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Slate's Heavy Petting: Falling in Love with a Dog


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Our friend Emily Yoffe, the writer at DAY TO DAY's online partner, Slate magazine, is not the Catwoman, but certainly a cat woman when it comes to pets. This is an important consideration since she's started a pet column at Slate. Now Emily is coming out with her first book. It's about animals. It's called "What the Dog Did." And in it she chronicles her journey from canine skeptic to canine lover. Here's Emily reading a short excerpt about the time her family agreed to take in a foster dog named Roscoe.

EMILY YOFFE (Slate; Author, "What the Dog Did"): (Reading) When I first saw Roscoe, he reminded me of a chimerical figure in Greek mythology, those part-lion, part-goat creatures. Roscoe had a small brown beagle head and a huge white, hoglike body. It was as if he had been sewn together and his collar hid the stitches.

When I brought Roscoe home our resident beagle, Sasha, was thrilled and gnawed on him, prompting both to chase each other around the house. Later that night, my husband was on his usual evening guard duty--manning the television remote while prone on the couch--when Roscoe came bounding up, depositing himself with a thump on my husband's chest. He stuck his head into my husband's neck and licked it furiously.

Roscoe was an ample fellow and, from my perspective on the other end of the couch, it seemed as if my husband was being given a hickey by someone the size of James Gandolfini. Then Roscoe fell asleep, head resting in my husband's armpit. My husband put his arm around Roscoe's midsection. They looked as if they were on their honeymoon. However, I had been on my husband's honeymoon and, during it, he hadn't looked that much in love. `How do you like Roscoe?' I asked. `I've never been so happy,' he replied, a slight catch in his voice.

Roscoe did things unprecedented in our dog experience. Call out `Roscoe' and he immediately ran to you.

Roscoe moved me in a way I found disturbing. He eagerly followed me around the house and seemed to be saying `Everything OK? Need some company?' Such behavior from another person would have you petitioning for a restraining order. But from Roscoe if felt like love. I now understood what dog people were so gaga about.

Families were competing for the right to adopt him. I talked to Laura from the rescue society and started making noises that we might want to keep Roscoe. She begged me not to. She was desperate for good foster families. She promised to find us another wonderful foster right away.

I got an e-mail from Laura saying she had the perfect couple for Roscoe and they were ready to pick him up. My husband couldn't stand it. He took our daughter shopping and left me to bid adieu. I wondered why I was going through with this. Yes, I loved Sasha. But Roscoe was the first dog I'd ever really loved.

The couple came. I watched through the window as they led him to their car and opened the crate in the backseat. When they tugged on the leash to try to get him to go in, Roscoe turned and quizzically looked up at our front door. I stopped myself from running down the steps and dragging him back. Roscoe got in the car.

That night, as my husband lay on the couch bereft, Sasha came into the den and sat near his feet. `Come here, Sasha,' my husband said, patting his chest. `Come up and lay by me.' At the sound of the words `Sasha' and `come,' Sasha got up and ran from the room.

CHADWICK: Emily Yoffe writes about the joys and traumas of pet ownership for our partners at the online magazine, Slate. Her column is called Heavy Petting. Here she's reading from her new book, "What the Dog Did: Tales From a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner."

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CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. DAY TO DAY will be right back. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.