The Playroom: Animal attraction

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Duncan and Maraya Steadman

One of my friends, whom I have been friends with forever, who is one of my very best friends in the great big whole wide world, hates dogs. She recently told me, “You know, the older I get, the more I despise dogs.”

I sat quietly staring into my Diet Coke and picking dog hair out of my sweater. Evidently my BFF’s level of disdain is proportional to the amount of dog feces disrespectful dog owners leave on her lawn. Once again validating my firm belief that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners, and that if dog owners would act like normal people and respectfully clean up after their dogs, this entire “I hate dogs” thing would go away.

But the problem is that dog people, of which I am one, are not normal. We don’t mind dog poop in our yard, we especially don’t mind it in someone else’s yard. We also don’t mind sweeping up dog hair. Well, we do mind, but not enough to get rid of the dog. And we don’t mind slobber on our clothes or dog pee in our flower beds.

We buy chewy bones that cost more than a steak and dried duck-ear treats from boutiques on the north side of the city because we thought our dog would like them and they’re organic. We stand outside and throw slobbery dog toys for hours. We keep lint brushes in our desk drawers, we buy cookie cutters in the shape of dog bones, shop at doggy bakeries, and we talk in itty-bitty baby voices to lovey-wovey beasts who fart a lot. Normal people don’t do these things.

I used to spend some amount of mental effort judging people who don’t love dogs as selfish and shallow. They made me suspicious. As far as I was concerned, my BFF excepted, anyone who got upset over slobber on their clothes wasn’t anyone I wanted to be friends with anyway.

And then came Duncan. He’s my oversized, large-breed dog, a canine gigantosaurus. A devoted goofball of a dog who takes slobber to the fifth slobber dimension. He wipes globbers on the kitchen cabinets or shakes them onto the walls, and he likes to plant his floppy flews on my face and sniff (yes, it’s me). I just wipe the slobber goo off my mouth and fling it on the playroom carpet with exclamatory phrases: “Ughh, that is so gross” or “Ugh, this dog is so disgusting” or “Ugh, next time I’m getting a Chihuahua.”

He eats everything, especially furniture, TV remotes and Barbie dolls. He buries bones in the house and bashes open doors and gates, so our life is wrapped up in one big bungee cord that secures every entry point to our house and yard. We no longer get mail delivered to the house because the dog once escaped the bungee cord zone and terrorized our mail carrier by looking at her.

Duncan has paws that could impress a Siberian tiger cub. When he pats to say hello, sometimes his toenails take chunks of flesh out of my body the size of a Siberian tiger cub claw, thus necessitating a week of Neosporin-soaked undergarments and a morning routine my husband found hilarious, as I couldn’t quite get the angle right for the Band-Aids. Never in my wildest dreams of owning a dog did I ever imagining asking, “If I lift it up, can you put this on?”

Duncan is so far outside normal dog size I laugh at spectrums. He literally stops traffic when I walk him around the neighborhood. “What you feed that dog? People?” “That dog looks like he could bite a truck!” Someone recently asked me, “Where does it live?”

Uh, it is a he, he’s a dog, and he lives in our house. And living with Duncan for two years now, at this point I can kind of understand how someone might not like dogs.

No, I can’t.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at