People say that, not only do you start looking like your spouse over time, you also start looking like your dog. In an experiment, people can often match up dogs with their owners simply by looking at their pictures. And now, researchers say even our personalities mirror our dogs in significant ways.
This information worries me, mainly because our dog, Charlie, is a borderline menace to society. So what does that say about us?
Thankfully, what Charlie lacks in basic rule-following, he makes up for in cuteness. He’s a tri-color dog with velvety soft ears and a pointy black nose. He is a true “mixed breed” rescue dog. Our veterinarian’s best guess is that he’s part Beagle and part Italian Greyhound.
Beagles are known for their passionate pursuit of almost any new scent and their “independent thinking,” which is dog-lover code for “unbelievable stubbornness.” In my experience, Beagles don’t care if you’re happy with their behavior. Why? Because squirrel. That’s why. The Beagle’s nose wants what it wants.
Italian Greyhounds, on the other hand, are known for their small, slender build, sensitivity, shyness and incredible speed. In an instant, they can go from a peaceful nap to a full-blown “tear” through the house, running circles around the living room, bounding up on the back of furniture and then leaping off again until they’ve burned off enough energy to keep from going insane. They are also “warmth-seeking,” which explains why Charlie can often be found under the covers at the foot of our bed.
So when you combine those two breeds, what you get is a skilled escape artist who breaks free of even the most fortified fences and then goes on a blistering sprint around the neighborhood, stubbornly refusing to come when called – even when the caller has a treat. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it?
Parenting Charlie is a lot like trying to control a willful toddler who also happens to be an Olympic sprinter. Every day that we’re able to keep him alive is a victory.
During his most recent prison break, I stood in our cul-de-sac, treat in hand, waiting for Charlie to come home. Sometimes I call his name, but I do it mainly so the neighbors know I’m at least trying to get the rascal to stop running from yard to yard. The truth is that no amount of calling will woo Charlie home. When his nose is active, his ears shut down entirely.
Finally, I spotted him – a brown blur streaking past the mailbox. I did my best “Mommy is excited to see you and give you a treat” voice and patted my legs, hoping maybe this time he’d make me proud and come willingly. He saw me, stood absolutely still for two seconds, then barreled toward me at 90 miles per hour, ears flying, grinning ear to ear. Just as he got close enough to jump into my arms, he zig-zagged to the right, brushing past my ankles, and kept right on running. I could almost swear I heard him mumble “See ya, sucker!”
I shook my head and went back inside to wait until he got either tired or thirsty enough to come home, and eventually he did.
I want to be angry at Charlie when this happens. I want to scold him and call him an ungrateful dog for running off and making us worry. But what I’ve realized is that many of Charlie’s quirks are hard-wired, and asking him not to follow his nose would be like asking me not to write anymore. It’s part of who we are.
And perhaps those researchers are right. Like Charlie, I’m a “warmth-seeker” who often gets cold on a 70-degree day. I’m overly sensitive sometimes, and what I like to think of as “independent thinking” often looks more like stubbornness, if you ask Tom. So maybe I should just accept Charlie for who he is, wanderlust and all, and hope he does the same for me.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.