Katie McDowell, Life & Leisure

Who’s the real charmer here? Him, or my dogs?

Katie McDowell

Remember that Jack Nicholson-Helen Hunt-Greg Kinnear movie, where Jack plays an unhappy, obsessive-compulsive recluse whose whole existence is turned around by the love of a good woman and, more importantly, a cute dog?

It keeps popping into my head as I watch Chad during this week away with my pups.

For the record, he is not an unhappy, obsessive-compulsive recluse (though he is very neat and he does shower a lot). But like Nicholson in the film, he’s never really been a big dog person. I mean, he likes them — he’s not a psychopath, either — and he’ll pet one if it’s around. However, he’s far from, say, well, me.

You won’t see him moving down on the couch, for instance, to make more room for them to stretch out. Or buying gourmet, artisanal dog treats. Or talking to them in lilting, sing-songy tones.

At least, you wouldn’t have, a week ago.

Now I’m hearing his voice drifting from the other room saying things like, “Do you guys want some chicken parmesan sprinkled on your breakfast?” “Hey, Katie, can they have meatballs?” “What’s up, twinkle toes, you wanna go outside?”

Last night’s dinner date consisted of him perusing the menu like so: “Well, I suppose if I order the salmon, I can take some home for the kids.”

Right now, at this very moment, I’m going without so much as a “good morning,” while these guys are greeted with the entirety of his just-woke-up enthusiasm.

“I did a cheek touch! Who gets a cheek touch?”

Moo. Moo gets the cheek touch.

I’m just the chopped liver over here typing.

Except if I really was chopped liver, Chad would’ve fed me to my own dogs by now.

Yesterday on a hike, Moo got tired and Chad carried him on his shoulder like a capuchin monkey for over a mile. And he takes them both for runs — not walks, but proper runs. You should see the joy on their faces.

In the movie, there’s that scene when Greg Kinnear finally returns home from the hospital and excitedly calls to his beloved dog, Verdell.

The dog appears torn whether to go to Kinnear or to Nicholson, breaking Kinnear’s heart.
Nicholson then reveals he has bacon in his pocket, trying to ease the sting of Verdell’s indecisiveness, and hands the bag over to Verdell’s rightful daddy. The dog chooses Jack anyway, and Kinnear is crushed.

Just now, as I walked through the kitchen to warm up my coffee, Chad asked what I was writing about.

“Mainly how I’ve given my life to these dogs, and you roll up with some meat and steal their hearts,” I told him.

But the truth is, unlike Kinnear’s character, I couldn’t be happier about it.

“You bewitched me,” he turned and said to Moo and Tulip (not me, lol). “You made me love you.”

And in my world, that really is as good as it gets.

Katie Long McDowell is the managing editor and lifestyles columnist for The Dominion Post. Email her at kmcdowell@dominionpost.com.