Smiling Dog Guy

I generally try to avoid the waiting room at the Jiffy Lube, but today I mis-timed my arrival and found myself there for a few minutes while they finished working on the Polytroposmobile. I had just decided against reading the cheesy article about Bangkok in a wrinkled travel magazine when the door opened and a peculiar smell wafted in. The smell of dog.

Now then: I am a cat person, or at least as much as anyone can be who doesn’t actually own a cat. The inevitable corollary to this is that I am _not_ a dog person. This is true in spite of the fact that I know and love some dogs and even more dog people. I have made my peace with the fact that dogs are among us, but it is a fragile peace, one that threatens to crack when dogs enter places like Jiffy Lube waiting rooms.

I’m not hypersensitive to foul odors or anything; this dog objectively stank. A middle-aged man with a big smile and a bow tie followed it in and sat down directly across from me. His smile remained plastered on as he tried to make eye contact. He wore a sign around his neck that read:


On reflection, there might not have been an actual sign there, but he didn’t need one. He kept looking at me, and I experienced “a curious sense of deja vu”: He was waiting for me to look at his dog, maybe pet it, at least _acknowledge_ it. I did my best to avoid looking at the dog, but this was difficult, because the dog was trying to chew on my sandal. Why oh why had I set down my magazine?

Another guy walked into the waiting room. I knew right away he was a dog person because he didn’t immediately gag at the smell of dirty dog that by now was seeping into the furniture. Instead, he kneeled down to scratch the dog on the head.

It was as if someone had thrown a switch on Smiling Dog Guy. He had been waiting for this moment. “Isn’t she lovely? Yeeess. Gooood dog. Goood dog. I’m not sure exactly what she is . . . oh, she’s a mutt, I know, part terrier part sheep dog they usually say, but she’s a goood dog and we love her don’t we oh yes sweeetums yes we dooo yes we dooo.”

I was hoping the new guy would recoil in shock at this strange behavior, but instead he just smiled. “Part terrier part sheepdog. Mah uncle in Alabama had one just lahk this.”

And they were off. My eyes were beginning to water from the smell, and I quickly lost track of the train of their dialogue, which wasn’t so much a conversation as an alternating series of exclamations about this dog and dogs in general. Smiling Dog Guy always followed his by petting the dog and saying “Goooood Dog” or “We love you yes don’t we oh we do.” A couple minutes in, his emotion overcame him and he actually _picked the dog up into his lap_. It was really too big for that sort of thing, but this didn’t stop him.

A young woman entered at that point and wrinkled her nose, God bless her. Briefly, she took in the scene: Man One, holding a big dog in his lap. Man Two, kneeling at Man One’s feet, where the dog had just been. Man Three, seeing if he could teleport himself away from there by sheer force of will. She smiled politely and retreated out of the waiting room, which, I realized, I should have done a while back.

“Excuse me, sir, would it kill you wash your dog once in a while? Especially if you bring it in public? And when it tries to gnaw my toe off, maybe not treat the situation as if it’s highly amusing? And in the name of all that is beautiful in this broken world of ours, lose the freakin’ bow tie.”

That isn’t what I said. No, I didn’t say anything. I was pathetic: I pretended I was making a cell phone call and headed outside for better reception, whereupon I actually did make a call in order to have an excuse to stay outside until they called my name.

I already know what my punishment is going to be for my uncharitable attitude. Years hence, my as-yet-unborn child will look at me with unrefuseable eyes and say “Daddy! I want a puppy!”