Have you ever used a straight razor or a paring knife to chop up dog tranquilizer and then sprinkled the dust onto a slice of sharp cheddar? I have. I have! And then I have proceeded to put that in the microwave. And then I used a child’s play spatula to roll that mess into a cigar shape so I could feed it to my dog, Rhoda. I also tried putting the tranquilizer in brie, in scrambled eggs, in ground dog food, in peanut butter, in peanut butter AND cheese, and then at one point I stuffed the tranquilizer into a metal straw and, in reverse cokehead fashion, tried to blow it into my golden doodle’s mouth. I did this because she had just been spayed and is not very food-motivated, and wouldn’t take her meds.

I am allergic to dogs, and although I always really liked dogs, my m.o. was to pat them once on the head and then immediately wash my hands and from there just nod at them from a polite distance, like they were my coworkers, but in a distant department, so I wasn’t sure what their last names were.

At the peak of the pandemic, after saying “no” to my children for years, then telling them they had to make a presentation about why they wanted a dog, which they actually did, using Google Slides, I entered the 2021 high-stakes competition for hypoallergenic dogs. Now I am playing an ongoing self-correcting game of Never Have I Ever.

Never have I ever reached deep into a dog’s mouth to remove part of a child’s homemade Christmas decoration, consisting of two fuzzy balls held together with a straight pin.

Never have I ever taken possession of my dog from the person who has all the poop bags in his pocket and then walked down the street away from the art collective only to have the dog take a massive poop on the sidewalk. Never have I ever then retrieved a discarded plastic cup from behind the nightclub and retched while scooping up poop as two gentlemen sitting on a nearby stone wall having day cocktails yelled at me to “LEAVE it! Just fuckin’ leave it!” and then peeped back something like, “You shouldn’t have to see this!” but does that mean they shouldn’t have to see me scooping poop with a cracked Solo cup or just the heap of shit itself? Both are terrible. Never have I ever then lightly, carefully jogged over to the nearest dumpster while trying not to barf as my dog strained toward the men because she loves all human beings and desperately wants to cram herself up against their legs and turn in crazy circles.

One time Rhoda was greeting a friend who was laughing because she was so hyper (also, people get really mad because she’s so hyper) and she managed to lick him IN THE MOUTH!

This is her standard level of enthusiasm. In this instance, I had been gone for five minutes:

Never have I ever felt quite so welcomed home.

When she is in the car, she is very calm, but also needs to be in constant contact with whoever is in the front seat. Even after we repeatedly direct her to the back, she inches up and lets the driver know she is supporting them:

And here is the pecking order she thinks works:

Also: never have I ever bought a dried cow esophagus as a chew thing (just the one time, in a daze – never again) and then had to vacuum up bits of dried esophagus in the living room.

Never have I ever blushed with pride after the in-home dog care person texts me photos of Rhoda getting along with all the other dogs boarding with her over Christmas.

Never have I ever suddenly realized that “Evita” was kind of a celebration of the destruction of democratic institutions and certain constitutional rights (press, speech, association, assembly, freedom from arbitrary imprisonment, etc.) dressed up as women’s empowerment (at least the Madonna movie version) because I was holding my dog’s face in my hands while singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” and her lack of judgment allowed some space for me to think. Also: Never have I ever purposely sung into another living being’s face with my high, thin, nasal voice. Never have I ever assumed that filling in all the unknown lyrics to a song with “A ha cha CHA!” was fine.

I sort of thought Nicole Scherzinger was more of a fitness role model/scold than a singer, but just as I know little about dog training, I know little of her, so here she is singing “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina”:

All of that aside, I was thrilled to discover that walking a dog is a spectacular way to be a neighborhood snoop. She stops all the time to smell things, and I read somewhere (lie: it was just an Instagram post that I chose not to explore further) that dogs need to exercise their brains by smelling stuff and won’t get truly tired out by a walk where they are not allowed to sniff around, so I get to gaze absentmindedly (aka stare intently) into my neighbors’ lit windows at night on walks and also closely observe their landscaping choices. I also, even though a friend told me that it is illegal in some cases and just socially awful in all others to ask anyone what their service dog is for, have learned about anxiety and PTSD and other diagnoses from strangers at the dog park because I have used poor phrasing when asking about their dogs and their dogs’ little jackets that, if I were paying attention, clearly indicate that a dog is a service animal.

I am also… emotional in some way, and yet trying to suspend judgment, about the extent to which my dog loves cheese, and the way in which she cuts my problematic cheese consumption in half. I am lactose intolerant and usually have about 12 types of cheese on hand, and it is the first thing I want to eat ever, at any time of day or night. Similarly, I am allergic to dogs and own a dog that is always right next to me when I am home. She can and does open the bathroom door with her nose. So that’s how my life is arranged. Those are some choices I’ve made.

Rhoda and I built trust in part because every time I open the refrigerator, she expects that I am fetching cheese, and she is right most of the time. In the same way that at least two friends focused their lust/love for two different forbidden dudes on an effort to set those gentlemen up with women who were friends but not status-threatening friends, and close-enough-to-surveil-everything friends, all in a not quite vicarious and more psychotic than anything way, I give Rhoda at least half the cheese that I want and intend to eat. I give her brie on crackers, gouda, aged cheddar, and manchego. I give her Baby Bell cheese, and the cheese from the specialty shop and the shredded cheese which is for nachos or pizza. We look at each other while we eat the cheeses. Cheeses, like fishes, are many, and easier to catch.

Usually, for a treat like a dog biscuit, Rhoda will go through a whole rigamarole of sitting down, and then using her paw to tap my closed fists to indicate which one the treat is in, and then trot off with wiggly happiness and eat the thing elsewhere. But with cheese, she just smells it carefully and then eats it in front of me. We lock eyes. It’s gross. Living with her has made it clear that dogs of her breed are sort of dragon-shaped and flexible, and their tongues are no joke and Rhoda likes to roll in whatever corpse or gross thing she can find on our walks. I am person-shaped, moving toward some other shape, and could stand to eat less cheese. We do not need to have a soul connection over a wet wedge of fresh mozzarella. And yet we do.

This shared cheese appreciation does not mean I have much other power over this dog. I have been told to be more of an alpha, including by the dog trainer we hired who also told the female champ wrestler of RI to “grow a pair.” I just… alphas are drags. At least human alphas are. They squash their partners, they are generally anti-liberatory, they tend to monologue, their needs are unmeetable and their anxiety comes across as pure rage. And they grandstand. And they start wars. I guess, because I get very tired and dispirited hanging around human alphas and am not a dog alpha, I would just like to approach this interspecies relationship with smarts and leadership skills. This man Eric, below, seems like a grounded genius, because he figures out dog psychology (never have I ever talked about dog psychology) and then usefully instructs people on what to do.

For contrast, here is how well I handle establishing boundaries while undertaking baking projects:


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