Saralee Perel

Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, can be reached at 

Her novel, Raw Nerves, is now available as a paperback and an e-book on

I'll Never Say, "It's The Dog Or Me!"

He won’t admit it but my husband - who’s crazy about me - likes the dog better.  And I know I’m not alone in this dog-first/wife-second (if there’s not a twenty-five year old junk car thrown in there too) hierarchy.

I turned this situation around this morning, when my husband, Bob, was cleaning out the fridge.  I thanked him for getting rid of all the stuff in there that was a different color from when we first bought it.  He glared at me and muttered, “Hrumph.”  Then Gracie, a big adorable golden dog, trotted in.

Bob cooed, “Hey, Sweet Potato.  Got a kissie?”  And he put his arms around the dog while they giddily played face tag.  I turned around and tiptoed out of the room, wondering when the last time was that I got as many kisses as the dog.

A few minutes later, Bob came into the living room with that you’ll-have-to-ask-me-what’s-wrong-because-I’m-not-volunteering-it look on his face.  Eventually, he declared that we have a gender-biased household, which of course, was nothing new to me.

Gracie, sensing his tone, jumped on the couch and whimpered, while Bob soothingly rubbed her fur until the dog settled down.  (My hairs were bristling, but nobody cared to soothe them, thank you very much.)

“It’s my job to do all the housework around here, including the fridge,” Bob said.

“But I hate doing that.”  

The dog went and got her binky which she placed in Bob’s lap.  The binky is my bra.  It once was white, but now it’s this brown dog-spitty thing, which unfortunately has still retained its shape, and Gracie not only carries it, dangling, outside but tries to get the mailman to take it and throw it back, which he actually does.  This gives me the creeps because of the funny smile the mailman has while he’s playing this very sick fetch game.

I watched as Bob picked up the bra and explained to the dog, “Thank you, Gracie.  But I’m not angry.  Your mother doesn’t do any housework, that’s all.”  He leaned forward and put his forehead against the dog’s forehead. 

“Let’s see you do an owl and you’ll feel a whole lot better.”  And they both opened their eyes real wide and stared at each other.

I suggested that communicating through the dog is not way up there in the mental health how-to manuals but he said, “Howdy-do?” and Gracie gave him her paw.  They sat that way, holding hands, while we spoke.

“You’re nicer to the dog than you are to me,” I said.

“I’m not.”

“This is exactly my point.” I said.  “If the dog . . . ”

“She has a name.  Don’t you, Grace-ums?”  They both tilted their heads in the same direction.

“OK,” I said.  “If Gracie complained about how she was treated, you’d jump through hoops to fix it.”

“That’s different,” he said.

“I’d really like to hear exactly how that is different.”

Gracie began chewing her foot.  Bob bit his thumbnail.  Then they both hung their heads in guilty silence. 

I wasn’t intentionally trying to divert Bob from the housework business, but what the heck?

“You always bring this up,” he said, “when I discuss housework.”


Now, there are plenty of us who play second fiddle to the family pet.  (We’re the ones with only half of our faces visible in holiday photos.)  This can all work in our favor.  After Bob had his say about domestic inequity, I made my pivotal move.  I knelt beside Gracie and said, “Why don’t you tell Dad that I’ll do more around the house if he’ll start treating you like a dog?” 

Bob will never do this, so I’m safe.

And so, in bed, with no room for my cramping legs, and sober thoughts so unadorned as they are in the night, I remembered when my first golden grew so lame she could only run in her dreams.  I looked down at my sweet young pup, her body twitching in sleep . . . re-living today’s long beach run, and I whispered our secret, “You’re my best pal, too.”  We both sighed.  “But don’t ever forget that’s just between us.”