E and I were together for twelve years before we decided to have children. You’re probably thinking “Awww, how sweet, they had all that time together, just the two to them.” Yes, that was true. But then you get really used to sleeping in and no schedules and going to R rated movies and lazy Sundays and wine and sour gummy worms or cereal for dinner. And sweet, sweet, independence. Half of those years E and I were pursing our own interests individually and meeting up at night or on weekends to be together, almost like we were still in the dating phase. E was heavily involved in healthy pursuits like the arms race. You know, hunting and working on his biceps. He also travelled quite a bit for his job, even to other countries. I mostly pursued intellectual activities. For instance, I read the entire Anne Rice AND Diana Gabaldon series. For a while, I was really confused about whether vampires and Scottish time travel turned me on or was the specific reason my nightmares were filled with bloody tartan. Turns out, it was just a by-product of too much grunge plaid and bad mosh pit experiences in the 90’s.
Crashing all our cars also consumed a lot of my time, which was actually pretty fortuitous because it prompted E to scream at me “ARE YOU EFFING BLIND?!” As usual, I took the comment literally and decided to get my eyes checked and wouldn’t you know it, I AM pretty blind. Due to my overachiever complex, it was of course the special kind of blind where the optometrist gets really excited and asks to take a picture of your “protruding retinal disorder” which I misheard as “protruding rectal disorder” until he asked me to stop talking about how Ranch dressing gives me diarrhea all the time. Just to get back at me, he asked me if I was a fetal alcohol baby. I wasn’t even offended because duh, what if I had special eyes PLUS a birth defect? OVERACHIEVER JACKPOT! Anyway, apparently the disorder especially shows up in babies of mothers who consume a lot of alcohol. If you think I didn’t use this as blackmail to get all sorts of special treatment out of my mom, well, then you’ve severely underestimated my powers of manipulation.
In summary, I was used to being very lazy. And then out of nowhere a tiny little human shows up, THAT YOU HAVE TO KEEP ALIVE, and all of a sudden shit is a little more real than you anticipated. I got really good at acting like an adult pretty fast. And by adult I mean I immediately found a place to hide my candy so my children couldn’t steal it from me. Kids are assholes about candy, believe me.
The transition to parenting was especially shocking because I felt like I had so much practice with our pets. We got two puppies right away as newlyweds. The first we named Penny. She was a Husky mix from the pound. She pooped in E’s truck on his way home to surprise me. She was meant to keep me company while E was gone on business trips because we lived in the middle of nowhere and to be honest, I wasn’t very good at being alone on purpose. At all other times I push people away on the pretense of needing space. But I don’t like forced loneliness, it has to be on my own terms. I’m a psychiatrist’s dream client. They probably have posters of me in their office offering a cash reward if someone can get me to come in for a consultation.
But this is a story about dogs so pay attention.
Penny was wicked smart. She was also extremely stupid. E taught her a bunch of tricks. She would grudgingly do her tricks when she felt like there was something in it for her. She also ran away a lot and most of the time got so lost she couldn’t find her way home. Once she was gone for a couple weeks. I had all but given up when we took a random drive and saw her sitting patiently in a fenced yard. When we stopped to get her, I swear she shrugged, looked back at the house and reluctantly jumped into the back of the truck. Her behavior seemed to say “I guess I’ll go with you, but next time, try harder.”
But she was also fiercely protective and loyal. When Wyatt was born, she would sit by his bassinet for hours, every once in a while poking her head over the top to make sure he was still there. She was nervous when he cried, her face showing sadness and panic, like we wouldn’t be able to help him because we were too stupid to comprehend his needs like she could. When he was old enough to toddle, Penny was patient with Wyatt’s rough behavior, never seeming to mind that he crawled all over her, poked her, and pulled her hair. Every once in a while she’d give me a look that said “Can you believe this shit? Aww hell, I love him, it’s alright.”
Penny never learned a lesson, no matter how many times we tried. She came home with porcupine quills stuck in her face and mouth more times than I can count. She could have cared less about the pet fence we got to try to keep her home. She’d just race through the boundary lines yipping until she was far enough away that the collar didn’t work anymore. I feel like she was pretty much always flipping us the bird.
