The girls are just EXPLODING with language and, almost overnight, they developed this ability to role-play, which is fascinating to watch. Well, it's fascinating to me at least, to see them rock their baby dolls and play the role of "Mama." What a mirror they hold up, when I hear my words coming out of their little mouths, when Liv stumbles and Soph says, "You okay, Livi? You bump your head? I kiss it?" Or when Liv feeds her doll and I hear her murmuring "Yum, yum, baby. It yummy chicken for you. Careful, baby. No chicken on floor." My favorite are the unsolicited "Bless you" "'Scuse me!" and "I sorry"'s.
But there's a darker side to these two little echos.
And it really bothers me to hear it.
Coda was a really good dog. People were always telling me what a sweet boy he was, and he was super high on our priority list. He was secure. He was loved. He was maybe even a little spoiled.
But things change. Our friends who had dogs that pre-dated their kids warned us: Just wait. Your poor dog will be so low on the ladder you won't even believe it. He will fall completely off the radar. He won't be your baby anymore. He will be so neglected.
It was hard to imagine, before that moment when we crossed the threshold into the house for the first time, carrying two impossibly tiny bundles. But the reality set in. Coda was big. Clumsy. Loud. Hairy. With huge sharp teeth. Our sweet boy was a threat. A menace. Demanding time and energy that we simply did not have.
And if you've watched 60 seconds of The Dog Whisperer, you know how these things go. A dog who is not exercised develops discipline issues. Becomes antsy, underfoot, needy, pent-up. It's not his fault. It's his nature. And this, over time, let to me beg dearest to do SOMETHING. Because it was more than I could stand. I wanted to get rid of the dog.
And the way the kids talk to him, snap at him, is hard to hear. My own harsh words, ones I would NEVER direct at the girls, ones I NEVER wanted them to hear, were thrown at the dog on a daily basis. And I feel a pang of guilt at the lesson I am teaching them, and at how unfair the whole thing is to Coda. I don't want them to think it's okay to be ugly and unkind towards any living thing, no matter what a pain in the ass it is sometimes.
So this morning I decided to make a change. Even though I had 100 excuses not to. Even though the girls are under the weather, and the dog is nearly impossible to get on the leash without knocking me over in his frenzied excitement, even though it's starting to get hot in the mornings and swim lessons start in 2 weeks so it won't be practical to maintain. Today, the girls climbed into their stroller, I grabbed a tennis ball and wrangled Coda on to his leash. And we walked. And I told him what a good boy he is. We went all the way to the open field and I let him run until he couldn't run any more. The girls and I complemented his fetching, and when we got home I let the girls give him a treat and he collapsed into a spent and happy heap under the table.
Not promising I am going to do this every day, but I am taking control over my relationship with this dog. And I think it's going to be better for all of us.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled silence.