Annie and I had not been to the dog park in a long time, not since she got into a fight with another dog and its owner cursed me out so thoroughly we both had our tails between our legs. My sweet pup has always been unpredictable around other dogs. I will not forget the day she grabbed a neighbor’s chihuahua and I was sure she was going to kill it. To her, that dog was no different from the rabbit she killed on one of our wilderness walks. I screamed like crazy, and neighbors rushed out to help separate the dogs. The little dog was okay, just a little bruised. Thank God.
There are certain dogs in the neighborhood Annie dislikes, especially Donut and Katie on the next block. Maybe they remind her of her brother Chico who used to pick on her. I wasn’t able to keep Chico, but she seems to have developed a prejudice against black dogs, and I didn’t trust her with any other dogs.
Harley, the yellow Lab who lives across the street, has helped change that. Annie and I met him when he was a puppy, just a handful of cream-colored fur. Now he weighs over 130 pounds and makes my tan 74-pounder look small. Harley is the kind of dog who loves everybody, human or canine. Annie was no exception. She didn’t know how to deal with that at first. She growled a bit. He didn’t react. She tried to walk away. He slapped his paws on the ground in an invitation to play. She hesitated, then jumped into play mode. They have been buddies ever since.
As the years passed, she has mellowed around other dogs. She still barks and pulls on the leash but does not go total Cujo anymore. Still, I have avoided the dog park. Even if Annie is calm, another dog might not be. One time, a pit bull attacked both of us, ripping my favorite pants. The owners just shrugged it off.
Yesterday, I had to mail my last Christmas gift to California, and it was walk time, so I put Annie in the car. Not in the mood for the beach—too cold—I stopped at the post office, then drove up the hill to the community college, which is just past the dog park. Maybe my music teacher friend would be there for a visit. If not, we could at least walk where Annie could sniff some new smells.
School was out for winter vacation, but it was a good walk, although I was wearing these leggings that kept wanting to fall down (Anyone else have that happen?). We walked around the college and then down the road a bit and finally circled the dog park fence. Inside, two large dogs streaked across the sawdust, running full speed. “Look at that, Annie,” I said. “Wow. Look at them go.” I didn’t know if my 11-year-old with her two patched-up knees could run that fast anymore. We continued around the outside of the park until the other dogs spotted us and came running.
Uh-oh, I thought. “Be good,” Annie, I said.
The dogs wagged their tails. One of them whined a little. Annie wagged her tail and whined back. She wanted to play with them.
Okay. I took her to the double gate, warned her that the others would be in her face, and let her in. They sniffed, Annie barked, and they took off. Oh my God, my dog was playing with other dogs. Soon I was talking to the other dog mom. We might have nothing else in common, but we had dogs.
After she left, it was back to just us. I kept praising my pup, and I swear she was smiling.
Yes, she’s a dog. Yes, I do not have human children. But I could not have been prouder if my child had won the school talent contest or gotten straight A’s on her report card.
Some days, I promise, you do not have to think about the children you don’t have.
And some days you do. I played the piano both Saturday and Sunday at my new church. They were incredibly welcoming, and I already feel at home on the piano bench there. But at “coffee and donuts,” sitting with other women, out came the baby pictures on their phones. Having none, I soon slipped away. It’s great being a dog mom, but it is not the same. We’re a different breed.
I don’t wrap gifts for my pup, but I did buy her a new blue collar yesterday. Her old red one was looking kind of ratty. I also bought myself an expensive pair of earrings for my newly pierced ears. We’re happy.
Choose your own kind of Christmas or whatever holiday you want, and don’t let the folks who don’t understand get you down. Feel free to share here about how your week before Christmas is going.