We kid ourselves, dear pet lovers, when we pretend we are the masters in our own homes. Cat lovers suspect the truth, but dog lovers spend their lives deep in denial.
Do you walk the dog? I've seen you; your dog is walking you. I'm no different, and I've trained other people's dogs for money.
Youngest dog Andy knows perfectly well how to behave on a leash, yet I find myself being dragged down the street by an animal who has actually done well at obedience trials. Now that I think about it, he even decides when we go, bringing me the leash and my walking shoes, one item at a time.
The dogs come when they're called, sit when they're asked to and behave well around guests, but it's all small change compared to the things I do for them.
I fill the dishes when they ask (Toni has been known to "accidentally" tip stale water onto the kitchen floor), and I replace battered squeaky toys with fresh new ones (Andy prefers large green latex frogs). They get pretty much everything they could ever want, at pretty much the time they want it. I know my job, and I do it well.
Not that I mind; in fact, I rather enjoy their relaxed rule. As despots go, they're pretty agreeable.
Toni sleeps on the bed, slipping up uninvited in the deepest part of the night. I wake up and find her there, in the middle, the covers swirled around her while I teeter on the edge, inches from the floor.
I don't have to worry about Andy on the bed. He slips out the dog door at night and sleeps on the concrete steps of the back porch, no matter how low the temperature. I flatter myself by thinking that he's looking out for me, but I suspect he's there to protect his turf from the cat.
Such is the way things are in the homes of pet lovers. Our pets provide us with attention, with non-judgmental friendship and a way to meet our neighbors. They lower our blood pressure, jolly us out of our blues and keep fleas off the street.
What more could you ask? I'd name a few more benefits, but I haven't the time. On Saturdays, Andy likes to walk twice, and he's letting me know it's time to go.
Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o At Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md., 21278.