Often I have to look at colleagues’ photos of their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. With a proud glint in the eye and an adoring smile, they expect praises from me, and I admire along. Then, I whip out my phone and swipe to my photos.
“This is my daughter,” I say proudly.
The expectant smile freezes. Their eyes grow wider. A look of shock settles on their faces.
“B…b…but it is a dog! Um, a very cute one, though. Is it a Pug?” (Back-paddling at the molten steel look that has cooled in my eyes.)
To them she might be a dog, to me she is my daughter, my own heart and emotions child. She even looks like me – the stern frown, the leave-me-alone-I-treasure-my-own-company expression.
Their human children are expected to outlive them. I live with the knowledge that my child had been lent to me for a blink in eternity’s eye. She is already 10 years old and my heart shrinks at the thought that she might leave our lives shortly – within a few years – if we are blessed to have her that long.
Few parents need to make the decision to let their child go to the Elysian Fields. B and I have had to make that decision four times already. Four times the Grim Reaper ripped our hearts from our chests and mangled them to pieces.
We grieved and healed silently, on our own, ’cause, “It is only a dog, you know.”
No, it is not only a dog. She is our love, our life. All decisions are made around her. We can only hope that we are spared a decision this time and that Pooch leaves us in her own time to go quietly, gently into that good night.
“Does she sleep on your bed?” they ask, the aversion barely hidden behind a wavering, polite smile.
“In the bed,” I reply, my devilish streak surfacing.
I flip to another photo.
“Oh. Cute.” The smile is eroding and I close my phone, sparing them more civil conversation and saving a fuse in my chest from blowing.
Pooch is attached to her mommy’s side most of the time – ankle when she walks, hip when she sits, nesting between her lower legs when she lies down – probably because B is our Chief Domestic Executive and home most of the time.
Pooch even helps our domestic worker with the house work when mommy is out paying bills or spending daddy’s hard-earned money.
And we don’t lie awake at night wondering if she had gotten in a drunk driver’s car, or was cavorting in a club where drugs could be sneaked into a drink. Neither is an unwanted pregnancy a concern – the little ‘beads’ under the skin of her lower abdomen, is testimony to that and can be seen and felt when she lies on her back in her favourite nesting place – surrounded by mom’s calves.
But that loyalty to mom dissipates when dad is eating or dishing up her food. Then she only has eyes for me – or rather, the food in my plate or hand. She knows where the treats are kept and can sit for long minutes staring at the drawer, willing it to open or for us to take pity on the poor, ’emaciated’ Puggie.
“Now you eat the cookies
When I tell you, no!
But you love me, daddy
‘Cause you tell me so!”
~ Steve Moore, performed by Jim Reeves
Yes, I love her, truly, madly, deeply – she is the other woman in my life. Even if the hurt is already looming on the horizon, I treasure her woolly face, her podgy body and devoted love for us. She, like her two brothers and two sisters, will live on in our memories.