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Down, Boy

When pets ruin a relationship

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My favorite part of January is the few days of 70-degree weather we traditionally are blessed with every year. It's a nice surprise to wake up to, especially if the natural event coincides conveniently with your days off from work. Those are the days when I like to harness up my Pug and take him for a stroll through one of Charlotte's parks, or University Place, or just hang out on East Boulevard at Starbucks.

A lot of people say that having a great looking dog or, better yet, a puppy is a fantastic way to meet a potential partner. Who can resist the urge to walk up to a cuddly, fuzzy puppy? Or maybe your prospective date is a cat lover and just can't get enough of little Frisky jumping on top of the kitchen countertops with kitty litter-laden claws, or the temperamental walk-by scratchings that seem to manifest themselves completely unprovoked. Unfortunately, some of us at times enter relationships where the prime-pet-of-the-house also becomes the major competitor.

I think pets are cute; God knows no one will ever love my prized Pug more than I do. However, after the first initial introduction, and maybe showing off the tricks he learned in his first year of life, the best place for him is nestled quietly in his doggy bed.

A mate's pet shouldn't be that important to a relationship, but an animal that's a nuisance can wreak havoc, especially if the proud owner is oblivious to the fact that little Vladimir is demon-possessed.

You go over to your date's house, and park your Banana Republic lambskin leather jacket on the back of the chair, and wake up the next morning to a clean slice that mysteriously appeared down the sleeve overnight. Or maybe it's a Dalmatian, affectionately named Holly, that nibbles at your ankles each time you get too close to the owner. Her master thinks it's funny. Your ankles disagree. What you wouldn't give to let Holly be on the receiving end of a good slap in the snout when the owner's not looking.

It's just too weird having to compete with a pet for the center of attention, not to mention affection. I mean, come on, there's something seriously wacked out about a pet owner who sees absolutely nothing wrong with the Yorkie or the Persian hopping on the bed and staring at you while you're having sex. A girl shouldn't have to chase the Doberman around the house to find the other half of her matching set of lingerie. And don't forget the bombers -- not bomb-sniffing dogs, but dogs that create their own bombs -- silent but deadly. You only hope he knows to blame the dog. It's not exactly the most romantic way to spend an evening at home.

Then there's the licking -- the constant, random licking some pets engage in without any apparent reason or purpose, and which usually comes at the most inappropriate times when you're least expecting it. It's like the killer tongue that you desperately try to squirm away from, but you keep turning around, and it's there. What they don't lick during the day, they'll find hours to devote to in the middle of the night, which makes for torturous bouts of insomnia.

God forbid if you try to bring these issues to your mate's attention. You might be banished from sharing the couch with Fido, who gets showered with puppy-talk from his owner, and gets treats popped into his mouth during commercial breaks. I mean, doesn't he know you'd rather he not rinse freshly cooked pasta after giving the Beagle a belly rub? Since when did dog hair become a condiment?

Sometimes Rover will perceive any article of clothing left lying around the house as fair game to pounce and pound. He doesn't know the difference between Prada and Payless, Kate Spade or Kate Jackson -- he'll chew "em up all the same.

Women should have to compete with the old stand-bys: either another woman or a demanding career, but please, not a damn pet!

I had a guy tell me once, "Date men that have cats, Elizabeth -- it takes a different kind of guy to tolerate their finicky and standoffish behavior. If he can learn to love a cat then he can relate well with women."

I took his advice and did discover that men who were cat owners were indeed different -- however, neither personality was conducive to his having a relationship with a woman. They were either gay or were such Type-A clean freaks that you dreaded sneezing from the cat hair for fear of being doused with disinfectant.

So, ladies, if you ever find yourself walking by the doorway of your lover's bedroom and he has a doorknob tag that reads "The Princess Sleeps Here" -- assuming he isn't married -- unless he plans on moving you in, save yourself the heartache, raise the white flag, and retreat.

There is only room for one bitch per household.

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