On the cusp of becoming an empty nester, I am turning into one of those “dog people”. You know the crazy ones that sing and talk continuously to their pooches? I keep thinking about how soon, the dog will be the only baby left at home. Walking my fur-baby, I engage in animated conversation with the other dog parents. Bragging about his accomplishments like:” He sat and waited for his treat! He brought his toy over when I asked him to!”(as though he is Einstein!). I hear myself doing a baby voice when speaking to my pup. Yes, it is embarrassing, but like diarrhea, UNCONTROLLABLE.
I have flashbacks of my son in kindergarten and bragging to the other parents about the Michaelangelo-type sculpture he made out of Play-Doh instead of David it was a blob. But, in my eyes, it was a work of art. I am now bragging about my pup not allowing any other dogs to sniff his butt like he is a genius!
We take a weekend trip to my son’s future university. He is not thrilled that his fur brother is coming along. I pack snacks for him and bring his blanket. (For the dog NOT my son.) Who is sulking that the blanket is not for him, he questions why:” I didn’t pack snacks for him?” I offer him blueberry chewies and carrot sticks, but he declines. I explain: “You are headed off to college, you need to start thinking of these kinds of things for yourself.” I feel the evil eyes on my back, he mutters something along the lines of: “You care more about the dog than me!” I want to say: “He doesn’t talk back, nor leave his dirty socks around the house,(albeit he doesn’t wear socks, but you get my point) and he doesn’t leave the toilet seat up!” I turn around and see my fur-baby cuddled up on the blanket, passed out. I snap photos much to Confused Husband and son’s dismay. I send them to my dog walking friends with fun hashtags like#ROADTRIP #SLUMBERINGSWEETHEART. The responses make my phone blow up with compliments.
We stop at a rest area, and I proudly leash the pup up and take him to a patch of grass to do his business. Confused Husband asks: “What do I want?” I order an iced coffee and a kids meal with a plain cheeseburger, bun only. He looks at me. I point to the dog. He shakes his head and walks away. The other dog people are making conversation. I notice that they too speak in baby voices to their pups. But then I take a really hard look at them. I feel like I am in a scene from the movie: “Best in show”. They look crazy! Am I looking like that? They also kind of look like their dogs.
Back in the car, I feed my fur-baby his burger. I lament out loud that I should have gotten him chicken nuggets also. I suggest to my son, “Perhaps he shares some of his food with his brother.” He retorts that: “he doesn’t have a brother”. I look at the toy from the kid’s meal. It’s definitely dangerous with all of its small parts, a choking hazard! Not appropriate for my fur-baby. I offer it to my son like a Peace offering, and he glares at me.
We arrive at the university and walk around. I point out how dog-friendly the city is. Confused Husband suggests that: “The dog apply to go to university here.” I comment, “If they let dogs in, our pup would definitely get in! Head of the class! The Valedictorian of the class.” I proudly state. A look passes between Confused Husband and my son. I hope they don’t try to have me committed, and if they did, would I be able to bring the dog with me? I notice a student walking with his dog. I point out to them: “See! even the university is dog friendly!” Confused Husband bellows: “I am pretty sure that was a service dog and the guy was blind!”
Teenage son adds:” It’s not like he would have a service goat! Of course, it is going to be a dog!”
Whatever, I KNOW that our fur-baby would be the BEST service dog EVER! I think to myself but refrain from saying this out loud.
Hours later, we are sitting in a cafe, it has a “Pup menu,” and there are several other customers with their pups. I triumphantly whisper to the boys: “Our guy is the CUTEST!” They both shoot me looks of disgust.
There is a mangy-looking dog named Bruce who has gravitated toward our pup. I tell the boys not to worry, as our pup is all up to date on his vaccines. They look at each other like that was not even a consideration.
A couple sitting nearby with their poodle Mitzie begins a conversation with me. I admire the setup they have for Mitzie, a fluffy oversized cushion to go on one of the seats. She jumps up and sits like the Queen awaiting her subjects. Mitzie’s parents have a bag it’s like a diaper bag. I am enthralled by what they pull out of it. I feel like Monty Hall watching an audience member rummage through their purse on Let’s Make a Deal!
They produce a food bowl and what looks like a lobster bib from their magic-type Mary Poppins bag. (I want one of those bags!).
Confused Husband and son are mocking the ridiculousness of the couple, on the other hand, I admire the careful consideration they have put into their pup.
I look down at our pup, he is lying on the concrete ground munching on his carrot sticks, oblivious to the five-star treatment bestowed upon the pooch next to us. I question if I am a good fur-baby parent.
There is a dog park next to the cafe. I inform the boys that I am taking our pup over. They could care less as they are debating what to get for dessert.
The dog park is lovely. There are a few dogs milling about. Their humans are talking. I let my boy off the leash he runs around like the Tasmanian devil. The other dog people clearly know one another. I hear whispers of: “So rambunctious.” “He doesn’t lift his leg when he pees!” They are critiquing my baby, and I don’t like it. I find myself in Mama-bear mode.
I look at their pups all coiffed and polished. Okay, my boy is scruffy and marches to the beat of his own drum. But, he is sweet, kind, cuddly, and LOVES watching Scandanavian and British cop shows with me. I want to share this with the group but decide against it.
A woman pushing a stroller saunters over to the group, it is not a baby in the stroller but, a fat dog with a pin-sized head. She and the blobby dog are greeted like they are royalty. One of the dog guys helps her lift the dog who I find out is named Howard out of the stroller. Howard is plopped on the ground where he remains. His body is so obese that I can’t even see his legs. My pup makes a bee-line for Fat-Howard, as I now dub him. He begins gyrating on Fat-Howards head. Gasps of incredulity are heard. I nervous laugh and attempt to pull my pup off Fat-Howard’s pinhead.
I look over at the cafe hoping to catch Confused Husband’s eye, but he and our son are elbows deep in tiramisu. Before I know it, Mitzi and her people have joined the fray. They announce: “How uncouth is he! Imagine, being new to OUR dog park and behaving like a sexual deviant!” “Poor Howard!” I look over at my pup who is going to town on Fat-Howard. I feel like I am in a scene in Les Mis and the pitchforks and yelling are about to ensue. While the boys are consuming their tiramisu, I will be murdered in the dog park.
Finally, I am able to pull him off and scoop him up. Like Hester Prynne, a shamed woman, I skulk away with Fat-Howards’ alleged assailant.
Back in the car with the boys, I don’t share the dog park debacle. I silently wonder if next time we are here if my fur-baby needs to wear a disguise. Will there be posters up of him as WANTED? Will his photo be hanging throughout the city like he is some sexual deviant? Warning other fur-baby parents to steer clear?
I consider asking if it is too late for my son to change schools…