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Hey, I’m sorry if I gave you the wrong impression just now, but I promise I don’t want to pet your dog.

It’s not that he’s not cute — seriously, who’s the cutest wittle wuggums in the whole wide world? — but I bet people are always trying to pet him, and I’m sure that gets old real quick. All you want to do is take him for a walk, maybe text one of your girlfriends or check Facebook while he does his thing, but before you can get half a block down the street some guy’s like, “Oh my god, your dog is so adorable. What’s his name? How long have you had him? What kind of mix is he?” And then, like clockwork: “Do you mind if I pet him?”

Or do they just pet him without asking? I bet some of them say, “I’m really good with dogs,” don’t they, like that gives them a free pass to pet him without your permission. People can be such animals. Like, I’m joking, but I’m so not joking, you know?

I used to be one of those guys. I used to pet a girl’s dog and not even ask her his name. I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to get my hands on that fur. I was respectful of his rights and everything — trust me, I’m not one of those guys who thinks every dog is secretly a bad dog who likes it rough and wants to tussle on the floor — but I definitely wasn’t into the pre-petting chitchat.

Okay, this is going to sound weird, but whatever — I was really into anonymous petting in my twenties. I mean, sometimes four or five times a week, especially in those years between college and law school. Dog parks are where the heaviest petting action is, of course, but I’d even go into animal shelters and pet every dog in the place, then say I’d be back later with my car to take a few home with me. But I never did.

But then I’d find myself wondering what those dogs’ names were, and if I ever saw them again, what would I say? Would I be like, “Hey, remember me? I petted you last summer in Central Bark. I felt like we were both into it, or did I read you wrong?” But that’s the price you pay when you become part of the anonymous-petting scene.

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Anonymous, a cairn terrier (photo credit: Caitlin Ochs/The New York Times)

These days I guess you could say I like dogs, but I won’t go out of my way to pet one. If I see a dog, even if it’s a puppy giving me puppy-dog eyes, I just smile and keep walking. Maybe I feel guilty because of how I treated dogs in the past, or maybe I just grew up and realized we all need our space, especially if you’re an animal trying to relieve yourself on a busy sidewalk. Can you imagine? They’re so brave. I mean, I haven’t used the bathroom outside since summer camp.

The thing is, when I see a dog now I’m also seeing the innocent little pup it was before the world turned it into a cold bitch. No offense, because I think that happens to all dogs, male or female, Lady or Tramp. Just look at any bloodhound — an ironic name, don’t you think, when it’s so obvious they’re dead inside? We just have to remember: every bitch is some bitch’s child.

And if I’m truly being honest, I’d have to say I’m more spiritual than religious, but I really do believe all dogs go to heaven. They put up with so much, but after all these years they’re still man’s best friend. That’s love, man. That’s the real deal. Or maybe they’re just so easily distracted by squirrels and cats and cars and birds and other dogs and their own tails and the wind that they simply don’t have the time or energy to be bitter. There’s a lesson there for all of us.

But if you’re into it I’d love to pet your dog. No? Okay. That’s cool. Hey, just thought I’d ask.