“How are the kids?” I always make a point of asking my friends.
They appreciate it and talk about day camp, allergies, Saturday’s visit to the Bronx Zoo, who’s good at math and who was so funny at the pediatrician yesterday.
My experience as an uncle seven times over has taught me how to talk to parents about their kids, yet I am surprised how poorly people engage my partner Bryan and me about our 6-year-old dog, Ezra Pound. I’m not saying dogs are exactly like children, but the U.S. dog population recently hit 72 million, and that’s about the same number as kids under 18.
Here’s how to score points with a dog owner and be on the right side of the numbers:
1. Ask about the name. Just as kids are named after someone, Ezra Pound, too, has a backstory. People assume it’s after the famous poet, which upsets my mother who knows him as insanely anti-Semitic. But “Ezra” comes from the founder of Cornell, where Bryan and I (and both our families) went to school. “Pound” reminds us he was adopted.
2. Yes, he’s adopted. We got Ezra when he was eight weeks old from the ASPCA on the Upper East Side. The affinity test they made him take made us feel like he “chose” us. With so many desperately needing a home, we do frown on breeding, though we would never say it to your face.
3. Race is an acceptable topic. For years, we thought Ezra was a mix of pit bull and labrador and even had to balk on an opportunity to move to London because of that city’s Dangerous Dog Act. But when we genetically tested him (what gay people with cash do), we learned Ezra that is actually chow, rottweiler and greyhound. Just don’t use the word “mutt.”
4. Compare routines. Like any kid’s dance, sports and tutor schedules, Ezra has a full plate too. Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays he attends a top-rated doggie day care (private) in Chelsea. Tuesdays and Thursdays, his walker, Michael, takes him to the dog run off the West Side Highway. There was competitive tension between Michael and day care, but they’ve all learned to work as a team.
5. Eyes in back of our heads. You look away a minute, and they found a chicken bone in the gutter. We’re just lucky that other than avoiding chocolates and stepping on glass, Ezra doesn’t have nut allergies or buy into trends like raw meat. Bones are an expense, but it’s better than chewing Bryan’s sneakers.
6. Flatter him, flatter me. Natural or adopted, we all see our young as reflections of ourselves. Ezra has a gorgeous black coat, strong body, soulful eyes and is often mistaken for a puppy. People think I’m fairly immature too.
7. Forget about birthday parties. It’s sweet if you remember his birthday, but you wouldn’t want to attend Ezra’s party. The food’s inedible, and it involves a 20-minute struggle to get the hat on.
8. Discuss major minor rights. Your child benefits from thousands of protective laws. Ezra is technically Bryan’s property, which means in a bad situation, Michael Vick has as many rights as I do. Worse, in 46 states, we’re not even technically married, which makes Ezra kind of a bastard.
9. Ask about his poo. If you just flinched, you probably have forgotten your baby’s first weeks. Ezra’s bathroom activities affect his behavior. Loyal, he seems to not go with his dog walker but save it for walks with me.
10. Are we having kids? Read above.
Mat Zucker is a creative director in advertising who lives in Chelsea with his partner Bryan and their 7-year-old dog, Ezra Pound.
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