A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

By Nina Pajak

For the past year, my daughter and my dog have slowly been forging a relationship. For her part, she has been enamored of him from the moment she became sentient. His side of the equation has been slightly more complicated. At first he was curious, which morphed into disinterested, which began to fray at the edges and bleed into mistrustful and fearful. That’s where he hovered for a few tense months, until baby began tossing food his way and learning how to pet him properly, at which point his ill will softened into the aloof tolerance dotted with random displays of affection which we gratefully enjoy today.

Of course, all of these thorny canine emotions are underscored by a never-ending case of severe sadface. You can almost hear Sarah McLachlan singing in the distance when he looks at you with those eyes that say, “I USED TO BE THE BABY, ONCE.” Then he plops his 65-pound, muscular body onto your lap and remains glued there, motionless, until you give him a reassuring hug and heave him off so you might regain feeling in your legs.

It’s been a long road.

But we’re making great progress! Now, the baby “plays” with him and pets him and even kisses him. She kisses him a lot, actually. Sometimes she just puts her face or hand in front of his nose, eagerly awaiting a tongue bath. Sometimes she just leans down and puts her open mouth on whatever part of him she can easily reach. One time, it was his rear end (above the tail). Often, it’s his paws.

Yeah. His paws. The paws that walk on the ground and sometimes in other animals’ excrement and happily romp around in every bit of muck and every filthy puddle which can be found within a five-mile radius.

So you can imagine how much I don’t want to know how filthy his mouth is, seeing as his mouth is probably the cleanest part of him with which my daughter comes into contact. I’d always heard “a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s,” and the lesser known bastardization I may have made up, “a dog’s mouth is the cleanest place in the world.”

Well, my beautiful illusion has been shattered. Sort of.

CBS Miami recently stuck its muzzle where I’d prefer it didn’t go and tested dog saliva for bacteria.

It’s a good news/bad news situation.

Is it clean? Oh, heavens no. It was teeming with bacteria. According to the microbiologist who tested the sample, “’One plate had so many bacteria mixed together that it was difficult to test.’”

On the bright side, nothing found was life-threatening or linked to dreaded germies like e-coli or staph infection. That may be due in part to the fact that, regardless of how vigorously your dog licks his unmentionables—or those of another pup—the bugs he slurps up don’t live very long in his mouth. And think of it this way: your mouth is probably just as gross. It’s all a bunch of disgusting junk I’d rather not consider.

Let’s just leave well enough alone, shall we? And by “well enough,” I mean my baby putting a minimum of two dog toys in her mouth on a near-daily basis. She’s building immunity, right? Right. Lots and lots and lots of immunity.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!

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