Tim and I did not elect to have human children running about in our household. Instead, we embrace parenting furry children that do not possess opposable thumbs. Currently, we are the parents of two cats and one dog.
Lucy is our yellow lab, and she will be nine years old this upcoming November. I am sure you understand that I am completely and utterly biased, but she is damn cute. I came home with Lucy on a late fall day in 2005, surprising my husband. The relationship each of us has with her can only be described as hopelessly attached.
But Lucy is kind of a prick. Albeit adorable and also very sweet and funny in her own way, she is a blustery maniac that likes to bark. At everything. She barks at the activity in the parking lot across the street. That could mean a lone walker that is twenty yards away, or it could mean several dozen worshipers at the LDS church pulling in for service on a Sunday. Either way, she wants them to know she is there, behind her fence, watching (and barking).
We joke that we will never know when the real serial killer is at our doorstep, because Lucy will bark at a falling leaf. She will bark if someone inside the house makes a noise that she perceives as a knock on the front door. She will bark if other neighborhood dogs bark. Bark. Bark bark, bark.
During this vocal demonstration, Lucy’s hair on her back is raised. She sports a mohawk all down her spine, indicating, um… fierceness? If you approach her and say her name very friendly, “Lucy! Hey Lucy!” She will shut up and wag her tale and kind of do this half jump thing where you think she is going to jump on you, but she doesn’t.
Then she does.
Then Tim and I become further embarrassed about our substandard parenting.
We have found, though, that there are exceptions to Lucy’s bad behavior. If she is at anyone else’s house, she suddenly becomes Lucy the Good Dog. The most recent example I can provide is the manner in which Lucy behaved during a recent visit with family. We took her to a whole different house, where she spent several nights. Throughout this experience, we received compliments on her behavior. My dad, especially, who knows dogs in his own way, was very complimentary. “Lucy is really such a good dog,” he said to me. Tim and I exchanged a glance of confusion. “Sure she is,” Tim said out of the side of his mouth.
There are times when Lucy will stay with our friends Jeannette and Brad. They have a dog named Sadie who doesn’t give you a second look unless you are throwing something for her to fetch. And then if you are, she is on you like white on rice. Lucy and Sadie get along just fine. It’s the reports about Lucy’s demeanor that don’t make sense.
Jeannette informed me that she had people staying the weekend while Lucy was there. By the time one of her overnight guests left on Sunday, he was fully committed to getting a Labrador retriever because, “Lucy is so great.” Again, Tim and I responded with quizzical looks on our faces. And I said, “Sure she is.”
I think it is the burden of every parent – whether you are parenting a human or a canine – to hear that their child behaved so very well outside of their own home. You want to be proud. You are. Then you have to wonder: why not here at home?
For those human kids, it’s all about how they helped clear the table after dinner or actually used the phrase, “thank you” in the course of daily conversation – all at someone else’s house. For the parents of dogs, we’re amazed when she is not caught eating cat shit out of someone else’s litter box, or, I dunno, not barking at every single tiny thing like a mentally ill dog.
I don’t know if we will ever teach Lucy to shut her face. We don’t want to stand in the yard and yell at her. Then the neighbors would hear an annoying barking dog and its annoying, yelling owners. Plus, I read somewhere that when you yell at a dog for barking, they just think you are barking back at them. I wonder if Lucy thinks when I am telling her to shut up that I am really saying, “Right on! Bark away! I like to make noise too! Bark bark bark! Let’s bark together!” She probably does.
And like any parent, I could go on and on about how Lucy could improve and somehow learn to shut the hell up, but if she doesn’t she is still going to be my kid dog. I am still going to love her face even though she barks out of it at inopportune moments, like when you are having a Skype interview or when you are in the bathroom and completely vulnerable to whatever mayhem is making her bark (none).
When I consider that she will be nine, I wonder if she will ever mellow out or if she will be barking with old dog arthritis and other maladies. If she makes it to say, the age of thirteen, is she going to drag herself to the fence line just to be an asshole to a local bicyclist?
I suppose if she doesn’t change, I can say that Lucy was always spry and cared for us very much as she wanted to protect us from cars driving by two blocks away.
You can always find good things to say about your kids, no matter how annoying they can be.