At the moment, while I work on my laptop, my puppy is prancing around the front yard, pausing every 30 seconds to dig a hole or chew a stick in a desperate play for attention. I must resist giving it to him, because if I play with him, he'll forget that he actually has to poop.
So I'm sitting here waiting for that triumphant moment when he squats down, stiffens his tail and lets loose. Then I'll say, "Yes! Good Boy!" in a high voice that I only recently discovered I was capable of. Afterward, feeling a sense of relief, I'll grab a poop bag and scoop up the mushy mess.
I've learned a lot since my wife and I brought home Paul, our 4-month-old golden retriever and the first dog I've owned as an adult. I've learned that a dog relieving himself is not something to recoil at, but something to celebrate. I've learned that my backyard is filled with a specific type of weed that could kill Paul if he eats it. I've learned that puppies will do literally anything for a treat made from beef liver.
But most of all, I've learned something about myself — something that, just six months ago, I would've rather buried my face in dog poop than say out loud.
I'm a dog person now.
Earlier this year, my wife and I decided that if we were ever going to get a puppy, now was the time to do it. We are both working from home. We have a yard and no kids. We love animals. If anyone was ready for a dog, it was us.
My main hesitation, however, was that I didn't want to become what I am now, a dog person.
I considered myself a cat person. I've had a cat my entire life. More than that, I feel like I understand cats and they understand me. Just like my cats, I'm introverted and a little skittish. I prefer not to listen to authority. I, too, love nothing more than looking out the window at the birds.
Dog people were different. They were always calling their dog doggo. They'd go out to the park and meet other dog owners who were otherwise complete strangers — an activity that was unfathomable to me. They'd bring their dog along with them to the Home Depot while shopping for some new vinyl flooring. They're the worst!
But we wanted a dog anyway. Maybe, I thought, it's possible to own a dog and not become a dog person.
I was wrong.
Paul changed everything.
Everyone told me that raising a puppy is a huge commitment, and they were right. It's the constant potty breaks, the constant playing, the constant training.
It's not just mentally shifting your attention to raising a puppy. It's transforming the physical space, too. I must now step over a baby gate every time I go into the kitchen. If I lean back my recliner, I hit a play pen that we use to block off our plants from the puppy. Toys are strewn all over the living room and the front yard.
But you know what? It's fine. Really. None of this bothers me at all. Ever since we brought that chunky, fluffy puppy home, I was ready to do whatever it takes to keep him safe and happy.
The other day, my wife and I went to the pet store and found some things for Paul to chew. As we left the store, we were giddy about bringing them home, solely because we knew it would make him happy. This would have been unthinkable to my former self. And I came to a sickening realization: This is the behavior of a dog person.
My entire personal life now revolves around what's good for Paul. I pick up his poop with a smile on my face. I talk to strangers on walks because it helps Paul socialize with others. And the other day, I thought I'd take him with me to the Home Depot so he could meet other dogs.
I'm a new person now. A dog person. If you're a dog person, too, maybe one day I'll meet you in the dog park and we can chat as Paul runs around with a ball in his mouth.
Just don't ask me to call him "doggo." ♦
Wilson Criscione is a former Inlander staff writer. He's now a reporter for Investigate West.