I call a bunch of things “my baby.” Frequently, I refer to my students as “baby,” especially when they’ve triggered the Mom-reflex in me. No matter how tough an exterior I try to present, an upset student will generally get my emotions rolling and I’m a tumbleweed, turning over and over, trying to figure out what I can do to make the student’s world better.
I have a website that I refer to as “my baby.” I’ve built this thing from the digital floor up and is a huge source of pride for me, especially because, thanks to my website, I don’t have to photocopy as much anymore.
My novel: that’s one of my favorite “babies.” This is truly a child that I have created and loved and nurtured and coddled. Now, if only I could figure out the right formula of words+agent+publisher so that my baby can fly away and become a published baby. That would be stellar.
My children are literally my babies. But, after horrific shame flare after horrific shame flare every time my mom referred to me as “Baby” in public (public being a sentient atomic particle that can hear my mother), I chose to try and avoid calling my children “Baby.” It works most of the time. Sometimes, the Girl is humiliated when I slip up and call her “Baby.” I always apologize profusely afterwards. Doesn’t help. She’s still going through her own horrific shame flares. Darn. I have so many other things I could use to generate those incredible horrific shame flares.
The cat is not my baby. She’s my Pretty-Girl which is ironic given that her real name is Ugly-Cat. But that’s a different post that’s already been written.
No, my baby is my dog which is probably causing Cesar Millan to perk up his ears and start whispering into the wind, “Don’t make the dog the baby. You are alpha.”
Don’t worry Cesar. I know the relationship that should exist between the dog and me and I’m absolutely alpha. I’m also cute and perfect and humble and modest and honest. Gack!
Loki (I’ll give you the dog’s name. He doesn’t have to worry about people stalking him because he doesn’t have an identity to steal) is not named for the Avengers but for the real Norse god of mischief. About twelve years ago, I had to let go of the first dog that I had ever gotten as an adult, Cooper. Cooper loved me. He hated men. Unfortunately, my husband is a man (duh) and Cooper and Pat went through many rounds of see-saw emotions in which, at one moment, Cooper either loved Pat or was trying to bite him.
Pat is incredibly patient (his family might disagree with this point, but that’s okay), and he was forgiving towards Cooper. Until Cooper registered that the Boy was going to become a man and decided that he didn’t like the Boy either. Now we had a problem. The Boy was a year old and Cooper was acting increasingly aggressive. I had a choice. I could either let go of Cooper in a peaceful, amicable way, or I was going to have to take the Boy to the emergency room because of being attacked by a dog and Cooper would likely have to be put down.
I made the better choice. Pat knew of an old lady who wanted a dog; Cooper was the perfect fit. Remember the Cooper formula: women=good. Men=bad. Old ladies are even better in this dog’s world. Last time Pat saw Cooper, he was fat and happy. Unfortunately, Pat lost touch with the lady and I lost contact with Cooper. At this point, given how long ago this happened and the fact that I had already owned Cooper for three years (and he was around two when I got him), Cooper is likely in doggy-heaven at this moment. And if you don’t believe in doggy-heaven, that’s fine. I don’t care. But you are not allowed to hurt my feelings by giving me all the details on the lack of doggy-heaven. TTTTTHHHHHPPPPPTTTT!!! (That’s me blowing raspberries in your general direction).
So, ten years ago, I was pining for a dog. I love dogs. I have always loved dogs. I begged and pleaded with Pat for us to get a dog and, finally, he succumbed to my general obnoxiousness. His requirement was a specific breed mix.
Ah, poor husband of mine. I went online to petfinder.com, typed in the specifics, and *bam!* found the exact dog. A couple of emails later and the kids and I were in my car (another version of “the baby”) to get our future dog.
Over the last ten years, Loki has sadly lived up to his name. He has caused plenty of problems in the house including a brief time in which he was flashing his fangs at the Boy and nearly caused Loki to be placed in a foster home. Thankfully, we were able to prevent this through electric fencing and teaching the Boy how to be a little more assertive with the dog…so long as it’s not close to the “line” where the fence triggers the collar to shock Loki.
Loki is quintessential love for me. Despite his name, he really isn’t mischievous, just a bit hard in the head….literally. He’s torn off a small part of the vinyl siding on my neighbor’s shed because he was running around the yard and kind of hit the shed. How he didn’t miss the shed is beyond me. A quick “YIPE!” and he was still running around the yard, sounding like a racehorse.
In the spring, when I dig up my garden, I invariably find some of Loki’s toys. Apparently, he thinks he is a gardener as well but his crops never yield any produce. Sorry Loke….
When I thought my father was dying, Loki was truly a healing and therapeutic presence. He didn’t tell me the nice things like, “Everything’s going to be okay.” or “This is in God’s hands.” I might believe that God’s hands were all over the event, but it didn’t help to be told this. And while my father was in the ICU, I couldn’t believe that everything was going to be fine or okay or good. My father’s heart stopped. Three times. That’s not okay.
Loki didn’t tell me that “this is a part of life.” or that “Death is a natural process.” Yes, I was told this. Don’t ask. It’s not worth exploring. Loki merely curled up on the couch that Pat never wants him on (even though Pat invites the dog onto to the couch all the time) and stared at me mournfully because I wasn’t rubbing his head or belly. And when I cried, he desperately tried to clean my face (which is a bit gross given how bad his breath is) but never told me to stop crying or encouraged me to cry to “get it out.” He just patiently sat beside me and occasionally knocked me with his paw to re-focus my attention on him. Or he would butt my hand with his head as a way of trying to get me to pet him.
Loki’s aging is destroying me. I have not told my kids this and, if you know them, you are forbidden from saying something, but Loki might have bone cancer. The doctor noticed that Loki had developed a mystery limp about eighteen months ago. Now, in my research, by this point, Loki should be dead and he’s not so it’s likely that, at this point, he does not have cancer. But the fear of tumors spreading like toxic spiders though his system paralyze me at times. Last year, Loki (like I wrote yesterday) got a flea on him which bit him and, within days, Loki was itching non-stop, biting himself to the point of tearing out fur and skin, and developing a nasty skin flake nastiness that, when I brushed him, caused him to go insane with scratching. By the time I took him to the vet, I was so exhausted from not sleeping (because he was keeping me up all night) and was so utterly convinced that he really did have cancer that I was sobbing before the vet could even examine my dog.
I love my dog. He is my baby. He doesn’t get embarrassed by my weird personality. He doesn’t judge me for my mistakes. He walks by my side when we go to the mountain, steals the bottom of my sleeping bag which helps keep me warm at night, and always greets me every morning with joy. Loki is absolute love. Every day, when I come home from work, Loki is on the porch, his entire body throbbing with joy because his tail had been docked before we got him so all he has is a nub. In order to compensate for his nubbiness, his entire back half wiggles violently. Loki never meets me at the door with complaints or laundry lists of work that needs to be done.
Instead, he deliberately perches himself at just the right step so that he can give me a kiss as I climb the stairs.
I know that Loki’s death is inevitable and, given his breeds, likely to happen in the next two years if I am lucky. I watch him now and see the aging process make its evil and painful process along his body as he is no longer as sound on his hind legs and sometimes takes horrible sounding falls. Even as I am writing this, I have to conceal my emotions because it rips me emotionally to think of the day when I will have to send Loki to the great beyond. Because that is my love for him, a life without pain.
But, until that point happens, Loke and I have many more miles to go. He and I still need to go to the mountain and sit at the top and watch the world swing on its axis and listen to the wind sing through the valley below.