Ask our kids “What do moms need?” and in dissonant unison they will moan: “Order.” That simple truth has been drilled into them like a catechism. Which is only one of the reasons why it is so hard to understand why in the world we ever agreed to get a dog. Correction: Furball of Mayhem and Destruction.
Excuses abound. The truth is that it is hard to say no to a freckle-faced nine-year-old girl who keeps jumping over every hurdle you place in her way. Bryn was so desperate for a dog that she spent hour upon hour, month after month, online checking out the current canine inventory at each of the local animal shelters. She declared that the fourth Saturday of every month was Visit the Pound Day. She did her homework. She helped her little brother. She even did her chores—no small feat considering how hard it is (now) to get her just to empty the wastebaskets. It’s not so much that she is unwilling, mind you; it’s just that she is so easily distracted. Bryn’s imagination knows no bounds, which means that sometimes when she should be, for example, reviewing the Associative Law of Mathematics, she is instead daydreaming of her debut on a Broadway stage. Somehow, in spite of these frequent digressions, Bryn still gets excellent grades—so it should be no surprise that she outsmarted us and through conniving charm and unrelenting persistence convinced us that it was time for us to bring home Barnum.
Already we’re wishing she hadn’t been so charming and persistent. For example, it turns out that dogs chew on stuff. Nerf footballs. Briefcases. Dinner. (Note: Keeping Dana’s meal warm until she gets home from ballet: good idea. Leaving it unattended on the table: bad idea.) Dogs also pee when they get in trouble, especially on the carpet, and especially when chastised for climbing up on the dinner table and polishing off most of Dana’s five-spice pork. (And don’t even get us started on what happens to the carpet the morning after the five-spice pork caper. Can you say “Ewwww! Gross!”?)
What’s more, dogs like to nip at things. Things like Luke. And for some strange reason Luke does not enjoy being nibbled. It took Barnum, oh, about a minute and a half to realize that growling could fill Luke with great consternation, and about two minutes to realize that filling Luke with great consternation was fun. For Barnum. Still we wonder why Barnum has chosen to try to separate the large male from the herd. We’re guessing that in addition to being a few servings short of a full ration, Barnum may also be attracted to Luke’s unique couture: mismatched socks (always), green pants (almost always), and a ubiquitous bucket hat. Or perhaps he has mistaken Luke’s fascination for medieval warfare as a sign that Luke is always spoiling for a good skirmish. Whatever the reason, this much is certain: If Luke is watching one of his many Lord of the Rings DVDs, Barnum has almost certainly been ushered (OK—heaved) outside for the duration.
Most perplexed by this newest member of our little society is Seth, who sees Barnum both as playmate and predator. Often you’ll hear him calling Barnum to join him outside while he reenacts the previous weekend’s football game, complete with play-by-play. At some point (usually about the time Barnum recovers a fumble and refuses to give the ball back) Seth is hollering at Barnum with the full range of his four-year-old vocabulary. (Not pretty, especially for those who have armed the four-year-old with said vocabulary.) Barnum also shares Seth’s fascination for dinosaurs, but he expresses it in a slightly different way. Whereas Seth might chew up a chunk of his afternoon reenacting the final hours of the Late Cretaceous, Barnum might simply chew up a chunk of a plastic pterosaur. To each his own, you might say—although if you’re Seth you might express it somewhat less diplomatically.
Thus our life is spinning in disarray, in no small part because there is now a mutt where once there was order. We long now for Bob, the semi-animate albino toad that Luke once kept as a pet. We always considered him the least interesting pet imaginable, but uninteresting is good when order is your goal. It has also occurred to us that plastic pterosaurs make excellent pets as well—provided, that is, that you can find one reasonably intact.
Alas, it’s too late for any of that. And so we return to our catechism and ask anew: What do moms need? Well, for starters moms need some kind of round-the-clock electric vacuum thing to suck up the black dog hair which has now become a central feature of our home’s décor. Some time away couldn’t hurt either. As for dads, what they need most is . . . well . . . order, come to think of it. And if you don’t understand that, then you obviously haven’t spent enough time reviewing the Associative Law of Mathematics.
What any of this has to do with Christmas and New Year’s is anybody’s guess. But it is a little scary to think of our house full of decorations, a tree covered with baubles, and brightly wrapped presents down at ground level, all there to intrigue any curious furball. Did I mention that dogs chew on stuff?