Life’s lessons — from a dog

We did it. We got a dog.

Well, I did it.

Everyone warned me not to. Everyone said how hard it was. Even the most dog-loving dog owners rolled their eyes at the idea of adding a canine to my brood.

But it wasn’t really a choice. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

I remember sitting on the floor of my living room as a kid, nose against my little doggie’s nose, loving her and feeling loved in return. Friends would come and go, crushes would crush me and move on, but Lady Laverne stood by me always, licking my face and looking at me with gracious understanding.

I said I was doing it for my boys, and indeed I want them to have the great bond that pet ownership brings. But in the few days since we picked up what appears to be a mix of terrier and beagle from the rescue operation at the Gay Pride Festival, I knew it was more for me.

Bringing her home brought me squarely back to the days of bringing my newborn babies home. And even though Ginger is two, and trained, I am a nervous new mother.

“She’s not eating…” I tell anyone within earshot. “She has a little diarrhea, and she threw up a little.”

Of course, the pet shop owner who was mid-bite into a sandwich didn’t want to hear about the bowel movements of my pup, so my neurotic behavior — also reminiscent of my early days of parenthood — scares me a little. I am brought back to the days when Eli would pause to look around before nursing and I would fly into a panic that he might never eat again. I tend to over-blow things when it comes to caring for my beloved.

I realize now, with Ginger, that just like then, my own nervousness is a likely culprit in creating problems that don’t exist. Whenever I’d distract myself and think about something else, Eli would eat. And the same goes for Ginger.

“Look, Mom, she’s eating!” Oscar pointed out as Ginger went to town on the food I’d convinced myself she was allergic to or at the very least didn’t like.

“Oh,” I said, feeling sheepish as I pulled out the rice and plain chicken I’d run out to get her to relieve her supposed stomach ailment. “Maybe she was eating all along, I just didn’t see her.”

I have to remind myself as a dog owner, just like as a parent, that a watched pot doesn’t boil. I have to remind myself that Ginger will be fine, that I don’t have to worry about her every second of every day. I cannot judge her or myself at every turn.

Now, Ginger follows me around from room to room and I so happily rub her head and tell her how much I adore her. She whimpers when I walk out the door, just like the boys did when I used to leave for work. It is a good reminder that even beings who love each other immensely do have to learn to be apart. She will learn and so will I, in time.

Already, no matter what, Ginger is a lesson in love. I have come across the boys nose-to-nose with her on the floor, and they have both agreed to pick up her poop. They are learning what it takes to be caregivers.

And so am I, all over again.

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