By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I may be an expert in animal husbandry because I am a husband with a lot of animals, but I am going to the dogs. That’s because my wife, Sue, thinks our dog, Lizzie, is a better listener than I am.
I thought I heard Sue say so after I read about an Associated Press-Petside.com poll in which a third of married women said their pets are better listeners than their husbands.
Most of those women said that dogs listen better than cats (we have three cats and they’re even denser than I am), but the wives added that both animal species are preferable to men when it comes to paying attention to whatever it is that wives are saying.
I told Sue that the poll was unfair because Lizzie’s ears are longer than mine, but Sue didn’t want to hear it. So I called my neighbor Alan Christiansen, aka the Dog Listener, for a consultation.
Alan is a professional dog trainer and the owner of Dog Gone Good (nydogtrainer.com), a Long Island-based company that caters to canines. Even though Alan is not a doctor, he makes house calls so he can teach basic obedience to a clueless man’s best friend.
“Men don’t have a habit of listening,” Alan said during a recent visit. “Dogs do.” Lizzie, who was listening to every word, kissed Alan.
“Lizzie used to be a better listener,” Sue said, “but she’s old now and I think she’s getting a little deaf.” Lizzie, who will be 15 in July, ignored the remark.
“Dogs tend to take on the traits of their owners,” Alan said, “so maybe she’s taking after Jerry.”
“That could explain it,” Sue noted.
“What?” I said.
Alan, who is 64, first made a connection with dogs when he was a boy.
“I was one of six children and my mom would save everything,” he recalled. “She even saved the grease from cooking and used it to make soap for the laundry. Little did I know that my clothes smelled like hamburgers. All the dogs in the neighborhood would follow me. They must have been thinking, ‘This guy smells great!’ I just thought they liked me because I was a nice kid.”
Alan has had many dogs, as both pets and clients, ever since.
“One of my customers was a lady who had a French poodle,” Alan said. “She wanted to know if she should speak French to the dog.”
“I speak French to Lizzie,” I told Alan. “When she’s standing by the door, I ask her if she has to go oui oui.”
Another customer used to fly her dog in a private jet and wanted to know where on the plane would be the best place for the pooch to sleep.
“I told her anyplace but the cockpit,” Alan said.
“Lizzie sleeps in the backseat when I drive her in the C-A-R,” I said, adding that I couldn’t pronounce the word without setting off Lizzie in a frenzy of excitement.
“Maybe I could teach her how to spell,” Alan offered.
I politely declined.
Alan doesn’t have a dog now, but he and his wife, Phyllis, often baby-sit for Franklin, their son’s miniature long-haired dachshund.
“He drinks only Poland Spring water,” Alan said. “If we give him any other kind, he’ll turn up his nose.”
“Franklin is a classy guy,” said Phyllis, who calls herself the Dog Rescuer because she rounds up all the dogs that neighborhood kids let loose. Then she returns them. “They come to me,” Phyllis said. “And they listen better than Alan.”
“Do you think dogs are better listeners than husbands?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” Phyllis answered. “But after 27 years, you learn to live with it.”
“Otherwise,” Alan said, “I’d really be in the doghouse.”
Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima