Today I want to talk about the experience of discovering an unpleasant little truth about yourself. And while I'm at it, I'll drive home the point that "you better be careful what you wish for BECAUSE YOU JUST MIGHT GET IT." Taken from "Roget's Thesaurus of Best-Loved Cliches for Columnists on a Deadline."
But before I do, I want to tell you a little story.
Not long ago my mother found a stash of photos of me as a toddler. The thing that struck us both about these pictures was that our dog (a female fawn boxer) was always at my side.
This photographic image corresponds completely with my earliest childhood memories. Wherever I went, that dog went. Down the basement stairs. Under the dining room table. Inside the playhouse. Behind the chicken coops. Out in the orchard. On rides to the grocery store. In front of the TV on Saturday mornings.
That dog never left my side.
Sometimes she would stretch out on the grass to sun herself, and when she did, I'd lean up against her side — or even crawl on her back — to enjoy how warm her slick, slightly oily coat felt. And then I would have to wrap my arms around her thick neck and practically squeeze her to death, which she never seemed to mind.
I often say the first person I want to meet again after I die is that dog. No matter what my sins have been in this life, I'm certain she'll be happy to see me in the next.
Ever since we've had children of our own, my husband and I have owned dogs. Frankly, though, I've been disappointed that none of them have bonded to our kids the way that First Dog did to me. They've never followed our kids from room to room or slept on the foot of their beds or even played ball with them in the front yard — possibly because I never let our dogs play ball in the front yard, because I didn't want them to run into the street and get hit.
The point is, instead of shadowing the kids, our dogs have always shadowed ME. It's like I was the Dog Queen and they were my Dog Courtiers. And while I loved their company (in spite of all the insincere dog flattery), I honestly regretted they weren't hanging out more with our kids. Boys should have dogs, and dogs should have boys. Ibid.
Everyone knows that.
Eventually the Dog Courtiers died — the last one was 17 years old — so at the end of the summer of 2004, we bought a fine-looking field spaniel puppy and named her Aggie. Naturally I expected that she would (a) prefer me and (b) that life at our place would go on as usual.
Only (a) she doesn't, and (b) it's not.
SHE LIKES OUR KIDS! Whenever they stroll through the front door she crashes down the staircase to greet them. And when they plop down in chairs, she leaps over the arm rests and lands in their laps. And when they crawl into their beds at night, she burrows deep into their sides.
Whenever she sees me, on the other hand, Aggie pauses just long enough to ask if dinner's ready, after which she bounds off, looking for some more man-children to worship.
My husband attempts to make me feel better about things. Whenever Aggie accidentally sniffs my toes, he says, "See! She really, really likes you!" (Memo to husband: "Nice try.")
Turns out I am having a hard time with this. Turns out I want Aggie to worship ME, not my kids. Turns out I AM SHALLOW. How shallow am I?
Shallow as a street puddle. Shallow as an answer at a Miss Universe pageant. Shallow enough to write this column.
Turns out getting what you wished for . . . can take you by surprise.