Friday, April 6, 2012
Dogs are Children, Children are Dogs
I actually mean that in a good way! Children are loyal and loving creatures, just like dogs. But of course, it’s an insult to hurl “You dog!” at someone. Sometimes it’s “you dirty dog!”
Yet it's okay to say dogs are children. It’s funny to see Singer scurry behind me when my son raises his arms, getting ready to swoop her up like a teasing big brother. She rolls over on her back and shows her tummy, but Nathaniel quickly lifts her in the air anyway. I tell him to be gentle and put her down, but he is now nuzzling her and saying her name. He calls her "Xinge". The startled look on her face melts and she realizes that he is just playing with her. I don’t know if she will ever get used to him and his boyish playing style.
But we have these creatures in our homes for generations, and we love them as if they are children. The lines blur and we do think of them as our children. Some cultures are appalled that we let such dirty animals in our homes and on our couches, even in our beds. But we take care of them, and give them baths, and groom them. Yet, they are not human. What is it about them that inspire such love and loyalty?
When I was a child, I had a teddy bear named Smoky that I loved with an intensity that scared me. I think the bear was actually my sister’s but somehow I took it over and it became mine. He had a plastic face with a big smile and wide eyes, in the style of the 1950’s when Smoky the Bear was a popular icon. I loved the way he smelled, like warm winter clothes stored in a closet. He felt firm, well stuffed, yet his fur was nappy from all the little kid hands and sliding around on the floor he did. He was two-toned—his arms and legs were a lighter tan than his body. His face eventually cracked, but his smile never waned. I would look at him at night in the moonlight, and hug him tightly, loving him even more because he never moved, and all the love I felt would pour into his dusty bulky body. He was an instrument that brought me balance in my childhood. I walked among the shadows of night, and Smoky was right there beside me.
Smoky is long gone, replaced by my pets, I suspect. Singer sleeps beside me, but she is alive with her snorts and her paws that scratch the wall while she wrestles with squirrels in her dreams. She puts her paw square on my eye when she wants to get me up before the alarm. If it didn’t hurt, I would laugh—she wants to press the button of my eyes open, like baby Nathaniel would try to scratch pictures of Mickey Mouse from his book and demand, “Out! Out!” Dogs are children, children are dogs. But in a good way.