perfect for you,” my roommate said, returning to the couch with her popcorn.

“Yeah, and I’m not gonna let some little bitch get in the way.”

“Then go for it!”

She was right—I would just ease my way into the whole dog thing. I could start by sitting through all 28 minutes of that ASPCA freak show—er, commercial—and slowly build my way up to sponsoring a dog with one leg and a cauliflower ear.

“Here goes nothing,” I said, my cursor hovering over “send a message.”

“WAIT!” Steph suddenly yelled. “Don’t do it!”

“I just told you I’ll get over the dog thing!”

“I know—but look,” she said, pointing to the corner of his profile. “This is a deal breaker.”

“What could possibly be worse than dogs?”

“Cats.”

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