Friday, August 6, 2010

My Dog is a Toddler

My dog is a toddler.

This has been a slow emergence; she's only recently morphed. But a toddler she is: she's suddenly got an infintismal attention span, and is so slow to respond--it takes her three or four times to obey a command--that I'm starting to feel like one of those "yelling mothers." We've all heard them, screeching at their children over... and over... and over again to do something they so desperately want.

Over the past weekend, which happened to be our daughter's first birthday and subsequent party at my family's lakehouse, my dog, Scout, (a 90 lb black lab) insisted on barking at every passing boat, stealing towels and t-shirts, begging for food: all the things she knows she's not supposed to do. Everyone in my family--and we're an opinionated lot--seems to think that this behavior is a result of not getting enough attention from my husband and me, the parents. And it's true: our world has been picked up like a coin jar and shaken, all the coins flipped. Our once fantastic dog, who used to get taken on several hikes, trail runs, and walks each week, and who used to come when called at most by the second try, has been consigned to second place.

It pains me to even write those words--second place--especially as I never thought I'd see the day. But if I'm to be honest, it's true. Everything, not just the dog, has been reshifted. The only runner in the lead is our daughter, and we're okay with that for now. But Scout, I'm afraid, is still a toddler.

She does, however, redeem herself in small ways. There was a human toddler, a little girl, at the birthday party: our friends' daughter, who was wandering the dock. Our friend reported that Scout put her body between the little girl and the water, and continued to do this every time the little girl ventured to the edge. And I can't forget that in the months after our daughter was born, Scout sat faithfully by my chair as I nursed, head regal, on the lookout for danger. Today, on our morning walk, she trotted faithfully to the left of the stroller, glancing repeatedly at our daughter, keeping between her and the street. On a downtown street corner, an older gentleman stopped his car, rolled down his window and called, "It's nice to have an old friend helping out."

I couldn't agree more.

Maybe in time, as my husband and I relax and reshuffle, organize and purge, Scout will settle into her new role with the ease of an old pro. She has endured my many moods and changes--from hermit graduate student to itinerate college professor to first-time mother--and she certainly deserves the same consideration and patience, the same faithful presence.

So when she leaps over my crawling baby on the way to find a place, any place, of peace in our tiny house, and knocks said baby in the head with her giant paws, I will deal with it. Pick up the baby, pet the dog.

Surely we'll all grow up together.

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