The end of school holidays provides an opportunity for many of us to reflect on the extra time we've spent with our children these last two weeks - and to more greatly appreciate the affection we feel for the family dog.
That's right, the dog. The fur child who never asks for more time on your computer to play Fortnite (an insidious, addictive survival game); doesn't grumble for more allowance money and never complains about doing dishes. Why rinse and stack when you can lick the plate clean?
Our 3-year-old pup, Ally, displays a mixture of canine wisdom and insouciance that makes her irresistible. Maybe you've fallen under the spell of your own dog. Here are eight ways to tell you're smitten by your pooch:
1) You can't wait to get home for her greeting. Your dog is the member of your household who delivers the most consistent welcome. She either bowls you over with her size and enthusiasm or, like our dog, sets her tail to hyper-flutter until you pick her up so she can give you a tongue bath up one side of your face and down the other. While most people are thinking, "Ew, dog germs…" you're thinking, "This dog is so happy to see me. I love her."
2) Much of your exercise regime centres around your dog. You might think you're committed to walking or running for your own health when, in reality, you'd keep hitting snooze if it weren't for Fido. Most of your physical activity involves trainers, a leash and poop bags. You've been known to walk for a kilometre or more while swinging a sack of dog doo because there were no bins to be found.
3) The rule about no sitting on furniture evaporated the instant Pup jumped on the sofa next to you and rested her weary doggie head on your lap. The couch is several years old anyway, you rationalise. And your house isn't a museum.
4) Ditto the rule about no sleeping in your bed. Doggie's whining at the door. He wants in. Maybe just this once - and now, maybe every night. It's getting colder, after all. Let's call it practicality - an extra heating source requiring no electricity and no sloshy water bottle. That dog house you bought three years ago, thinking the pooch would need shelter while occasionally dozing outside? Never used.
5) You've reversed your stance about giving Pup extra treats, i.e., human food. Whereas you once let the dog gobble a few scraps from your own dinner to curry favour, you're now so concerned about prolonging Pup's life, you're all about tough love. You measure your dog's waist to make sure she still has one, because your veterinarian says fur children are not meant to resemble beer barrels.
6) You search for Doggie when she's not in the same room. Where could she be? Shouldn't she be sleeping at my feet? Does she need anything? Is she happy? You find her snoozing on your daughter's bed. You're jealous because you suspect your daughter is Doggie's favourite. The fact Doggie howls when parted from Daughter does nothing to ease your mind. You're terrified Daughter may ask to take Doggie when she leaves the nest. You make a mental note to keep Daughter in the nest so you can keep Doggie, too.
7) You've forgiven Pup for things that would land your children in the dog house (the one he never uses): chewing door frames; chewing carpet; chewing lamp cords; chewing shoes… You repaint the door frame, tell yourself the carpet is old, anyways, buy new lamps and figure Pup chews your shoes because he adores your scent and is trying to show how bonded he is to you. You buy a heap of chew sticks. You could scold Pup when you find evidence of his crimes, but it's hours after the fact, and he wouldn't understand. He'd just cock his head and mesmerise you with his round, chocolate eyes that say, "Huh? I dunno. Can we go for a walk?"
8) The whole family gathers around Doggie like he's a newly-born Prince of Wales. He may not have the pedigree or dosh of a prince, but Doggie has royal charm. You watch Doggie sleep, his cow-print belly rising and falling. Any display of that adorable belly results in a rub. Doggie looks into your eyes as if to say, "Thank you. That's wonderful. Keep going…" The mutt has three nicknames and a song dedicated to him.
Just a couple more days, my children, before you're back to school. Ally and I will wave goodbye and continue to nurture our mother/dog bond. The days are long but the years are short.