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Doggie: An Honest Conversation About Toddlers and Dogs

Twin of the Week — Penelope: Years before Penelope and Clementine were born, I adopted a beagle puppy (Turk). Turk is now 13-years-old, and showing signs of old age: arthritis in his hips and knees, fading vision, etc. He’s always been a sweet dog but his behavior has been getting more unpredictable with age. Last year, I had to go to the hospital after he bit my face. At the risk of sounding like a battered spouse — it was my fault. Turk was sleeping on the couch when I approached without warning and kissed his forehead. Like a wounded war veteran suffering from PTSD, Turk sprung into attack mode from a dead sleep. Once he realized what he had done, he cowered in the corner. I went to the emergency room to stem the bleeding, and received about 5-7 stitches on my right cheek. I immediately forgave Turk for his transgression, but I must admit — I’ll be a little less sad when he dies. My primary concern now is how Turk will relate to the girls when they become toddlers. I recently spoke with Penny to address this looming crisis. 

“Daddy, why can’t I sleep in Turk’s bed?”

“Sweetie, I totally understand the allure — but it’s not safe.”

“Turk protects me from danger — he’d never hurt me.”

“Sweetie, he’s an animal— all animals are capable of violence.”

“Not my Turky-butt!”

“He’s an old dog with chronic pain — which makes him even more unpredictable.”

“Why would you keep him around if he’s so dangerous?”

“Because I love him — he’s an old bastard — but he’s my old bastard.”

“What if he ever bit me or Clemmy?”

“At that point, we’d have to get rid of him.”

“That’s not so comforting, daddy.”

“Sweetie, it’s never gonna happen because we’ll never leave you unsupervised.”

“It’s not like you can watch us every second — that’s all it takes, daddy.”

“Sweetie, you know, parents are responsible for more harm to children than dogs — it doesn’t mean…

“Daddy, do you love Turk more than you love me and Clemmy?”

“No, sweetie, I love all three of you equally — but one of you will be replaced by a golden retriever in a few years.”

“Clemmy?”

“Shhh! It’ll be our secret, sweetie.”

“Joking aside, daddy, I hear golden retrievers are the perfect family dog.”

“They do have that reputation, sweetie.”

“Oh boy! I can’t wait to snuggle him.”

“Not so fast — all dogs are capable of biting — even fun lovin’ golden retrievers.”

“Then why do we allow them into our homes, daddy?”

“Sweetie, dogs have been with humans for millennia — they enhance our lives and protect us from outside threats.”

“Outside threats — like other dogs?”

“All sorts of animals — mostly humans. A friend of mine was saved by her siberian huskies. She was sleeping as a burglar was attempting to break into her house. The dogs heard the subtle sound of a window opening, and sprung into action.”

“That’s awesome! Has Turk ever vanquished a bad guy?”

“No, but he once growled at a random guy in the park. A couple days later I got a sex-offender card in the mail — I immediately recognized his face.”

“Wow, daddy! I didn’t realize dogs could detect pedophiles.”

“Not all dogs — beagles are a special breed.”

“So, maybe we should replace Turk with another beagle.”

“Not a chance, sweetie. Beagles have a lot of great features, but they’re also a pain in the ass — they’re loud and they only follow their nose.

“I don’t care, daddy. I just wanna tug on their floppy ears.”

“I’m sure you do, sweetie — which is exactly what I’m afraid of.”

“Well, I’m desperate to grab someone’s ears — give me your frickin’ ears, daddy!”

“Sweetie, you’re always tugging my ears, and believe me, it hurts!”

“Daddy, I’m not familiar with that word — hurt?”

“That’s because you’ve never experienced pain, sweetie. On the other hand, Clemmy is certainly familiar with the concept — in our attempts to clip her finger nails, we’ve nicked both of her thumbs.”

“I remember her crying her face off daddy — I just figured she was extra gassy.”

“Nope — she was bleeding profusely and experiencing intense physical pain.”

“Daddy, I want to experience pain — can you make this happen?”

“No, sweetie. I’m not going to hurt  you — not on purpose.”

“But how will I know if I’m hurting someone if I don’t know pain?”

“At some point, you’re gonna fall, bump your head, or scrape a knee — then you will know pain.”

“Or maybe I’ll just crawl into Turk’s bed tonight…”

“Too bad you can’t crawl yet.”

“Maybe I can. Maybe I can’t. Any day now, daddy.”

“Sweetie, what’s that over there?”

“Over wher— OUCH! Daddy, WTF!!”

“Sweetie, don’t be such a baby — I just gave you a little pinch — now you know pain.”

“Shit on a stick! Daddy, is that really what it feels like when I tug your ear?”

“Yep, and also when you pull on my beard and my chest hair.”

“Geez, daddy. I’m such an asshole.”

“Oh, don’t feel bad, sweetie. Pain is relative. In this case, it’s worth it to see you discovering the world around you.”

“All the same, daddy — I totally understand if you wanna replace me with a golden retriever.”

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