“Your dog is beautiful!”

A defining fact about me, one that makes me stand out as a Katie/Kate amongst millions of Katies/Kates is that I have a dog. And she’s pretty.

Isn't she lovely (for a dog)

That’s Matterhorn (Mattie). She gets more catcalls than I do, which is not something I am complaining about. She’s a Bernese Mountain Dog rescue who is almost 4 now. She likes long walks, sniffing other dogs’ butts, and eating anything (ANYTHING) resembling food off the sidewalk.

Having a dog in a city is, among many other things, a lot like participating in a 10-18 year long social experiment. Dogs force you to go outside and interact with other people (mostly strangers). Constantly.  I’ve found that these strangers fall into a number of categories (this list is not intended to cover all categories):

1. Dog park people

  • a. People whose people names are known to you
  • b. People whose dog’s names are known to you
  • c. People who never speak but are visually familiar
  • d. People without dogs (?!?!)
  • e. People with children (subset: People with children who have toys that my dog will destroy)

2. Pedestrians

  • a. People who try to pet your dog
  • b. People who act like your dog has a force field of evil around it
  • c. Russian ladies who are scared to death of your dog
  • d. Fratty (drunk) guys who scare your dog to death
  • e. People who tell you “Your dog is beautiful!”

While each category has its own required script for interaction (“It’s finally warming up, huh?” “Awwww it looks like Eli’s gotten into the deer poop again” “I’m sorry, she’s just shy around tall drunk people!”). The last category (2e) is the one that represents a constant challenge to me. In my best moments, I mumble “Thanks!” and move on my way without doing anything awkward. In my worst I…

  1. Try to explain that I’m not actually responsible for how she looks, because, you know, though people like to call me her “dog mom” I’m not actually genetically related. The compulsion behind needing to explain this distinction is indicative of why I got called “weird” a lot in school. And sometimes still today. Moving on.
  2. Immediately compliment their dog. Even though it’s licking its butt. And has a snaggle tooth.
  3. Launch into a description of the proud Bernese breed, and how they actually all look the same, so Mattie is not that special.
  4. Offer to let them take her home. She just ate something weird off of the sidewalk and will probably have gastrointestinal issues all night. No one ever takes me up on this.
  5. Grunt and walk briskly away.

I like to think that facing the constant challenge of responding to this question is strengthening my character. It’s teaching me how to emote such feelings as bewildered humility, awkward gratitude and inappropriate eruditeness.

That, my friends, is all part of the fun and games of having a dog.


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