Until three months ago, I was a cat lady. My 18-year-old Siamese housemate Lola had free rein of my domain, office and bed. A fine layer of cream-colored hair covered my furniture, workspace, clothing and—I have no doubt—my internal organs. When friends came to dine, Lola hopped on the table and swished her long tail across their plates.
"Um, why don't we eat at my place?" they would say.
As Lola aged, I started thinking that my next cat would be a dog. I had my reasons. First, no cat could compare to Lola. (After being married to a one long-legged blonde, you don't chase down another ... unless you're Rod Stewart.) Second, I was ready for more interaction with a pet than a staring contest. Third, I needed the exercise.
"You hate dogs," said my friend Bonnie.
"I do not," I snapped.
Bonnie, my oldest and closest friend, holds a masters degree in animal behavior, is a professional dog trainer and made this harsh judgment of me many years ago. At the time, Bonnie owned a rambunctious Rottweiller and an English Bulldog. She kept them in crates and when she released them, they got a case of the "zoomies" and jumped wildly on her guests. More to the point, they jumped on me, barking their heads off. I did what anyone would do who valued their life. I stood very still and placed my hands firmly over my genitals.
Bonnie found my reaction to be hysterically funny. The more terrified I appeared, the harder she laughed. In retrospect, if there was any humor in the situation, it was that Bonnie, who charged $200 an hour to train other people's dogs, was incapable of training her own. This became the secret that must never be spoken, if our friendship was to survive.
Flash-forward to the passing of Lola and my growing desire to have a dog. Not just any dog. I had time to research breeds, chat with dog owners and came to the conclusion that the best pet for me would be a Pomeranian or long-haired Chihuahua. I wanted small. I wanted fluffy. I wanted love at first sight. Bonnie, who now owns two hyper Chihuahuas, refused to hear it.
"Stacia, small dogs are not toys," she argued. "You will not like walking it in bad weather. They require a lot of care. They are expensive."
None of these warnings dulled my desire for the furry companionship I craved. That is, until Bonnie pulled out the big guns.
"If you adopt a tiny dog and decide you can't handle it and have to give it back, I will NEVER talk to you again!"
That threat gave me pause. Bonnie and I met during our freshman year in college. We supported one another through multiple marriages, divorces, parent issues, careers and illnesses. I couldn't cope without our meandering phone calls about everything and nothing. There was only one solution: lie.
When I finally found an adorable, 4-year-old, pale apricot Pom-Chihuahua mix at the local SPCA, I didn't tell Bonnie. She lives on the other side of town, so I didn't have to worry about bumping into her at the doggie park. I didn't post photos on Facebook. I contained my joy to friends and relatives who didn't see me as Cruella De Vil.
It is painful to lie to my best friend. But it would be even worse to open myself to Bonnie's negativity while doing my best to form a loving bond with my tiny, furry friend. Her former owners called her Baby. I call her Blanche Dubois, after the Tennessee Williams character who "depended upon the kindness of strangers." What greater kindness is there than saving an abandoned dog from death row?
I cannot keep a secret from Bonnie forever. In six months, when there's no question of my ability to provide a loving home for Blanche, I will reveal all. Bonnie might not like it, but then I wasn't always so crazy about some of the dogs (and men) who followed her home.