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Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Perfect Fit

I was shaving my legs in the bathroom sink when my then 22-yr. old daughter Stephanie, who still hadn’t moved out, barged in and informed me that her boyfriend was buying her a puppy for their upcoming anniversary. I dabbed my bloody leg with a tissue and told her no. Well, okay, I screamed “NO!” with the fierceness of a raging warrior and then rattled off a frantic shopping list of reasons why she couldn’t have a dog. “You’re never home, I’ll end up taking care of it, like all the other pets in this house, and you can’t afford it!”

My daughter stood there silently eyeing me, unmoved by my speech. Her narrow mouth turned upward forming an eerie coyote grin, and then without a word she confidently walked off. Stephanie has her ways of grinding me down to a fine powder when she wants something; therefore it wasn’t surprising to me that after a few days of constant pounding, she had obliterated my resolve like a Cheeto under a choo-choo and I had agreed to the pup.

I hadn’t told my husband about the pending pooch. I guess I was still hoping for the possibility that my daughter would opt for a trip to Vegas or a piece of anniversary jewelry. Stephanie decided on a female Teacup Chihuahua. I wasn’t thrilled with her choice seeing that the one time I had ever been bitten by a dog; it was by a scrawny Chihuahua with bulging eyes and teeth like a piranha. Stephanie showed me a picture of the puppy, which was posted online by the breeder. This little baby was so adorable that I immediately felt my hard heart softening, creating a doggy door right in the middle of it.

I tried to stifle my enthusiasm about the puppy. I didn’t want my daughter to think that I was a total sucker and could be won over so easily. “She looks okay” I said, as I nonchalantly walked away from the monitor. But once my daughter was out the door, I was back on the computer staring at the dog’s picture and counting the days left until she arrived. At this point I decided to let my husband in on the secret and showed him the picture of the ten-ounce puppy. I was hoping the sweet image would soften him, and maybe he would want her as badly as I did, but instead he simply grunted and said, “I’ve eaten steaks bigger than that dog.”

Stephanie decided to name the puppy Dutchess. That wasn’t my first choice but I figured best to let her alone on this one, after all it was “her” dog….for now. In the mornings, after everyone had left for work, I would pour my coffee and sit at the computer browsing the online pet shops for doggy outfits. Within a few weeks I had a hefty stash of sweaters, treats, and accessories, hidden away in the corner of my closet. I felt like a woman possessed. Here I was spending money on dog clothes while my toes were peeking out through the holes in my socks.

I tried rationalizing away my preoccupation with the puppy. “I’m out of work, which is leaving me with way too much time on my hands” I told myself, “plus I miss having little kids around.” Mine were in their 20’s, and although they still lived with us, I saw them more as annoying roommates rather than the adorable offspring I once worshipped. I decided that I had fallen victim to “full- nest syndrome” a condition that affects women whose grown children have long overstayed their welcome and seek to overthrow the household. Something I’d have to remember to email Dr. Phil about it.

I kept my affair with Dutchess hidden until one day I absentmindedly left the closet door open and my daughter stumbled upon my stockpile of doggy clothes. ”I knew it!” she exclaimed! “I knew you wanted a dog!” She teased and poked at me for a while until she finally grew bored with it and left. But on her way out she paused long enough to look over her shoulder at me, and spit, “Don’t forget…the puppy is MINE!” I cut my eyes at her, mumbled a few expletives, and padded back to the closet to re-fold the dog clothes.

Finally, late one night in mid October, Stephanie brought Dutchess home. I couldn’t wait to catch a glimpse of the baby. I stood staring in amazement as Dutchess wiggled around on the kitchen floor wagging her skinny tail and licking Stephanie’s face. Her eyes looked like big chocolate milk duds, and her head was way too large for the rest of her miniature body. I began to laugh at the spectacle; a relaxed laughter that released any apprehension I had about us getting a dog. Sliding down onto the floor, I let Dutchess smell my hand; but instead she began to wash my face with tiny kisses. Her tongue was like a small piece of pink felt that tickled my cheek bringing on another episode of laughter. As I lay on the floor, getting my face washed, I realized that I had already fallen in love with little Dutchess.

It didn’t take long for my daughter to see how much work it was to take care of a puppy; particularly one as tiny as Dutchess. Stephanie would appear in my bedroom late at night like an apparition. Exhausted, she would tuck the dog in bed with me and mumble something like... “help mommy …stupid puppy peed….can’t sleep”. Ah, how the young lack strength! I silently gloated as Stephanie’s desire to parent Dutchess faded like an over washed pair of jeans…. Just as I said it would.

Now, over five years later, we have all found our places in Dutchess's life. My daughter has since moved out, and because of her busy schedule has agreed to leave Dutchess with us. I still let her call herself Dutchess’s owner, but I have, through consistent parenting, been promoted to mommy; although Stephanie still sneers when I say it.

My macho son, Ben, is still amazed at the size of our 4lb canine and speaks to her in a squeaky little voice when he thinks that nobody else is listening. And although my husband Mike initially scoffed at the idea of us getting a Teacup Chihuahua, now I can’t seem to keep the two apart. Each morning they share a walk through our neighborhood, like a giant and a flea, oblivious to the spectacle that they create. And Dutchess.. well, her favorite place is snuggled contently beneath my fuzzy bathrobe, next to my heart, stirring only to change positions or investigate any kitchen noises. I sometimes have to catch my breath when I think that we almost didn’t get a dog, and am grateful that even though we didn’t know what it was that we needed, life generously brought Dutchess to us anyway.


Gwyn Ramsey said...

Leah, I loved reading your blog. Your wit had me laughing. I remember those days when our son bought a rotty and suddenly we owned a dog. Never did figure out how he did that. When we moved to Florida, Queenie rode in the front seat of the truck with my husband. That was a sight to see. She lived with us until she passed three years ago. Now there is a void, but who knows. One day we may fill that void again with another doggie.

Thanks for a great read.

L.C. Griffith said...

Thank you Gwyn. I never thought I could love a dog as much as I do her. I'm glad that Queenie had such devoted parents and hope that you find another pooch in need of your love. Happy New Year Gwyn, and thanks for stopping by.

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