In this short piece, Yordanka Beleva takes a clinical approach to canine companionship.
Women live longer than men. Women who are dog owners live longer than women who are not. Women dog-owners have love. Love is a dog. The National Club of Women Dog Owners. The previous sentences are excerpts from some questionnaires of mine, from the part concerning motivation, and the first question is “Why did you get a dog?”
I copy, underline responses of interest, and rewrite parts of the questionnaires. I’ve recently started studying psychology and this is my first assignment: “The Man Behind the Dog.”
Liliana, thirty-nine, housewife
At my age I still have no one and nothing. I often become spiteful for no reason. I hate kids, cats, and everything else that makes people go soft at the sight of it. Sometimes the thought that I receive less attention than the ugliest house cat makes me cry. But to be by yourself when you are crying is better even than being the most beautiful house cat. For an aging woman like me, when a woman starts comparing herself to cats, it’s time to get a dog. I got a dog to be my ally against the cats. That’s right, I didn’t get it only for the obvious reason of avoiding loneliness. I got an ugly dog to be with me, in my ugliness. It’s loyal to me for the way I treat it and I’m loyal to it, because it’s not pretty. It also understands me—it chases children, cats, and everything that makes people go soft at the sight of it. I know that one day I will get used to it and that I will see it as the most beautiful dog in the world.
Maybe this is true for me, too—someone just has to get used to my looks. One time, as we chased cats together, I was thinking about all the jokes about brunettes made up by blondes. The same is true about me and cats—I chase them, but actually I would like very much to be someone’s beloved house cat they were always petting.
Darina, twenty-three, businesswoman
The dog was given to me as a present. All my dogs were given to me as presents. I don’t mind the superstition that says you are destined to break up if you are given a dog as a present and that’s fine by me, because these dogs were packed in cars—when I get a car as a present, there is always a dog attached to it. After a present like this, I can face the inevitable and the break-ups more easily.
First, I had a small dog, but my first car was small, too. I don’t know the breed of the dog, nor do I know the brand of the car; they were both small and minor. My second dog was bigger and more expensive and so was my car. I want to be a member of your elite club, because all my female friends are members of it. I have the biggest dog in Sofia, which perfectly matches my SUV—the most expensive one in Bulgaria. Surely it’s no problem for me to make donations as long as I can be manager of some initiatives or serve as honorable president of the club, after all I have the biggest dog in Sofia and size always matters. A real woman should always have a big car, a big dog, and a successful businessman by her side. My current boyfriend and dog are both outstanding in size, they get along perfectly, the dog responds to three basic commands and my boyfriend to the most important one—“Gimme that!” I am happy and this is what matters when you when you have to care for a dog, isn’t it?
Stanislava, thiry-two, mother of three children
We have two dogs in the apartment we live in and I have two more at my parents’ village house. A dog shouldn’t live alone among people, even if they shower it with love. If I found myself in a situation where I had my way, I would take in all the homeless dogs and care for them as if they were my children—I’d split everything equally among them. I dream of running an animal shelter. I think my children are going to be like me, most of their stuffed animals are puppies. We have to love our dogs, they are our relatives, our kids. I often have this dream: I live in a tall building full of dogs and most of them are ill or sad, I take care of them and I am like Mother Teresa to all the world’s canines.
Milena, forty-eight, social worker
I don’t need a dog, but who asked me? My husband got it, but I take care of it, I take it for walks before and after work, I feed it, I clean up after it. It’s like having another man in the house. The dog helps me talk to people, it will make me more humane or so my husband says. My husband likes it this way—me doing his work. Or the dog doing it.
Hristina, twenty, a student
I never thought I would own a dog. A friend of mine left her dog with me for a while and I haven't seen her since. The dog became mine. The feeling of owning a dog is amazing. I love to hug it. It’s like having a real, live stuffed animal. At night it sleeps at my feet. It’s restless when I am restless. It licks my tears when I cry. It looks around for me when I am gone. I wish that I could meet a man who’s like my dog. Who would be loyal to me, like a dog. I’m looking for someone to become my dog.
Asena, sixty-eight, widow
I took in a dog so I could talk to it. Since my husband died I have no one to talk to, I have no one to say a single word to. Having a dog is even better than having a man.
Evdokiya, forty-five, unemployed
At first, my relationships with men were like a separate food diet—they came in limitless quantities, I just had to combine them in the right way. Lately they seem more like separate bins for recycling. I need the dog to help me recognize them—which type each one is. Dogs know what is good to eat and what isn’t. This dog is all I have left from a man from ten years ago. I wanted a baby, he gave me a dog.
I’m leaving The National Club of Women Dog Owners. I took what I needed, which is the evidence gathered for my assignment. I've chosen the more interesting motivations for owning a dog and now I have to summarize them. Tomorrow I will add the men’s points of view, in the morning I will be in the park and will also interview the homeless dog owners, two dog trainers, eventually someone from the mayor’s office. I can't forget the children, I need the opinion of some people who are now growing up. I want to do my assignment properly. It won’t be easy with all these relations between dogs and the sexes, dogs and temperament, dogs and language, dogs and adults, dogs and religion. These psychologists!
I don’t know whether women live longer than men do. I don’t know whether women dog owners live longer than women who are not dog owners. All I know is that the mornings are longer and start earlier when you own a dog. The dog makes your day longer. Do longer days make life longer and do women live longer than men? I really don’t know. What I know is that love truly is a dog. I own a dachshund and that is love.
Love is a dachshund: it gets longer as years pass by but it doesn’t get taller—no, it doesn’t.
© Yordanka Beleva. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2017 by Ivan Kolarov. All rights reserved.