Tomorrow my house is being photographed. Pawley has been sent off with her grandparents until the shoot is over to avoid any emergency dead bird carpet cleanings. And Rosie has been given strict instructions to behave like a somewhat normal animal—and enough rawhide to keep her distracted for the next 48 hours.
Today I was moving Rosie’s food bowl outside to the deck (because she has a messy tendency to toss kibble around the house when she’s eating) when it occurred to me that relegating Rosie outside reminded me quite a bit of a time in my childhood.
When I was a kid and my parents would have dinner parties, they would send my brother and I off to the laundry room to sit on the floor and eat our dinner so as not to mess up any other part of the house. We would be given some sort of frozen entree and told not to kill each other or turn the TV up too loud.
I have a very clear recollection of one dinner party evening when I was eight or nine when all day long I’d been salivating over the fudge my mom was cooking in the kitchen for dessert. I’d eyed it. I’d casually walked past the stove 47 times. I’d asked if she needed a taste tester. But she’d just swatted my hand away.
That night my brother and I had been sent off to the laundry room to eat frozen chicken pot pies. I could still smell the fudge through the door. My mom promised that I could have some of the fudge if I ate my dinner. I hurriedly ate the pot pie, avoiding the cooked carrots, which I considered disgusting and ran to return the mostly-empty container to my mom. She told me I had to finish it—all of it. I explained that the carrots made me want to vomit. She said, fine, no carrots, no fudge. And so, I plopped down on the floor of the kitchen, gagging as I shoveled the carrots into my mouth. My eyes were watering as the carrots the worst thing I’d ever put in my mouth. But she showed no mercy.
As soon as I finished the last carrot, I demanded my fudge. She gave me one spoonful. One. After I’d nearly killed myself ingesting those carrots. I put my empty spoon back out, Oliver Twist-style, asking for more. But that was it. The rest was for the party.
There’s really not a point here except to say that my childhood was basically just like that of Oliver. Almost exactly.
A few weeks ago, when Pawley and Rosie’s fighting had me crying on my lunch break and unable to sleep at night, I had a conversation with my dad. I told him about all the training methods I’d read about and my plans for disciplining.
He listened and said that all sounded good. Then he gave me some advice. “I recall,” he said. “When I had two young kids and the older kid [that’s me] was always beating up on the young one [that’s my brother] and nothing seemed to be working. My father said to me ‘Can’t you just love on them?’ It was good advice. So I’m saying that to you now.”
I thought about this. I was a terrible kid. Like grounded-for-months-on-end, parents-constantly-threatening-boarding-school, family-having-to-seek-professional-counseling kind of terrible. But my parents loved the hell out of me through it all. They showed me unconditional love in a way I couldn’t even fathom. And eventually, it worked.
It occurred to me that maybe I’d been working so hard to make Rosie still feel loved with the new dog in the house, that I hadn’t been giving the new dog all she deserved. I decided I’d try “loving on” Pawley. I’d always loved Pawley, but for the last three weeks, I’ve showered her with more affection than I even knew I had in me. I speak sweetly to her, I hold her, I pet her, scratch behind her ears, rub her belly, and tell her constantly that she is loved. And somewhere along the way Pawley changed.
Her entire demeanor is different. She’s more affectionate, constantly licking my cheek when I’m near and nuzzling up to my face whenever she can. When I sit down, she squeezes onto my lap. When I stand up, she follows me. And, most importantly, she hasn’t fought with Rosie in two weeks—a huge change for dogs who were fighting four times before breakfast. Pawley knows she is loved.
It’s only been three weeks, but loving Pawley more changed everything about her. The craziest thing is I should feel tired from it—exhausted from exaggerating my natural emotions. But I don’t at all. In fact, the strangest thing about love is that feeling a little bit of it makes you feel more of it. Working to love Pawley more actually made me love Pawley more. Love—even with dogs—doesn’t make any sense.
I know this is a story about a dog. But it’s also just a story about how powerful our love and affection can be for other beings. I’m glad my dad—and Pawley—reminded me of it.
On Saturday night I went to a party at a friend’s house. Late in the evening a large group of us moved from her house to a bar where apparently half of Charlotte had decided to go for the night.
As soon as we walked through the door, my friend Ann* grabbed my arm. Across the porch was Dex, a guy who she’d had several semi-romantic encounters/dates/sleepovers with over the previous year and who inevitably treated her terribly. I won’t go into the details, but trust me when I say that he was a serious jerk**. He was so awful that actually, earlier in the evening, when she’d referenced him, I’d noted that I’d really like to punch him.
Per usual he ignored her, so we walked on into the bar where I promptly lost Ann in the crowd. A little while later my friend Cate and I went searching for Ann. As we were looking, Dex walked up to us. “Hey, I know you,” he said to me. (I hadn’t seen him in about a year.)
“Yep,” I said.
“Where do I know you from?” he asked, smiling. Dex is very attractive and is very aware of how attractive he is.
I didn’t smile back. “You don’t know?”
“You do know? Tell me where I know you from,” he said, smiling and grabbing my arm.
Cate and I turned back around and started inside. “C’mon!” he called after us, smiling. “You have to tell me!”
Meanwhile, he still hadn’t acknowledged Ann’s presence and I was angry. I watched two bouncers carry a guy out of the bar and considered that punching Dex might result in that and it didn’t look fun. So, I stuck to talking to my friends.
Then, as I was chatting with my friend Jessica, Dex walked up again. “I still can’t figure out where I know you from,” he said, touching my arm again. I shook my head and shrugged. Then, another girl stepped up behind him. She grabbed his hands, looking at me, and then pulled him towards her. Apparently, she was his choice for the night. Or at least she wanted to be.
They laughed and talked, leaning in towards one another. I could see Ann out of the corner of my eye, talking to some of our other friends. And then, I have no idea what came over me, but I couldn’t just keep watching. I put my hand on the girl’s shoulder, leaning in between them so that Dex was behind me, and then I spoke into her ear, loudly enough that she could hear it over the blaring music.
“I really just feel like I should tell you that he’s absolutely terrible in bed.”
Her eyes widened. I pulled back, turned around, and walked off. Less than a minute later, so did she.
It was a small victory. And I should probably feel like a terrible person for outright lying. But I really, really don’t.
* Names have been changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent.
** Descriptive adjectives have been changed to keep this blog within a PG-13 rating.