One day after months of wistfully looking at adorable puppies online my girlfriend, Skye, informed me that she put a down-payment on a miniature shar-pei from a breeder in the south. I was a little annoyed but not surprised as impulsiveness and spontaneity are Skye’s two favorite things aside from hot fries and loving my cute face. My anxiety immediately started to kick in. Would we be able to afford a dog? What about vet care? What about the size of our tiny one bedroom apartment? I ran down a laundry list of reasons why this was the worst possible idea.
Then she showed me this photo and my armor of anxiousness dissolved completely.
She was so ugly but so undeniably cute. She looked like a cross between a baby hippo, a teddy bear and a jowly old man. I couldn’t protest any longer. When Ivy’s plane landed at JFK and Skye plopped her air-safe crate in the kitchen I poked my head inside and tried to scoop out the little brown mush pile of fur that was to be our dog. She growled at me. “Where are my acres of land and my brothers and sisters?” I imagined her wondering. She didn’t eat much for her first couple of days in her new home and it seemed like she hated me the most.
My girlfriend has a way with animals. She was able to train her quickly and she showed off how well she walked on the leash and came when called. I tried this but Ivy constantly wandered in front of me, often causing me to trip over her when we went for a walk. For Skye, Ivy sat and behaved, for me, she fidgeted and gave me sassy grunts and grumbles whenever I was holding food, her leash, or her favorite toy.
Ivy is perhaps the most aloof dog I have ever met. Strangers that rush to pet her wrinkles are shocked when she darts away, “You better back up buddy.” she seems to say in her pig-like grunts and huffs. She ignores barking dogs and rarely makes a sound unless someone is banging on our door. We attempted to hire a dog walker to break up Ivy’s “sleep all day then chew-on-bone” schedule while we were both away at work. She fiercely guarded me when the walker opened the door, circling me like I was her fresh kill and the walker was a hungry hyena. When I left the apartment to test how she might do on her own the dog walker informed me that she started barking and then ran into her crate and refused to come out.
Most books say shar-pei’s really need a lot of socializing early on to make sure they aren’t aggressive towards other dogs or people. Ivy has never bit any person or dog but I think it’s safe to say she wouldn’t bat an eye if , save for Skye and I, every dog, man, woman, and child dropped dead. This is my favorite thing about her.
Skye is more social and likes to talk with other dog owners in our neighborhood. She says she wishes Ivy was a little more friendly in that way. For me, Ivy gives me an out. I love roaming the park with her and not having to constantly stop for annoying people that want to love my precious wrinkle baby – her love is MINE, get your own damn love!
Dogs are usually seen as helpful tools for anxious types like me but since Ivy entered my life my anxiety has decreased in some areas and increased exponentially in others. I am afraid when I let her run leash-less in the enclosed areas of the park she will somehow escape and get flattened by a car. When I notice the slightest change in her poop’s texture or color I assume she is filled with parasites or has eaten something toxic. I feel like a monster when I have to put her in her crate when I am away (so that she doesn’t eat the toxic things I fear) and I try to rush home as soon as I can when I know no one will be there to let her out. I use this as another excuse to dodge social obligations so it’s a win-win in my anxiety-brain.
On the other side, Ivy offers a lot to soothe me. I like walking with her early in the morning when no one else is around. I like to imagine what she sees and smells and how she’s soaking in our neighborhood with every breath and I try and do the same (minus the butt sniffing.) I like watching her go town on a new toy or devour a meal with the zest for life I often miss. When I stay up all night to ruminate on everything wrong in my life or stay out all night drinking and come home at 3AM she’s never judgmental when I wake her up and rub her face. I see my anti-social tendencies in her and I am comforted that she is around to be my kindred spirit bitch.