Must Love Dogs

By: Lauren Boston

I was pretty sure I'd found my soul mate. For starters, none of his pictures were shirtless, bathroom-mirror selfies or obscure side-angle shots that mask 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 that he was lying—and he reported no self-imposed dietary restrictions. Frankly, if you've sworn off Oreos before 10 AM, I don't want to date you.

After sifting through his answers to 300 questions on everything from global warming to the morality of dolphin fellatio, I learned he found God “somewhat important” and was totally cool with gays and lesbians adopting children. This was a rare combo—like a Mormon who enjoys a hard lemonade every now and again.

A quick look at his main profile page, and 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. This will never work.”

“I don’t hate dogs," I insist, "and why should that be a deal breaker?"

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

I really don’t dislike dogs. I live in Alexandria, after all—a city with one of the highest rates per capita of dog ownership in the country.

But truth be told, I don’t quite like them either.

Perhaps this is because I didn’t grow up with pets. We had fish briefly when I was little, but Bubbles and Spot died tragically after choking on chicken breast and suffocating in a tank full of baby-doll stuffing, respectively. A few years later, my brother—the responsible party in our two previous 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've always been better off without animals, and they're better off without us.

When I tell people I’ve never had a dog—and never felt like I missed out, either—they say: "But your dog is your best friend!" I guess that’s true…if you can't find a human for the job.

I certainly don’t wish any harm upon canines—though I do find it a little ridiculous when friends tell me about the suffering and vet bills caused by a dog's debilitating arthritis or exposed rectum. If your dog really was your best friend, he wouldn’t guilt you into cashing in your 401k for reconstructive paw surgery, would he? My best friends don’t burden me with medical bills.

Still, I respect dogs. Sometimes I even pet them, though I can never bring myself to be pleased about it and usually end up offering an awkward and obviously half-hearted attempt at civility—this is the same way, it turns out, that I interact with little children. Then, whomever I’m with feels compelled to explain my behavior by announcing that I “hate dogs.”

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

The dog-owner’s face inevitably contorts into a mask of horror. “Oh no, I think you misunderstood!” I offer. “I didn’t say I make couture ear muffs out of puppy fur. I just said I don’t love dogs.”

Tears stream down the owner's face, his pupils dilate. At this point, despite my continued objections, I’m deemed soulless.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe only truly heinous people groan when they hear the opening notes of “Angel,” knowing that 59 screen shots of Sarah McLachlan cradling dogs with missing eyeballs are on deck. Maybe I'm a monster.

Or maybe I would simply prefer to donate my money to a child with a cleft palate and be free to take a spontaneous trip without worrying that my Shih Tzu will have explosive diarrhea the second I leave.

The longer I mull this over on my couch, the more I think I could probably handle an errant bowel movement or two, if it came with the man of my dreams, the man on my computer screen. If he were 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 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,” I tell my roommate.

“Aside from the dog thing, he does seem perfect for you,” she says, making her way over with her popcorn.

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

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

“WAIT!” she suddenly yells. “Don’t do it!”

“I just told you I’ll get over the dog thing,” I say.

“I know—but look.” She points to the corner of his profile. “This is a deal breaker.”

“What could possibly be worse than dogs?”

Cats.

Lauren Boston writes for a national association magazine. She is working on her first book, a collection of personal humor essays, and she blogs about life’s awkward moments at At Least It’s A Good Story. She lives in Alexandria, pet-free and perfectly happy.