Despite what friends and family might believe, I do not enjoy doing everything with my dogs. In fact, the only reason my social media feeds are full of pet pictures is because my dogs are constantly hovering around me engaging in absurd and highly photogenic behaviors.
Truth be told, I find myself regularly looking for opportunities to do things without my dogs, simply because they already dominate so much of my everyday life.
However, similar to the way the Golden Gate Bridge always, under any circumstances, enhances the beauty of the San Francisco Bay, there are certain activities that, any way you slice them, are always more enjoyable when you add a dog into the mix.
1. Walking at sunrise
I love going for the occasional evening walk or midday run without dog. Reminding myself what things look, feel and smell like in the world when I don’t have another living creature attached to me by a six foot leash is essential for my well-being.
But mornings are different. Getting out of bed in the morning is tough sometimes. Especially when you really love your bed. But even when I’m not super motivated to get up and go enjoy the quiet and beauty of a sunrise stroll for myself, I’m usually willing to do it with a dog.
Whether it’s wet grass, bird song or the collective neighborhood calm that comes after everyone’s had a good night’s sleep, early morning walks are stimulating in a way that no other activity is. And quietly sharing that stimulation with someone who relishes it in an entirely different way – sniffing the dewy grass, intensely inspecting every trace of nighttime wild life activity – is cathartic.
2. Eating peanut butter
For those of you who are troubled enough to not like peanut butter or unfortunate enough to be allergic, my heart goes out to you. But for the rest of us, I think we can all agree that eating peanut butter is super awesome. And it’s even more awesome when you share it with your dog.
There’s a reason that at least one of your Facebook or Instagram friends has shared a video of a dog eating peanut butter in the last month. A dog transforms sitting on the couch with an open jar of peanut butter and a spoon from a self-indulgent, slightly regrettable caloric intake into a nose-lickin’ good time. If I looked that adorable while eating, I’d eat even more than I already do.
3. Watching scary movies
I seriously dig disturbing shows and movies. (anybody else Netflix crushing on Stranger Things right now?) But every once in a while, I watch one at the wrong time or in the wrong context and find myself gripping the remote, waiting for a hybrid amalgam of Alien, Predator and Frank Underwood to crawl out of my television like that girl in The Ring and scare the living shit out of me.
However, when you’re surrounded by one, two, four or ten predatory, albeit bumbling and needy, beasts, the possibility of you dying at the hands of a murderous cinematic creature seems far less likely. Especially since the last time a squirrel had the audacity to run through your yard, they completely lost their shit.
One Halloween, my best friend suggested we watch the movie, The Entity (which I had never seen or heard of) at her house, and then promptly scooted me out her door because her boyfriend was coming over, leaving me to drive home alone at midnight to my empty studio apartment. I’m not sure how much or how well I slept that night. But I do distinctly remember thinking, “Jesus, I wish I had a dog right now.”
4. Drinking alone
I suppose this one’s kind of a chicken-or-the-egg activity, not to mention a little bit of a misnomer. After all, I could just as easily argue that playing ball with your dog, relaxing with your dog and cleaning up your dog’s puke are always more enjoyable with a drink in your hand. And when you have a dog, I suppose you’re never technically drinking alone. But I think we all get the point here.
Pouring myself a glass of wine at the end of the day and sitting down in the backyard to play ball with and throw treats for my dogs is one of my favorite things. I don’t have to talk to anyone or think about anything and I’m surrounded by happy creatures with simple needs. And, when one of my parents calls to ask me what I’m up to, I can just say “playing ball with the dogs” rather than “drowning my self-doubt and general anxiety in another alcoholic beverage.”
5. Hitting up the drive-through
This one’s pretty straight forward. The once mundane and tedious task of picking up your prescription at CVS or drawing the short straw and having to go grab your group’s to-go order at In-and-Out becomes a lively adventure with a dog in the car.
Where people once reluctantly slid open that little window lamenting having to deal with one more customer as you pull up, they now smile ear to ear and offer you a treat as the big-eared goofball in your back seat grins and drools while hanging his head out of the window.
I think more businesses should have a drive-up option for this reason alone.
6. Managing social anxiety
For angsty writer types like myself, social interaction is a mixed bag.
We love going out for good food and drinks and meeting up with close friends. But in general, the idea of attending a large social gathering or engaging in small talk with strangers makes us want to curl up in the fetal position and drink our bourbon through a straw.
Dogs help with this. Because when you have a dog with you, your dog becomes the focal point by default. You and whomever you run into can even look at the dog while talking to each other, relieving you of the all-consuming fear you have of sustained eye contact with another human being.
On days when my irrational and paralyzing fear of leaving the house for fear of running into another person threatens to take over, my dogs get me out and about – to the beach, to the park, to the bookstore, to a training class, to the pharmacy drive-through. And coincidentally, I usually have a fabulous time. In fact, I’m pretty sure our favorite restaurant gives us the occasional free drink because they really like our dog, and by default us.
So, go adopt a dog.
For those who love morning walks, peanut butter, scary movies, a good cocktail, friendly drive-through attendants and coping mechanisms, but who are currently dogless, go wander around your local shelter or jump on Petfinder and find that one friend who will be there for you through a zombie apocalypse, even if you run out of peanut butter.
What’s your “always better with a dog” list look like?