My cocker spaniel can’t seem to grasp the concept of boundaries.
I don’t mean tangible, physical boundaries. Lucy has a healthy respect for fences and doors. Unlike her predecessor, the wayward terrier who spent every waking minute concocting an escape plan from our backyard or mudroom, Lucy seems content to stay within the property line.
I’m talking about personal space. You know, that invisible barrier everyone puts up to keep others at a comfortable distance?
Granted, the relationship with one’s canine is an intimate one, prone to petting, belly rubbing and lap sitting. One’s personal space is much smaller with a dog than, say, a stranger in an elevator.
But there’s a time and place, people! I mean, Lucy!
I broached the delicate subject with a friend, over glasses of wine.
“May I discuss something totally awkward and personal?” I asked, sipping my sauvignon blanc.
“Stress incontinence?” she answered, blithely tasting her pinot noir.
“No!” I snapped back. “I had C-sections, remember? But, you’re on the right track. It’s about my dog.”
“So, it’s Lucy’s piddle problem then.”
“Nobody’s piddling. It’s just that … well, you have dogs. Do they ever, like, you know ... ?”
“No, I don’t know,” she said, impatiently. “What?”
I steeled myself with a slug of sauv blanc.
“Do they ever, er, join you when you’re … you know … in the bathroom?”
“All the time,” she laughed, as if it was the most common thing in the world.
“But, doesn’t that seem a little, uh, unsavory?” I asked, pouring myself a refill.
“They’re dogs,” she retorted. “Nothing’s unsavory to a dog. They just want to be near us.”
I went on to tell her about Lucy’s peculiar proclivities in the powder room. The way she would follow me in there and sit at my feet — sometimes on my feet — while I answered nature’s call.
“It’s unnerving,” I said, swigging from glass No. 2. “How do you get used to that kind of thing? I get stage fright.”
“Close the door,” she suggested, matter-of-factly.
“I’ve tried. But she scratches until I let her come in. I can’t let her ruin the woodwork. There’s a kitchen remodel under way. My carpenter’s tapped out.”
I explained that it’s bad enough every bathroom in the house had to be adapted to quell Lucy’s toilet paper habit. Her favorite trick is to unfurl and drag a new roll of Charmin UltraSoft from the lavatory, through the bedroom and down the hall before somebody catches her. We sacrificed countless jumbo packs before finally deciding to place all rolls high on shelves out of reach.
“I have to stand up to tear a square,” I complained. “Then, I sit down again and she’s there with her nose practically on my knees, staring.”
“She doesn’t know what she’s looking at,” my friend assured me. “My dogs do the same thing. It’s just nature.
“Well, I don’t watch when she’s performing her bodily functions,” I fumed. “Sure, I look to see if she’s going to go. But then, at least I have the decency to look away. And I’d never dream of licking her legs dry after a bath.”
My friend stopped, mid-sip, and lowered her glass to the table.
“What did you say?” she asked.
“Yeah. Whenever I get out of the shower, before I can dry off, she licks the water drops off my calves and feet. It’s just a thing she does.”
“Ewwwww!” she said with a shudder.
Suddenly, I was on the defensive.
“Oh, right,” I huffed. “You see nothing wrong with your perverted pooches shadowing you to the toilet, but my dog is some kind of deviant for quenching her thirst on my wet legs?”
“It just sounds so … so kinky,” she replied. “And you let her do it?”
“Not for very long. Just until I can dry my legs with the towel.”
Did I sound embarrassed? I had nothing to be embarrassed about. Lucy might be a super freak, but she’s my super freak, darn it. And I love her, kinks and all.
I bid my friend good-bye, drove home and went straight for the bathroom (the wine, remember?). Naturally, Lucy followed me. But this time, I left her behind the closed door.
Emerging, I found her waiting patiently, head cocked slightly to one side, as if to say “What gives?”
I scratched Lucy behind the ears and said, “Time and place, girl. Time and place.”