working on this year’s “People and their Pets” section
I had the opportunity to talk with a number of people about the pets
they love and care for. Of course the conversations made me think of
all the animals that have passed through my life. Mostly cats — but
there have been a couple of dogs.
It’s not that I don’t like dogs — they just require a
bit more time and management than cats do and I didn’t want the extra
At least not until my future boyfriend walked into my life with a funny
little canine in tow.
When I hear anyone talking about a Maltese I usually think of one of those
ultra-groomed, queenly little dogs with long, white and super straight
hair wearing some kind of jeweled collar (they were often a favorite “strolling
companion” for gay boys in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, as I recall).
When my partner Bain and I initially met he told me about a Maltese he
had rescued from his parents (after they had given up on the mutt because
of separation anxiety/bladder control issues). I pictured the typical vision
of aloof queenliness (with a slight yellow tint) perched on a satin pillow.
Was I in for a surprise.
On my first visit to the two-story apartment Bain occupied in Atlanta’s
Lavista Heights neighborhood, I was greeted by an energetic, yapping little
curly-haired thing named Chip looking for as much attention as humanly
Chip was nothing like the other Maltese pups I had encountered.
He wasn’t well-behaved like most of the park strollers. He growled
at everything and barked constantly. They weren’t angry growls and
barks — a bit ear-piercing, perhaps — but just his way of letting
you know there was something you needed to pay attention to.
As for his hair — there were no flat-ironed Jennifer Aniston locks
for Chip. He opted for the nappy curl look, resembling the shag carpeting
that was so popular in Ford conversion vans of the the mid-’70s.
Chip was definitely no prize-winner when it came to appearances or behavior.
What he lacked in style and grace, however, he made up for in his rambunctious
personality. When he wanted to go outside, he would run in rapid circles
in front of the door. If he needed food or water he pawed on his bowl.
To let you know it was playtime, he simply grabbed your hand with both
paws and tugged on it until you gave him a push so he would roll over on
his back. Then he would jump up and come after you for more.
Thankfully he got over the separation anxiety/bladder problem before Bain
and I moved in together, though he does spend our work days in a rather
sizable Delta Air Kennel.
Six years later, Chip is still with us. He was somewhere around five when
I first encountered him, so that would make him about 11 or 12 now. In
doggie years, that puts him in the senior citizen bracket.
These days he runs circles a bit slower and requires our assistance going
up and down stairs. Hardwood floors tend to be a bit problematic, too.
If he makes a seniorly mad dash for the remnants of the cat bowl (when
he thinks we’re not looking) his feet sometimes slide out from under
him and he’ll land with a thump on his stomach, sprawled out on all
On good days he’ll hop back up and continue on his way. On bad days — when
the bones are a little creaky and he’s feeling his age — he’ll
lay there until one of his human friends comes to pick him up and scratch
him behind the ears.
After his body and ego are soothed, he generally curls up on the couch
for a nap.
Every once in a while he gets a little gleam in his eye, and he’ll
tug at your hand with his paws.