Carol: Women Who Love Dogs Who Love Children . . .
I feel for this woman, Hinda Mandell. She is 32-years-old, still childless by choice, and she loves, loves, looooves her Lhasa Apso. Based on what she says in her piece in USA Today, people think she’s weird.
Not I. I relate to her experiences. I came to motherhood late (at 40), and for seven years before having children, I was (and thankfully, remain) the proud pet of Sir Winston the Lionhearted (call name “Winston”). He’s now twelve, and he has brought us joy every single day since he came home with us from the breeder in Seattle. (And how many humans can say that?!).
Winston perceives himself as one of the “top dogs” in our household. He thinks the hierarchy at home is as follows: Me, him, my husband, the twins. In fact, when my husband asks him to do something, he is wont to cock his head with thinly disguised disapprobation and then look over at me as if to say, “Do I have to?” I just try to avoid meeting his gaze, or I’ll laugh out loud. After I repeat my husband’s request, Winston then does as he’s been asked . . . but he’s been known to engage in the time-honored practice of the “work slowdown.” That means he’ll comply, but with the excruciating slowness of molasses in January.
Winston is an expert at “playing ball” — that is, he’s an expert at getting you to play ball. He’ll watch, with benign appreciation, as you throw the ball. He declines to fetch it himself, but beams at you with lordly approval when you do it. One of the funniest sights I’ve ever seen is my aunt throwing his ball, and then saying, “Oh, Winston, you want me to get it? Okay! Here you go!” He loved that game! (And she got plenty of exercise.)
When I became pregnant, many people predicted with smug certainty that Winston would resent the intrusion of human offspring. Nothing could have been further from the truth. He’s always loved babies, and not long after I realized I’d be having some myself, he used to rest his head against my stomach — listening intently for their heartbeats, I think. The day they came home from the hospital, I laid them on the floor for his inspection. He came up, smelled them both thoroughly, and immediately took them to his heart. Every cry in the night meant he’d spring up, at the ready. When they reached the crawling/toddling stage, if they were left alone for a moment while someone went to change laundry or answer the phone, he’d bark to alert us if a twin was doing something he deemed unsafe. Even now, if he decides that I (or any other caregiver) is responding to the twins’ needs with insufficient haste, he’ll find clear but subtle ways of making his displeasure known — from the gusty sigh to the disapproving glance. When I’m away, he rests, on guard, outside their rooms.
Who couldn’t adore a puppydog filled with so much loyalty, love and sassiness? Hinda Mandell needn’t worry. She’s got time to have her human children — and she’ll be even more equipped to love, discipline and raise them, thanks to the experiences she’s had with her beloved dog. Given the unshakable, unconditional love dogs throughout the world show their humans, it’s really no wonder that their name is G-O-D spelled backwards.