Another year - another Hallmark Holiday excluding dogparents.

I'm the first to admit that it was totally my choice to adopt outside of my species - but a mama is a mama, nonetheless.

 

The universal elements of motherhood span time and space... and species...

Debt...

While braces and college might not loom ahead, the average dogmama spends more that she's willing to admit on toys (see guilt), grooming, training, and the ever-present VET BILLS. Still, year after year, the IRS, in its infinite wisdom, refuses to allow us to claim our dependents.

Embarrassment...

My own mother has an awkward habit of re-cycling gifts. Once, when I was a tot, she presented a friend with a gruesome poodle shaped key chain made of genuine mink (this was the 60s, these things roamed the planet then). Clever girl that I was, I recognized it instantly as a hard-won bingo prize from weeks before. My mouth opened and disaster spewed forth. Now the glory of being a dogmama is that this will never, never happen to me (mainly because I don't recycle gifts). However, there are days when I long for humiliation that does not require cleaning supplies to wipe away.

When Earnest was a pup, we took him to visit friends in another town. The very first thing he discovered was the cat food dish. He wolfed down the rich blend instantly. I knew trouble was already brewing. Then he discovered a dandy box filled with crunchy coated dog candies (it was years before he learned it was just an ordinary litter box). My skies darkened. Acting nonchalant, I suggested we go for a long walk with the darling puppy. No use - he ripped hunks of grass from every lawn along the way and choked them down. Hours passed as he staggered through their home - a gastric time bomb - ticking, ticking, ticking...Too soon, dinner was served. A giant bowl of gazpacho soup was placed on the table and - on cue - a plunging sort of sound was heard from under the table. Everything came up. As the mama, it was my job to crawl under the table with a bucket. Meanwhile, the gazpacho grew intensely less appealing.

Arthur's first Christmas offered another opportunity for disaster. Arthur was plagued by an excitable colon capable of creating instant diarrhea on a moment's notice. Because of this, I begged Papa not to take him with us to Grandma's house on Christmas Eve, but he persisted. Grandma just loved having Earnest over the year before, and she was so lonely - what a treat for her to see both the furkids. Outside the house, we paced. Arthur was clueless as to what we wanted him to do. Finally, Papa pronounced that Arthur must be empty. Cautiously, we stepped inside. The exciting new smells and Grandma's squeals of delight worked their magic. In seconds Arthur exploded. The stench cleared the room instantly, leaving me alone to scrub the Oriental carpet.

Hugs & Kisses...

No mother on earth gets more kisses than dogmamas. Each morning my pack lines up to smother me with devotion (standing on me for better traction). Little tokens of affection continue throughout the day. A nuzzle here, a shy lick there, a full smack on the cheek later on. My kids never get too big to sit on my lap or play games with me. And there's always a cuddle when you're sick or sad. Dogs are wise as the ages when it comes to love.

Medical Emergencies...

Like all mothers, my existence is often measured in tragedies averted, illnesses fought, injuries healed. And, like all new mothers, I learned to take it all in stride - after the first kid, that is. As a youth, Earnest vomited up a gigantic worm one midnight. Alone in the house, I scrambled for the phone with the "puppy under siege" tucked under one arm. "He threw up a worm, a big corkscrew-shaped worm, a huge, horrible, worm, I need to bring him in, do I need to bring the worm too, what do I do now?" The vet's answering service listened patiently, reminding me (when I paused briefly to breathe) that the doctor was home, asleep. Despite all the panic, nobody died. As those endearing diaper commercials say "live and learn".

Like all mamas, I hold them while they get their vaccinations, comfort them when they're injured, pamper them when they're sick. And like all mamas, I dread the next time...

Filth...

Yes, like all moms, I fight the battle of the filth every day. Nose prints on the glass. Footprints on the floor. Mud, food, blood, urine, vomit and more anoint my home. Except for the height of the damage, it's pretty hard to tell what species of kid caused the carnage.

Contentment...

Here dogmamas are blessed. One major advantage to kids of the furry variety, is their accelerated childhood. You can start enjoying the fruits of your labor within months - not years. Once you're through being smug about potty training success, they've finished school and are ready for advanced degrees. Plus, if you choose not to further their education, no one thinks less of you. A human child that sits on command is no big deal, but a canine kid with a bit of savvy is a thing of beauty - a testament to fine parenting skills. Puberty, adolescence - they fly by. Teenage pregnancy? Well you and your vet call the shots there. Drugs? Not likely. Noise? Evil companions? Hefty car insurance premiums? No, No, No! Sure, you lose a few shoes, but, after a few years, you can just relax and enjoy your kids as adult companions. Now that's bliss genetics can't buy!

Guilt...

That sturdy foundation of motherhood... Dogmamas too have their share of guilt. Like all kids, dogs are masters of guilt application. The wistful eyes peering from the window as you drive away. The heavy sigh as they slide into bed beside you after yet another day with no playtime. The longing stare as you eat food far more exciting than theirs.

But the ultimate guilt is when you really screw up as a parent. The injury you should have prevented...the missed dose of medication...errors of ignorance...carelessness.

When Earnest was little, we called him "Saint Puppy". He never left our unfenced yard. If a toy rolled out onto the sidewalk, he fetched mama to retrieve it. I grew complacent. Across a side street was a grocery store and the stock boys knew Earnest from his romps in the yard. One day, as Earnest entered what I came to know as the "terrible teens of dogdom", I called for him and he wasn't there. A voice from the parking lot next door bellowed "he's over here". My heart froze. I ran to the edge of the street. Earnest saw me and headed back. He walked right in front of what was, fortunately, a slow moving car driven by a woman who was paying attention to the road. I couldn't breathe. Earnest died of natural causes 11 years later, but that image is still with me.

The year Earnest died, I screwed up again - big time. After wrestling the lawn mower through the narrow backyard gate and down a step, I somehow forgot to close the gate. Halfway through mowing the front yard, I saw Tristan easing nervously down the driveway. I grabbed him and ran to the gate where Earnest was still deciding what to do. Only his head crossed the opening. Where was Arthur? I scanned the flowerbeds for movement. No sign. I screamed in the back door - "I've lost Artie!" and ran to the street. We live 3 houses from a main road. My heart was pounding. There he was - on the lawn of the last house, across our street, 20 feet from traffic. Arthur was mostly deaf. I screamed his name. To my surprise, he looked up. Which way would he turn? He saw me and started toward me - across our street, right near the entrance where cars come zooming off the main road. I couldn't get to him before he crossed - I had to watch. By the time I had him safely in my arms, I'd aged about 50 years.

When Earnest died a few months later, a horrible thought crossed my mind. I might have lost them all that summer. I might have been nobody's dogmama. The thought was too terrible to bear. Well, I did lose them all eventually, but along the way, I adopted two more furkids. This Mother's Day, I know Emma and Duncan will be giving me exactly the same gifts Earnest, Arthur and Tristan always bestowed - all wrapped in soft, smelly doggie fur: debt, medical emergencies, filth, embarrassment, hugs & kisses, contentment, guilt... and love to spare. What mama could ask for more?

dogmama

 


Copyright 1998 Elizabeth Cusulas

Tale Waggers - Stories for Dog People
www.talewaggers.com
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