Believing in Dog

By Cynthia Heimel, February 2018
In Remembrance
The Bark’s friend and colleague Cynthia Heimel passed away February 25, 2018. Cynthia was a humorist nonpareil whose ribald commentary were collected in her books Sex Tips for Girls; Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth; and Enough About You. She was a columnist for the Village Voice, Vogue and Playboy, and wrote for television shows “Dear John” and “Kate & Allie.”
She was also a devoted dog lover and committed animal rescuer. Her essay below appeared in The Bark in the Fall of 1999.

I’m thinking about getting myself an old guy.

An old guy won’t be so much trouble. He’ll lie around on the couch, eat, fart, scratch, sleep. Young guys run around too much, need too much attention and are constantly picking fights.

Plus, nobody wants old guys. People want puppies—cute little bits of fur that pee on your bed and eat your sofa. But well-mannered old guys, four or five or even twelve years old, guys who would never lift a leg in the house, guys who find shoe-chewing boring and passé, are passed over. They languish in kennels, they are gassed at animal shelters.

I have a newspaper on my coffee table called Muttmatchers Messenger—pages and pages of pictures of pooches for adoption. Most morons who abandon their dogs do it when the animals are about a year old, when they’re no longer cute little puppies but they’re still gnawing on table legs because nobody bothered to teach them not to. But in this paper there is a picture of a ten-year-old guy who was abandoned at a market. A man drove up to the market, dropped off the old dog and drove away. The old dog waited for him in front of the market for a week. Some kind woman finally rescued him. Now this faithful old guy is just waiting in a kennel. I’ve been looking at his picture for eight months.


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Too many people are stupid about dogs. Too many people want purebreds, because purebreds with AKC papers supposedly have status. But kennel clubs are dog destructive. They hold these beauty contests called dog shows. The dogs have no job but to look pretty. So irresponsible breeders find one pretty dog and breed it over and over to its sisters, its daughters. Purebred dogs are now riddled with health problems and are incapable of doing the jobs they were bred for in the first place.

And where does your average human go for his purebred dog? To the mall, where the pet stores sell puppy-mill dogs at inflated prices. Puppy-mill dogs are so unhealthy that half of them die. Puppy-mill owners keep dogs in tiny cages where they become deranged and catatonic.

This morning I couldn’t stand it anymore and phoned about the old guy.

“Yes,” said the dog-rescue woman, “poor old Homer’s still here.”

“Is he doing okay?”

“Most of our dogs are relatively happy. They’d rather have homes, but they’re okay. Homer just sits and waits.”

Oh God, I can’t do this. My other dogs will kill me. Most of the men I know have one dog with whom they bond intensely, put red bandannas on and take everywhere. An us-against-the-world kind of thing. Most women I know have two or even more dogs with whom they construct close-knit family units. I have no idea what this means.

But I do know that having a dog makes us happier. Dogs and humans are symbiotic species. We need each other. A dog is the only animal who has a love of humans embedded in its DNA. This has been true for thousands of years.

My dogs protect me from homicidal gardeners, from psycho mailmen. They really scare the shit out of prowling Jehovah’s Witnesses. They accompany me to the bathroom in the middle of the night in case something scary is lurking.

With dogs, you don’t need gurus. Dogs are forever in the moment. They are always a tidal wave of feelings, and every feeling is some variant of love. They take us out of our heads and into our lives. They remind us of where we came from.

Dogs, the poor slobs, hand over their entire lives the way we hand someone a tissue. And in turn we kill them. In this country, eight million animals die every year at animal shelters.

I know I’m a castrating bitch, but, fellows, you have to cut your dog’s balls off. Dog and cat overpopulation is at a point where we can’t let our dogs randomly reproduce. Yes, your dog is the cutest, smartest dog in the world and you just have to have one of his pups, but I’m sorry, you can’t. There are just so many dog owners to go around, so every time you bring a new puppy into the world you’re sentencing another dog to death.

I know you’re wincing and grabbing at your own balls in a frenzy of projection, but get over it. I have two neutered guys. They are not fat or lazy. They are playful guys who don’t have to go through the frustration of always wanting it and rarely, if ever, getting it. They fight less, roam less; they bond better and are more protective. Plus, a neutered dog has a 98 percent reduction in cancer and infection and will live an average of two years longer than a guy with balls. (You also have to spay your females. But most men, go figure, have no trouble with this concept.)

I had two neutered guys when I wrote that last paragraph. Now I have three neutered guys. Homer is right over there on the couch.

He’s been in a constant state of amazement since I got him. He was, as promised, just sitting there in his kennel while a bunch of young guys frolicked around him. He saw my leash and couldn’t believe it was for him. He was all, “Me? Are you sure? Really? Oh boy!” He put his paws around my neck and licked my face. In the car he was beside himself with wriggles. Then the couch situation put him in a state of shock.

“Are you telling me I’m allowed up here? Is this a joke? Can I roll around and everything?”

He is an extremely well-behaved guy. Most rescued dogs are. They’re so grateful to have a home.

Don’t buy a dog. Go to the pound. Or to a rescue group, which probably runs classified ads in your local paper. If you’re a breed snob, you can find golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, anything.

Or get an old mixed breed like Homer, who’s now running and yipping in his sleep, probably dreaming of runaway mailmen.

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 09: Fall 1999