10 March, 2010
Until now that is. New-puppy arrives in five days. And he is going to grow into a huge dog. And I am terrified. Also many other things. But right this minute, fear of failure towers above all else. We need to bond. We need to fall in love, without a nine month pumping of umbilical feeding to lubricate the way. He and I need to be like one-hand-reaches-one-hand-catches, without a need for excess communication. We need to be like Harold and Maude. Like up and down, in and out, reach and pull. The two of us a pair. Lone Ranger and Tonto. Betty and her Boop. Romper Room and the mirror that saw every kid with every name but mine. Except in this case, the puppy needs to be trained so excellently that no matter what lens he peeps through - how he views the world - it will be me that sits front and center for him.
The dog bowls are in their bag, waiting in the basement. The puppy chews stored separately but nearby. A new collar and leash, colors matching, wait with the dog-treat holder and its complementary clicker. Yes, it’s true that I have some issues with organized religion in general and many of the practices in specific but in this case, I’m not taking any chances. If my Jewish ancestors believed in waiting to open the baby gifts until after a birth, I’m happy to hide the puppy booty until after the landing.
He’s flying in from Utah. I don’t even know his name or if he’ll keep his gender. But I do know that lots of connecting happens in the subterranean dreamtime of sleep. So the changes to my specifically designed princess-and-the-pea-bed are all part of puppy-prep. The bed frame now has a location of honor in the basement. Since I have to duck my way past this four legged-stick–out-past-where-it’s safe obstruction to get to the washing machine, this change cannot be pretended away. My mattress sits low, right on the floor of my room. To accommodate this I deconstructed and reconstructed both my night table and the vessel that holds my doo-dads. Scale matters to me. And a descent from princess-high to floor-dweller has me feeling like a munchkin in the land of Oz. It took nearly an entire day to set things right. Now when New-puppy arrives he can either sleep safely in the bed with me or leash-attached to my wrist next to me on the floor.
Newborn babies wear diapers in our culture. New puppies don’t necessarily like to lie on their backs on a changing table. The wonderful smell of baby powder and A & D ointment will not be part of this journey. I’ve come to terms with this. This is okay. I don’t connect easily with people who psychologically lie on their backs with all (imaginary) four feet waving in the air while they whine about their condition. Nothing against people who wear a victim-stance like a cloak against their humanity, it just isn’t my thing. So the fact that I already cannot imagine New-puppy taking a life-stance like this could bode well for us. It does mean though that I will be shlepping outside multiple times a night for the next month or so.
The puppy manuals all caution against slipper-eating. It seems to score very high on their checklist of bad behaviors. And we all know that blaming-the-mother dominates our cultural mores of accountability. I don’t want to flunk mothering and I love my slippers. What am I to do? If I sleep in them, New-puppy might nibble while I snore. If I leave them at ready next to the bed, they might be part of the New-puppy poop I scoop in the morning. And quite frankly, creeping out in the night, minus my slippers, sounds not only terrifying (he’s not a guard dog yet) but blatantly cold on my feet. I’ve always tried to be a person that cultivates a conscious living. Dwelling within an examined life is something I admire. To go into denial before New-puppy even arrives seems to me a recipe for disaster. Maybe this is why someone invented slipper-socks. I suppose they can be slept in AND used for New-puppy night forays. This just might be the answer. Slippers that are not. Socks that are more than. And mothering that allows for combinations.
Except. Mothering is never guaranteed. Let’s face it. Some Dams don’t conceive. Smart mothering isn’t automatic. Most mothers try. A lot of mothers succeed in some arenas. All mothers fail. I am about to become a mother to New-puppy. And damn it. I’ve already made my first mistake. My dear editor and muse just asked me a point blank, brilliant question. “What,” she wondered “is the difference between slippers and slipper socks when considering New-puppy munchies?” Hmmm. This stumped me for a moment. Then I felt relief wash over me. Hovering at the brink of my first gaff of an error, I realize that in fact, there is no significant difference. The required palate for either is similar. The materials for construction are found within the same food groups. Whatever smell they carry from my hopefully hygienic feet will be only as much as it is. It’s just that somehow I thought that the ease of removal might catalyze a different chomping reflex. Upon reflection though, I doubt it. Oops.
Now I know that I’m destined to scuff up the path at three o’clock in the morning with only heel callus between my bones and raw earth. My first conceptual flub has already happened. This might not be the disaster it appears. This could be the precedent that allows me the latitude to let my fallibility show. In humans, we see such an obvious unwillingness to increase our ability to tolerate discomfort. So perhaps I can reframe my snafu as a good thing. In our species, intimacy grows through a marriage of love AND disappointment. Yet most parents try so hard to hide (deny) any propensity for bloopers. Teenagers grappling with their legitimate rage when they discover that what their parents presented as absolute truth is often false, are seen as difficult. Prone to argument. Malingering. Crazy. Given that I’ve inadvertently set a stage that will require New-puppy to grow an ability to accept an accidental muddle (because when does mistake number one ever escape being followed by an erroneous number two?) it could be that New-puppy has a chance to be well adjusted. Phew.