Penny was NOT athletic. If you got her near a body of water, she would dig her claws into the nearest surface and freak out. If you threw a ball for her, she’d retrieve it a couple times and then make it clear that this nonsense was over. The best and funniest thing was when she got treats. Most dogs will go to great lengths to impress their owners enough to get a treat. With Penny, you could throw a treat at her and she’d let it hit her square in the face and drop to the ground. Then she would look at you with her eyebrows up, communicating that clearly this was humiliating for both of us, look at the treat and reluctantly pick it up and take it somewhere else to eat in privacy, glaring at you the whole time.
To the end, Penny had incredible empathy. Even when it was clear her time had come and she was in great pain, she would give you the most amazing look of love and acceptance, concerned that you were so sad and forgiving you instantly for what she knew had to be done.
The second puppy was a black Lab with impeccable bloodlines. E got him to be his hunting buddy. Moose was everything Penny was not. He would stick by your side, do every trick in the book and fetch for hours. Moose had a strong desire to please. Where Penny was defiant, Moose would overcompensate with obedience to rules. He wasn’t super protective. If an intruder broke in, we would always joke that it was more likely he’d get licked to death than bitten by Moose. He so loved to please his master that once E panicked when Moose raced into freezing cold water to retrieve a duck that was way too far out to get. Moose would not stop. He managed to get the bird and bring it back, just in time to collapse with exhaustion at E’s feet after he had proudly and delicately delivered the bird.
Moose was muscular and athletic, a workhorse, always tuned in to catering to your needs. He was honest, if you can describe a dog that way. Deserving of respect for his hard work, skill, and never-ending devotion.
He also dry humped everything in sight.
When it was Moose’s time to go, the entire family gently laid him in the back of the car and bawled our eyes out all the way to town. We were crying so hard when we got to the vet clinic that they immediately gave us a private room because we were scaring everyone in the waiting area.
Looking back, those two dogs were exactly like E and I.
I mean think about it. For one, I get lost constantly. Not lost as in driving, but lost as in life, never quite confident that I’ve finally found my way. I need someone who looks out for me and brings me home. An anchor to keep me from drifting hopelessly in my mind and ground me in reality once in a while. I’m wicked smart about things that do NOT matter, but stupid about the basic components of life. I’ll perform and follow rules set by others when necessary if there’s something in it for me, like staying out of jail. I’m deceptive for no reason other than I don’t think it’s anybody’s business what I do all the time, so don’t ask me. It seems like I don’t care about others much, but when provoked, I will defend someone I care about vigorously, especially an underdog. I’m off the charts in empathy towards others, but sometimes my empathy is misdirected and then my feelings get hurt so I’m cautious about showing that I care.
And obviously, I’m not athletic in any way. Except in how UN-athletic I am. I’m really athletic at that.
E, on the other hand, he’s grounded, focused, hardworking, a gift giver. He doesn’t know it but he is one of those people who puts others before himself, to a fault. It’s because he sees in others what they can’t see in themselves. He’ll go at it 24/7 until he’s so overwhelmed with helping others fulfill their potential that he loses sight of himself and what he needs to stay sane. There’s no secrecy or deception with E, he’s always honest, living his life in a way that few I’ve ever met have. His character and ethical standards make most everyone else look like dishonest politicians. Even when I haven’t done anything wrong, I feel like I should apologize to him for my lack of meeting basic expectations. He makes you a better person just by being near him.
And then there’s the dry hum….. er, never mind.
Both Penny and Moose passed away a couple of years ago. We’ve got them buried under a tree on our property with a little cross E made. Their memory has faded fast for the kids, replaced with two new pets, with their own unique personalities.
But for E and I, their memory lives on. They were first. They were special. They taught us both a lot about ourselves. They were best friends, even though they had completely different personalities. They kept each other company. They played together. They also drove each other crazy and snapped at each other on occasion. They couldn’t relax if the other wasn’t around. Kind of like two people I know. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Happy anniversary E.