Today the dog made me cry.
I have spent many days with her alone. Alone in the apartment learning her habits and her glances. Playing rope, and ball. Taking her out to pee. Introducing her to my family. Petting her head and her neck. Talking to her in dulcet tones. Massaging her hips, giving her treats. Learning that she doesn’t like peanut butter but loves cheese. Trying to get her away from the table when we eat dinner. Saying “No!” “Stop!” “Enough!” every 3 seconds. My skin is unkempt. My clothes covered in hair and drool. I sweep the dog hair up, only to turn around and sweep again. I do dishes while keeping one eye on her. I make the bed to have her rumple it up. The whole house smells of dog. The whole world even.
John is in love. He comes home and cuddles her as though she were a precious child he’s been waiting to see his whole life. I stand with dirty socks and watch from the shadows. She sees me watching and in my mind, her mouth grows wider in a smile. She has won him, I am yesterday’s news. He is the king. And she the new bratty princess with her raccoon tail held high. I am the court jester and also the janitor. She poops in the dining room while maintaining eye contact with me as I scream “No!” and hold her leash imploring her outside.
She growls when I try to take away her toy and scratches my arms when I go to hug her the way John does. She nips and bites and grunts and lunges at me as though I were a mid-day snack. Her pupils enlarge when we play tug of war-her teeth bared and I can’t help but feel there is a monster in the house. A demon. What have I done.
But John is in love. Each day it becomes more clear. Each day the hugs longer, the baby talk increasing. Her eyes never leave him when he is in the house. His eyes on her constantly thinking each thing she does is oh-so-cute. I am adrift in a sea alone. I live here, sure, but I am de-throned. She gets more attention than I ever did in any relationship I’ve ever had-including the one with my parents. I’m not sure I’ve ever been loved. But this beast is sucking up all the air in the house and all the love in the world with it.
When he leaves for work, I try to find ways to keep us busy. I try and turn her from the door with old french fries and pretzels. Her nose smashed against the glass in anger as if to say “Daddy, no! Don’t leave me with the babysitter! Not again! This woman is a tyrant and a hag!”
I lament a life when I could shower with the door closed and not be screaming “BELLA!” as she sees a cat. Or a butterfly. I pull on her collar when she tries to escape the leash and run into traffic. I drag her 45 pound body down the hill when she tries to eat our landlord’s wife, all hackles razed and her jaws unhinged like an ancient shark.
“This is not a democracy!!” I below for all the neighbors to hear. Two different shoes on my feet, and the same clothes as the three days before. My hair, a nest of sorrow and lost dreams. It is 2:30am.
When John comes through the door, my oh my you have never seen a sweeter lady! She sits pretty with her paws together and her big blue eyes blinking up at him, waiting patiently for whatever scrap is sent her way. Meanwhile, I spend lunch with my foot against her chest bracing her away from my celery-her jaws crunching towards my tiny fingers, eyes rolling like a rabid lion, chest heaving like a hell-sent-harpie.
But John is in love. And she is playing me for a fool. Each day I try and fail. Get bit, get scratched, get sneezed on and barked at. I cry at the table when I try to crate train her and she screams like a child being beat. I let her out. I cry out of frustration and fear. I cry out of worry. I cry and she comes up and sits so pretty. Licks my hand not once but twice and I pet her head, she lets me. She closes her eyes in pleasure. I give her a hug, and she lets me. She curls up under my feet and takes a little nap. I feel, maybe, that I am not failing so bad after all. Perhaps there is hope here for the new dog-mother. Perhaps I just need to be patient.
She awakes with a yawn and stretches like a yoga master in the kitchen. I lean down to her eye level and see her intelligent gaze as I tell her she is a good girl. Her tongue lolls as her head leans towards my hand and I scratch. She gives me a paw gently. Then suddenly, her eyes go red and she barks in my face. Stands-turns in a circle quickly as a weather change, tail raised and lunges for the sleeve of my shirt. Suddenly-I am the rope in this tug of war. And I have hours to go before John gets home.