Today’s post was Youngest’s idea so if you don’t like it, blame him. He won’t care. He’s got better things to do, like getting back his number 2 singles ranking on the Middle School tennis team.
Last night, we were sitting in front of the fire, Mutt curled up between us, engaged in two of our favorite pastimes: he was reading outloud from Through the Looking Glass, interrupted by long bouts in which we elucidated, as we are wont to do, all of Mutt’s fabulous qualities: how noble her face is, how isn’t it amazing that a dog that clearly is mostly Pitt Bull could be so sweet?, how no dog could possibly be more loved than her, how much we will miss her when we go away for vacation next week.
Mutt’s favorite not-precisely-a-pack-member is unavailable to come stay with her for our first few days of vacation, so we have been forced to call in a Pro who will take her to his house. In order to acclimate her to this stranger, we have asked him to add her to his dog-walking crew a few times before we leave her with him.
I find myself extraordinarily worried about this. In fact, it feels exactly like sending a child off to nursery school.
First, like all of my children, she is not wild to go. When the Pro first showed up at our door, she ran in the opposite direction. He succeeded in getting her in his car but she was not happy about it. If she could have wailed and grabbed my leg, she would have.
As they drove away, she sat looking forlornly out the window at our receding house. I’ve seen that look before. Oldest wore it one day when he caught sight of me through the Green Room window. It was not quite the "Elaine! Elaiiiiiiine!!" scene in The Graduate, but it was close.
While Mutt was gone, I found my thoughts being pulled in her direction. Will the Pro be nice? Will she play happily and make friends? Is she having a good time? Is someone biting her?
I have good reason to be worried about the biting. Not, as you might suppose, because she and her playmates are all canines. No, I worried because Middle came home one day from nursery school with, I kid you not, a perfectly symmetrical set of teeth marks encircling his nose.
But most of the time she was gone, I just thought to myself, "When, oh when, will it be over?
All of my boys have successfully negotiated nursery school and I am sure Mutt will too – eventually. But when she first returned home, it became clear she was definitely not the star student. Not, as it were, the teacher’s pet.
"How’d it go?" I ask sunnily, as if my positive attitude in asking the question will actually influence the response. This, too, I remember from nursery school. It is actually the equivalent of asking, "Dear God, tell me she behaved properly, socialized adequately and will indeed be successful her whole life long and will never die."
Long silence. Perhaps this is a good time to mention that the Pro is one of those dog-whisperer types who clearly found his chosen profession due to a deep and abiding fear of human conversation. Okaaaay…I try another tack.
"She looked a little intimidated getting in the car with all the other dogs."
More silence. Finally, a reply, "Not exactly."
I begin to panic. He doesn’t seem to like her.
How can he not like her? Doesn’t he understand we got her from the pound? Doesn’t he understand that her traumatic background has given her a terror of abandonment? That being asked to walk out the door with a total stranger is quite possibly more than she is ready for? She is, after all, only four.
But wait, four years for a human, that is twenty-eight in dog years.
"Oh well", I think defensively, "maybe he is not the right Pro after all."
And then, right there on our doorstep, he does something none of our other nursery school teachers have done. He gets down on all fours. And from behind my metaphorical skirts, Mutt approaches him shyly – and licks his face.
I feel the same sense of misplaced triumph that Dinah Lord feels when she exclaims at the end of The Philadelphia Story, "I did it. I did it all!"