My husband suggested that I ought to be more like Nellie, our dog. It was after a few beers and of course he wasn't serious, no, no, no, only joking. After he said it the back-pedalling was something to behold and part of me enjoyed watching the flailing and the deserved discomfort but I also realized that like many "jokes," this one held an element of truth. He meant it a little and I think he is not the only man to indulge in such fantasy. Maybe all men wish their wives were more like their dogs.
He never wanted her, expressly forbade her existence, "No dogs," and thought that would be the end of it. He was outnumbered by the children and me, four to one. What he did not understand was that the boys and I needed her and so did he. "She'd better never interfere in my life," he stormed when we brought her home.
Maybe she sensed how he begrudged her presence. He called her "dog" for the first week. She set to work on him and it didn't take her long to wear him down. This little fluffy puppy, so guileless and innocent, was ultimately a creature of nature. For her it was about instinct, pecking order, survival and he was the biggest pack member with the deepest "growl." For whatever reason, she identified him as the dominant dog and she submitted to him immediately.
She created her own distinct place in our family; a space nothing else could ever fill and one that we know someday will be empty. Thoughts of inevitable loss come wrapped with the puppy package. Maybe those thoughts were the root of my husband's reluctance to take her on.
That was five years ago. Since then she has greeted each day and all of us with her customary affection and good cheer but he gets the most effusive greeting. His is the only lap she will sit on. When he is home, she is at his heels unless there is a ham sandwich in it for her elsewhere. Like all dogs, she loves unconditionally. Her adoration was the cause of my husband's off-the-cuff musings which got him into trouble over how I could be more like the dog.
I am sure my husband would love me to greet him at the front door, no matter what time he comes home, with a Freudian bone in my mouth. He would love me to sit downwind of him after his curry and beer nights, to come over all concerned when he sneezes at eighty decibels instead of blessing him through gritted teeth, to welcome the clattering of his knife and fork as a precursor of a pleasant treat instead of a headache. He would love me to clear away the fallen cookie crumbs from his shirt front while he watches the game, to anticipate his every move, and most of all to perfect that look--with eyes full of soulful adoration, eyes that see the real him.
It is easy to love a dog.
© Julia Barr 2010
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