Today is your 7th birthday. I think. Phil and I never agree on the actual date, so now we just typically pick the day of the week that best fits our schedule. So get ready, because Friday is your big day!
“Whatever lady”, you are thinking, staring up at me with those sad green eyes. I hate when you give me that look; that face that says, “What happened here? I used to be top dog and now I am a third class citizen. I went from riding shotgun to the trunk…lodged between a case of Coors Light and the Pack ‘n Play.” I can’t argue with you….it’s sad but true.
You were my first baby…although the circumstances under which you became part of our family were not exactly a recipe for success. It was 2005; I had just been discharged from the Renfrew Center with strict instructions to “not do anything impulsive.” So ON THE RIDE HOME I turn to Phil and say: “Let’s get a dog!” and within 10 minutes we were rolling around with you on the floor of the pet store.
We knew nothing about the perils of purchasing a dog from a pet store…or puppy mills…or really puppies in general. I did not grow up with a dog or cat; just an obese rabbit named Whiskers. Phil’s experience with animals consisted of pet-sitting a neighbor’s fish that died on his watch.
People thought I was crazy (a month-long stay at a lock down facility can give people that idea) but I like to think that stopping at that pet store was my first step toward sanity. I wanted to take care of someone; to focus my attention on something other than myself for a change…and to this day I firmly believe that cleaning up dog shit builds character. But deep down I think I was lonely. I wanted someone to hang out with. Not someone to counsel me, or give me advice or process my feelings…just someone to BE with.
From the very beginning, you were universally loved. Even people who hate dogs, like my mother, showered you with treats and toys. For a chocolate lab puppy, you were oddly calm. Phil still worries that you are clinically depressed. I like to think that you are just very Zen.
You were tight with Emma from the moment we brought her home- maybe because you have grown up together. You sat patiently while she dressed you up in a princess cape and tiara- you were her jungle gym, her pillow, her “horsie.” At the Radnor dog park, you would keep a protective eye on Emma while simultaneously ingesting large amounts of goose poop. Down the shore, you raced into the Barnegat Bay to save Emma from “fake drowning.” When she said, “Ellie Bellie, I was just joking!” you gave me a look that said, “Are you serious? I just wasted my big Lassie moment on this drama queen?” You went back to sleep with an exasperated sigh.
When Phoebe came long, you were less impressed. You barely opened one eye as we sat her baby carrier next to your bed for your first introduction: “Oh Jesus. Another one?” Then you went back to sleep. You knew you just got bumped once again on the totem pole of importance. I know you are feeling pissed and neglected when you start eating my tampons.
I see that you are slowing down, and it makes my heart tight. You can no longer keep up with me on a run, and your hips sometimes give out when you are walking up the stairs. In a house with two little people constantly demanding my attention, I tend to turn my dog duties into one more thing I have to do, rather than a relationship that requires patience and presence. The funny thing is, when I do lie down with you and give you a good belly rub, I am the one who benefits. I feel calmer and more connected: the 5 Minute Belly Rub Meditation.
This year marks our seven year itch. So roll over, because I have some scratching to catch up on.