Rufus is a Maltese who was supposed to belong to my daughter, but as soon as he grew to full-size and would no longer submit to dress-up or photo shoot sessions, she lost interest, and all of his care fell to me.
A dog is like having a new baby. We got him when he was three months old, and I had to take a week off work, mostly because once again this new baby woke me up every hour to pee, or freak out or just say hi. I also had to be at home to toilet train him because this delightful process involved getting him on a regular schedule of sleeping, feeding, walking and pooping. When he misbehaved, like when he ate my favorite pen or chewed up my $50 throw pillow, he was testing boundaries – just like any other kid. Every few months, I still have to renew the process of reminding him who’s Alpha around this house. I do this by catching him right in the act and giving him hell. When I try this with my kids– they ignore me until I completely lose it. Then they roll their eyes because – well, Mom’s acting crazy again.
Rufus makes me feel like a parenting rock star. Unless he sees a bird. Then he forgets his name, his training and how stupid I look running after him like an idiot.
Rufus never complains about how I prepare his dinner (a scoop of kibble with a little freeze dried liver sprinkled on top as a garnish), but my human kids pretty much hate everything I make them, no matter how hard I try. And they make a big-ass deal about letting me know.
“God, mom. This is disgusting.” They couldn’t care less about the waste or how much someone would appreciate what they were given “…then you should just send it to China.”
Rufus doesn’t pretend to gag at dinner time. He just shuts his fucking mouth and chews.
Rufus never talks back or screws around when it’s time for bed. He doesn’t squirm when I give him cuddles. He doesn’t throw his clothes around. Raising Rufus has been my chance to redo all those moments I totally messed up raising my human kids. Yes, it’s true. Rufus is my kid. The only one who actually listens to me. So I arrange play dates for him with other dogs he likes. I take him to doggy daycare, so he doesn’t have to spend the day alone when I go to work. I drop $70 for his shampoo and haircut. But only because the doggy spa also throws in an anal gland cleaning. Some things about my favorite child are gross, but it doesn’t diminish my love for him. Especially since he shows his appreciation by losing his shit every time I walk through the door. While my flesh and blood don’t even look up from their screens.
But here in Yaletown, where some of the world’s cleanest, most pampered fur-children live – the Health Board will not allow me to bring Rufus into my favorite coffee shop. But they place zero restrictions on my other kids, even when they obviously haven’t bathed in a week. Even though they’re the destructive ones. If Rufus and I went to a restaurant, he would sit quietly on my lap, while my other kids have, from time to time, screamed their heads off, or raced around the room like wild animals. They’ve spilled hot chocolate, splattered spaghetti sauce and left smears of stickiness for the wait-staff to clean up. They’re the ones who should be tied up outside.
My devotion to this dog has not gone unnoticed by my friends. The other day, Alice and I tried to catch up over coffee. But I was distracted. Rufus was barking plaintively outside. The same mothering instinct that made me cry when the public health nurse vaccinated my babies by holding them down kicked in and I could barely hear what she was saying.
“Why don’t you apply for an emotional support dog license?”
Since I suffer from a wide-range of emotional issues including anxiety, low self-esteem, and occasional insomnia, I can register my dog and for $70 get a card which will gain Rufus admission into any public place, including grocery stores and the library – so long as he’s kept in a purse.
Now, the next time I hand over my credit card to pay for $300 worth of groceries my kids won’t eat, I can just pull Rufus out of my stylish dog-purse and stroke him until everything is right with the world again.