Sometimes it takes me longer than I like to admit to process things. Thoughts fester a while, eating at me until I feel like my insides are going to burst. I say nothing, but my body language gives me away every time, at least to the one who knows me the best, DW.
I was frustrated with DW for several weeks for making the comments that we didn’t walk Chelsea enough, implying that we weren’t the picture perfect pet owners that I liked to think. His comments felt personal, not general statements about our whole family’s need to re-prioritize and spend more time outside together. It felt like a stab against my parenting ability. So I held a grudge for weeks.
Over that time DW started loosening up about adding another family member and the girls have gotten excited about a puppy. A long list of names sits on the kitchen counter, as each family member gets a vote. The girls and DW have started making jokes about our new pet.
“What do you think about the name Ella, Daddy?”
“My vote is for WOM.”
“WOM? What kind of a name is that?”
“It stands for Waste of Money,” DW says with a grin as all three of them start laughing.
The biggest quip between them is about the dog’s size.
“Look, Dad, we got our puppy new bowls!”
DW looks around the mud-room as if he can’t see what they are pointing at on the floor. Then he pretends to gasp when the girls pick up the tiny 2-cup bowls to show him what they are talking about.
“OK, ” he bellows, “tell me the truth. You aren’t really getting a dog. You’re getting a rat, right?”
So, of course, now her new nick-name is Rat Dog.
However, even though DW had given me the go ahead, it was more of a surrender than a decision. I was feeling resentment about his statements against our abilities as dog owners, but I also felt resentment that he didn’t want what I wanted. Foolishly I expected him to have a change of heart, not just a change of mind. But my eyes were opened this weekend to the truth. My heartache was clouding my perception. This epiphany started Thursday night while we were in bed.
“The Tortoise and The Hare seem to be really excited about getting a puppy, ” DW stated.
“You seem really happy about getting a puppy, a little guarded, but happy.”
“Yes…yes I am.”
“You know…I like it when all three of my girls are happy. It makes me happy.”
Thus the beginning of my understanding that his heart was indeed mending. But I still felt resentment. Why? He had never said no to another pet. He simply left the decision in my hands, and I had made one. Yet, I still felt like he wasn’t on “my side”.
On Friday, the girls and I went to PetSmart to start buying supplies. The breeder says the puppy should be ready to come home in about a week. Each of the girls picked out a sweet stuffed animal and a toy. We found an adorable bowl, leash and harness. While we were in the food isles, a rep for the premium dog food engaged us in a long conversation about the health benefits of holistic dog food. She was a nice lady, but as soon as she started talking about cancer and how her all natural dog food could help prevent cancer, the only thing I heard was “my Chelsea died of cancer and she didn’t eat this food.” The girls heard that message too because they were adamant that we needed to get a natural dog food. We compromised and bought Nature’s Recipe. Not because it was hugely less expensive, mind you, but because their sales rep hadn’t just upset me.
That evening, before falling asleep, I finished reading a book on house-breaking. (I am a big researcher, if you haven’t figured that out by now. I like manuals, instructions, schedules, etc.) Even though I didn’t need to, I read the section on “Aging Dogs”. It just added more fuel to the fire.
Saturday morning found me alone in the bathroom, the shower running, steam filling the room. Every hair on my body seemed stiff and on guard. Waiting for attack. Waiting to justify myself. DW came in to sneak a few grown-up moments alone. I couldn’t get it together – I couldn’t seem to really be there for him.
“I know it isn’t terribly romantic, but I have something I need to tell you.”
“Ok. You have been a little strange lately. Is everything alright?”
“No! Everything is not alright, ” I started to cry, “I was a terrible dog owner. What if you were right and we aren’t a good dog family. I should have fed her better food, and I wasn’t patient enough when she started having accidents in the house, and I let her eat scraps from the table…” It all came pouring out now. I had never been mad at DW. The resentment was my own guilt that had been building, my own demons I had not worked out – DW had the maturity to say how he was feeling out loud from the beginning. He had been honest about his heartache.
He held me tight and let me cry a little.
“You were a good mommy. Right to the very end. Without question.”