By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Last Sunday, I returned home from a 3-day trip with our 17-year-old son to visit a college campus. Tom stayed home with our other two kids while I was away, and he said it was weird to be here without me. He’s usually the one leaving for business trips while I hold down the familial fort.
Although he was happy for my return, I was gone just long enough for he and the kids to decide I needed an unusual “intervention.” Here’s a recap of that conversation:
Him: “While you were gone, the kids and I were talking, and we’ve decided you have a problem.”
Me: “What problem?”
Him: “You’re spoiling the dog. You let him get away with all kinds of things, and you baby him constantly.”
Me: “I do not. I’m just sweet to him.”
Him: “Kate pointed out that you yell at the cat when she meows for food in the morning, but you don’t yell at Cooper when he barks.”
Me: “That’s not exactly true. I fuss at the cat because, in addition to meowing incessantly, she walks between my legs in the mornings while I’m trying to serve her cat food. She’s going to trip me and make me break my neck!”
Him: “But when the dog barks, you make excuses for him. You say he’s just excited to go outside. So maybe the cat is just excited to eat!”
Me: “It sounds like you guys are just picking on me and Cooper. You don’t understand us.”
Him: (Shaking his head) “You’re a dog spoiler, and you’re in denial.”
Me: (Shaking my head) “Am not!”
Him: “Like I said, denial.”
I waved off the frivolous accusations. What Tom and the kids don’t understand is that 2-year-old Cooper is my transitional dog. Now that the boys are teenagers and their little sister is only six months away from becoming a teen herself, they don’t need me like they used to. They certainly don’t hang out with me as much, and they don’t come running into my arms when I come home from the grocery store.
That’s where the dog comes in. He is never anything less than jubilant to see me, and he’s always quick with a sloppy kiss.
Besides, I practically have a doctor’s note saying this dog is good for me. Years ago, when Tom and I were trying to decide whether to have a fourth baby, I had an annual checkup with my gynecologist and told him we were on the fence.
Since we were ambivalent, the doctor suggested I get a dog. As a fellow parent of three kids, he said his wife got a dog when their third child grew out of the baby stage. It gave her a place for all that extra mothering energy and affection to go. “Plus, you won’t have to pay tuition to send the dog to college one day,” he said. I couldn’t deny his logic.
So, two years ago, we brought this little Corgi puppy named Cooper home with us. He was a tiny ball of fluff with disproportionally large ears, so it was easy to fall in love. And he needed all the mothering skills I had to offer. He needed feeding. He needed naps. He needed to be taught manners. He needed supervision and playtime. He needed house-training. He needed a mama, and I am that mama.
Can I help it if he turned into my furry shadow, following me everywhere while looking up at me with big brown eyes the size of saucers?
I’ll admit I may have gone a tad overboard when I bought him different dog collars and matching bowties for the four different seasons of the year. And yes, perhaps it’s excessive that Cooper gets a morning massage and belly rub when he wakes up each day. (Tom has said he’d wag his backside, too, if it meant he could get the same level of fawning adoration that Cooper gets.)
But I stand by my conduct as surely as Cooper stands by me. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, dogs gotta bark and mamas gotta love – human babies and furry ones, too.