пятница, 28 декабря 2012 г.

"Daddy's Girl"

By Lisa Plowman Dolensky

Properly trained, a man can be a dog's best friend.
~Corey Ford

It was the day before New Year's Eve and my husband Ed said, "I still need a little more time to finish grad school before starting our family." I cried for hours, unable to fall asleep. I even called the Crisis Center and poured out my emotions for about three hours. (While he snored.) We had already been married four years, my "baby hope chest" of Golden Books was full, and there was a hole in my heart.
Books do not cry, wet, sleep, cuddle, or need you. So I decided to adopt "our first baby" at the pound. Ed would just have to understand.

I expected to pick a young pup, not more than two months old. I viewed cage after cage and petted yipping, yapping, jumping, snapping puppies of all kinds. Then my eyes locked with the sweetest and saddest brown eyes I had ever seen. Brown eyes just like "Daddy Ed's." A paw squeezed through the chain link. The fur and toe pads were baby soft. My hand was repeatedly kissed. I whispered, "Don't worry, Mama's here!"

The Humane Society attendant noticed my interest and said, "That's Princess!"

Princess was a little over six months old and was nearly full grown at thirty-something pounds. She looked as if she should be wearing dangly rhinestone earrings and a diamond studded collar. She was glamorous, with long black fur that framed her face and was crowned with upright pointed ears. Princess resembled a giant Pomeranian, but was in fact a hybrid of Spitz and Chow. When she stood up, her back hind leg haunches revealed a petticoat of whitish gray hair that continued under her tail. One could not help but smile because she looked like she had just unknowingly sat down in wet white paint and walked away.

I proudly purchased her and agreed to pick her up the next Saturday morning. I broke the news cowardly over the phone to Ed's voicemail, "We are now the proud owners of a precious puppy!" Click.

He took me first thing Saturday to buy ALL the things the new dog would need and announced them one by one in his parental tone: bowl$, lea$h, something to $leep on, collar$, $tuff to eat, chew toy$, etc. He was a natural. He smugly enjoyed watching me $quirm as I $pent about $200 on dog care purcha$e$ with my own money, which did not even include the vet and groomer vi$it$ yet to take place. I suddenly felt nauseous and had morning $ickne$$.

With the trunk packed with the pup's nursery-to-go, we arrived for our long awaited special delivery. Ed was surprised when he saw what a "big puppy" she was. She trembled as he carried her in both his arms threshold style to the car. That was the first time Daddy and his girl bonded.

That first night and every one after, she slept on the top basement step because that was as close to us as she could get once we turned in. We also soon named her Ed's favorite name for a future daughter, "Sophie." (Which can also be written: $ophie.) Sophie was often the topic of our dinner conversations. Like proud parents, we talked about her latest milestones and naughty chewing habits. We marveled at how she would walk up the driveway like a bear on back legs growling at the mailbox or recycling cart. We talked about how she loved to be held. She was amazingly quiet, probably because of the Chow in her, but the vet assured us that she had the cordial mentality of a Spitz.

I groomed her myself weekly, with tub, shampoo, and toothbrush. Once I was blow-drying her hair as we sat on the back deck while roofers were working next door. Can you believe the hammering stopped when the "brrrrwhrrrr!" of the blowdryer started? We must have been quite a sight. Every evening, I would pull in the garage after a long day's work, and I'd see Sophie stand up with pricked ears looking out the basement door window. Her dark silhouette looked like Batman and she would jump with excitement as I approached, humming the theme, "Daaa, daaa, daaa ,daa ,daaa, daaaa... Batman!" Late at night I rocked her and sang a favorite lullaby, "You are my sunshine!" She was loving and loyal.

Until one weekend morning. Something changed. Sophie bypassed me and ran to Ed first, licking his ankles constantly. Future mornings and evenings she greeted him most affectionately and vied for his attention. I might as well have been an empty food bowl. She was acknowledging me less enthusiastically. I had no idea why... but she suddenly preferred him. I admit I was privately jealous and puzzled. After all, I was the one who rescued her, fed her, walked her, brushed her, bathed her and changed her newspaper! I told myself that the loyalty switch was just a gender thing. Girl-dogs like boys. I put my frustrations aside and unconditionally doted upon her. I still loved her tremendously even if she seemed to love Ed more.

One Saturday during dinner I nonchalantly asked, "Have you noticed how much Sophie adores you?" Ed's eyes darted away. No comment. I continued, "I can tell that she likes you better. Have you noticed?" He deflected my remarks by shrugging them off and quickly changing the subject. Obviously, he knew I was hurting and wondering. How sweet... but he didn't offer any reason why or speculate. The only thing I was certain of was that she and I had good taste in men. I just had to accept that he was her favorite parent despite the fact that he did less for her.

The next afternoon I had forgotten my wallet before running an errand and entered the kitchen through the back door because it was faster than garage entry. At the time I didn't realize it was also quieter. And there they were... caught in the act! "Grrrr! Grrrrr!" Both Ed and Sophie were growling, positioned opposite each other; on all fours, rear ends high in the air, sharing a dish towel in their mouths. They were playing tug of war!!!

I stood there watching in disbelief. Amused, amazed, and betrayed.

Then Ed's alpha male primal animal instinct sensed my presence. He turned his head and caught a glimpse of me in his peripheral vision. His end of the rag dropped from his mouth as his face full-blushed red in seconds. I believe at this point I won the dominant stare-off. Sophie jumped on him repeatedly trying to get back in the game. But the game was over. It was clear to me now why Sophie was indeed Daddy's Girl. A "Daddy's Girl" who would forever have her father's eyes and mother's heart.
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