I’ve become the weird old lady who borrows other people’s kids—or at least their dogs.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to snatch anybody’s human children, even though the babies occupying the pew behind me at church the last few weeks are so cute I want to take them home. They’re both about six months old, both Hispanic. The little boy has stick-up hair like Little Richard, and the girl has the sweetest squishy face. So far, both have refrained from tantrums and loud crying. I just want to hold them against me for, oh, forever. I know they’ll grow up into the wiggly kids and bored teens I sing to on Wednesday nights in the religious education program, but right now, I envy the moms and dads who get to hold those blanket-wrapped babies.
Meanwhile, there’s Harley. I have written about Harley, the yellow Lab across the street, before. Now he’s a little over a year old, 100 pounds, and so massive he makes my 70-pound Annie look small. He still galumphs and spins in circles and chews on anything he can find. He spends most of his days in the yard, unattended, with only an electric fence to hold him. He gets a shock through an attachment on his collar when he crosses the line. But when I come outside, he runs right through his fence. I hurry over to pet and hug him and lead him back to his own yard. I admit that sometimes I go out just to get a Harley hug. He’s always there. When I go out in my car, the last thing I see is Harley standing in the street looking sad because I’m leaving.
When Annie and I come out for our walks, Harley zooms across the street. He and Annie nuzzle and kiss and jump. I tell Harley he has to stay, but he rarely obeys. Time after time, I have taken Harley back across the electric fence and bellowed, “Stay!” but it doesn’t work. As soon as we start down the road, I hear him come after us. I walk him back until he gets tired or his owners notice the commotion and grab him. Yesterday I gave up. “Come on,” I said, and Harley joined us on our walk.
What fun! Harley, unleashed, ran back and forth across the street, fell behind and ran to catch up, walked side by side with Annie, and gave me big wet kisses. It felt like I had more of a family, me and the two dogs, one toddler, one six-year-old. I was proud of both of them and ready to claim Harley as my own.
When we returned to our street, we met my neighbor in his truck looking for Harley. He looked pretty angry. He muttered about tying up his overactive dog.
“Go to your dad,” I said. Harley jumped into the truck and they drove away. It was back to just me and Annie. So quiet.
Today when Harley is outside and his folks aren’t looking, I’m going to grab myself another Harley hug. You can’t do that with other people’s babies. Did you know teachers and others who work with children are not even allowed to hug them for fear of child abuse? But dogs, oh yes, gotta hug the dog. And if he wants to walk with us? I might say yes. Maybe I’ll get permission first.
Short of kidnapping, where do you get your baby fixes?