Blame Harlan Ellison. Enfant terrible of the sci-fi literacy, and author of the 1969 novella A Boy and His Dog. A book whose denouement (which I won’t spoil) proves once and for all that a man’s best friend is totally his dog.
Which brings me to—what actually is the best pet companion for a man? A dog surely? But what other options are there? A disclosure: I’m a cat person—always have been and always will be. Not a dog in sight in childhood, I would instead be mesmerised by mysterious furry creatures that would perch on a fence and look down at my toddling self. I would point and call each one “Baaa” (who knows, perhaps I thought they were sheep? Although I don’t think I’d yet seen a sheep). The first cat I owned was obviously named “Baaa,” perhaps more due to my parents’ laziness than anything.
Having recently lost a long term cat-friend (19), who was very much a constant in my life—as girls, friends and other assorted humans came and went over that time, it struck me just how much a pet can add to a single man (or woman’s) life. When you’re single, without getting too zoophile about it—a pet’s the de facto partner who’s always there.
So, cat, dog or something else?
Men and dogs—I notice a vast difference from blokes in my native New Zealand to Europeans. Kiwis think big is better. You see a lot of men out running, walking, or sometimes driving in their convertible (what could be cooler?) with big potentially child-eating wolves. German Shepherds (don’t call them Alsatians—it’s not 1941), Collies, Labradors, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Czechoslovakian Wolfdogs. Well you get the picture. Big, wild, boisterous dogs that a man can do stuff with. Man stuff!
In Europe men walking small powder puffs through cobblestoned streets are common. (Small) Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Chihuahuas, Bichon Frises, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (scary) and Fox Terriers (on the large side). Small fruity dogs. I’m not sure what this says? They are walking their girlfriend’s dog maybe? Or are small dog’s a total chick-magnet in Europe? Perhaps I will borrow a small fruity dog and go for a walk sometime to find out.
A dog, big or small has benefits. You can take them places. There’s a social aspect to having a dog. As a keen runner, I would love a wild, fast animal to run across the grasslands (okay, cobblestones) with. There’s something primal about that. A man’s best friend. I get that.
As an indicator of personality, a pet also shows women (or men) you might meet that you care about a life other than your own. Maybe you are dad potential? You aren’t selfish—because—take a pet on and you’ve got to care for him or her for 10-20 years. A pet isn’t a commodity. A product to be disposed of when it’s obsolete. It’s a huge commitment. You have made that commitment to another living creature to take care of it and be its friend. This is the kind of person you are.
There are other smaller pets to consider too. An aquarium makes an ascetic addition to any room. Okay you can’t do much man stuff with a fish (besides taking it out to do press ups with), but you can relax with a beer and watch fish antics for hours.
The pet-friend options for men are frankly, endless.
Cat, dog, fish not right for you? If you’re not interested in a long term relationship, why not get a guinea pig. They are kind of cute, your date will love them, plus they don’t live long. The ultimate short term commitment.
A Boy and His Dog (1975)