Egyptians Run Our Household
My sister compares me to the Egyptians, and not in a good way. She is not thinking of their amazing pyramids when she scoffs at the way they venerated cats and dogs above some humans. According to my sister, it was ridiculous the way these ancient people filled tiny feline mummies with riches for some fictitious animal afterlife.
My sister thinks domestic animals should be pets. Period. She agrees that my dogs should be fed properly and perhaps even petted occasionally. But that’s the extent of it. Basically she thinks all dogs should be treated as if they were nothing more than ordinary canines. As if!
She scowls at my car full of wildly yelping livestock all franticly sliming my windows with saliva and steamy dog breath. There are only two of them actually, and they wrap me up like a maypole with their leashes, both animals beside themselves over the prospect of a walk.
She waits impatiently as I grimace and moan at the chaos.
“These dogs are driving me crazy!” I mutter.
“Why don’t you keep them outside; make them outside-dogs?” my sister asks flatly.
I look at her like she just suggested I never allow my children inside the house. Wait…..that’s not a bad idea at all. Change that analogy to: I look at her like she just suggested I treat my tiny little Ruth Ann and Bubba, the kindest-natured creature I’ve ever known, like common farm animals.
I can’t imagine not having these dogs inside in the evenings. Ruth Ann curls up in my lap under a quilt, and Bubba rests his cow-sized head in my husband’s lap and stares up at him with sheer gratitude.
At dinner, they wrestle with each other under the table while we sneak peeps at them between bites of broccoli. Ruth Ann is smaller than Bubba’s entire head, but she somehow manages to force him to the floor and turn him until both his shoulders are pinned. He is oblivious to this defeat and rolls from side to side gleefully, accidentally tearing her little ragg sweater when it catches on his tooth. My son, a varsity wrestler, shakes his head in disgust and tells the big dog to man up.
After dinner, as we clear the table and scrape the plates, we marvel as Ruth Ann stands upright and takes tiny ballerina steps around the kitchen. We stop what we are doing and watch Bubba as he gazes soulfully off the deck, seemingly appreciating my garden.
My big hulking boys lie on the floor and talk baby talk to these dogs when they are supposed to be loading the dishwasher. Before I nag at them to get back to work, I find myself watching my boys the same way I watch my dogs: with delight.
We are not the only ones who get pleasure from our animals. My dogless neighbor slips over in the evenings with tidbits of leftover steak for Bubba and Ruth Ann, and brings her grandchildren to visit my dogs.
“Feel his ears,” my neighbor says, stroking Bubba’s soft flaps of ear. “They’re like velvet.” As the grandchildren properly oooh and ahhh over Bubba’s silky ears, Ruth Ann pirouettes on her hind legs, snatching kisses from the smallest toddlers.
My brother, who lives in New York City and doesn’t have a dog, strokes Bubba’s head when he visits and says wistfully, “This is the exact dog I’ve always wanted.” Bubba looks at my brother knowingly.
Bubba and Ruth Ann chase each other through the house like bad children, scrunching up rugs and skidding around corners. I know this should not be amusing. I would never have let my children behave this way. But the fact that the dogs have been home alone all day with ample opportunity for chasing and only now that we are home can they not contain themselves, diffuses any irritation. These dogs think the sun rises when we get up in the morning and sets when we sit down to rest in the evening. If we are apart from these dogs for more than half an hour, they spend at least that long groveling and greeting and not believing their good fortune that we have returned to them.
If we go from the kitchen to the living room, they follow us.
If we walk out in the cold icy night, they accompany us. I suppose if we walked through the gates of Hell, these two dogs would be right by our sides. So I get those Egyptians. I don’t think they were ridiculous at all.
My Dog Is a Slut
I know that wanton behavior is not unusual in animals. Since the beginning of time, man’s best friend has, well, put his best friend on the back burner for any little four-legged tart in heat.
What is unusual is how my husband, the father of three sons, has handled our little female dog’s recent behavior.
One large male dog has been posted at our door since Ruth Ann returned home from her female surgery. Apparently there is some remnant of an intensely attractive femaleness that has kept this dog’s interest piqued. That is a euphemism; he has foregone meals and stood in the freezing rain on the off-chance I throw my little dachshund mix at his mercy. This male dog does not have an interest; he has a full blown addiction.
The first Sunday night after Ruth Ann was spayed, I sprawled out on the couch in front of the first fire of the season. My youngest son was piled up in my lap, balancing cookies and milk, as I feigned interest in professional football. Not my first choice, but I know better than to suggest we watch anything but a football game during football season. I was vaguely aware of my husband jumping up and down, something that goes along with watching football for him. But he got my full attention when he began to stomp in and out of the back door, not even within earshot of the TV.
“Would you look at her? Get up off that couch and look at her!” he bellowed from the other end of the house.
I rearranged the cookies, the glasses of milk and my little boy and looked out the window at Ruth Ann scampering playfully around the large dog. She jumped up on him, covering his eyes with her paws flirtatiously. Besides the male dog sniffing around her privates, there was nothing offensive going on. I told my husband if anything bad was going to occur, it would have happened already. I made it back to the TV just in time to see Tampa score.
Incensed, my husband brought Ruth Ann inside, but she was not so glad to be rescued. She stood with her paws up on the window, transfixed and panting, as the strange dog finally wandered away. When she began to yelp and scratch frantically at the window, my husband began to rant and rave again.
“Would you look at her? What is she doing? She acts like she actually wants to go back outside!” Now, as the mother of three boys, I am finally over not having a girl. I have come to terms with not having a daughter to take to lunch every week, to get manicures with and take shopping for pink, frilly clothes. Granted, it was an adjustment, but one I have made.
However, my husband’s tirade over the dog’s courtship shed new light on this issue. For the first time, I was actually thankful I did not have a daughter. My husband is a stellar father for sons. He has the perfect amounts of toughness and tenderness. He handles pierced ears and back-talk the same way he handles fevers and honors: with confidence, and in my opinion, perfectly. With boys, he knows exactly what to do. I cannot count the times I’ve stood back as he dealt with various ‘learning opportunities’ and thought, “Now that’s a mistake,” as he interacted with one of my boys. And then scratched my head over the positive outcome.