For my oldest daughter’s birthday, I got her a diamond-encrusted necklace and a mink throw.
No, I’m not Kris Jenner (and actually, if I were, that opener would have read, “For my birthday, I sold all of my daughters to the highest bidder and bought myself a diamond encrusted necklace, a mink throw, and a small island off the coast of Capri.”)
But I am a crazy dog lady. If it wasn’t official before, then the title was fully earned last week when I threw my eldest daughter — who is, by the way, a full-on bitch — a “Bark Mitzvah” party. (And that explains the bling and the mink, clearly.)
I wasn’t always this way. Growing up, we had a cat. And I had severe allergies. I can only imagine that some of the seeds of my current pet frenzy were sown when every member of my family cuddled, loved on, and otherwise was obsessed with our “Beloved Pussy.” (Yes, that was his pet name [pun intended], and yes, when my mother called him in at night, it was a little embarrassing. Especially once I was a teenager and my boyfriend would drop me off to the strains of, “Beloved… Beloved Pussy! Where are you, my Beloved Pussy?”)
I had a much more distant relationship with B.P. We all knew the pecking order, and although I was taller and got better grades, he maintained his cuteness throughout my awkward tween years, learned how to talk in a way that we all understood, and when he brought us presents, they were really impressive — like dead birds larger than him, for example.
One night when I was a senior in high school and also in a slightly jealous snit, I asked my mother why, if I was allergic, did we keep the cat around? “Because you’re going to move out soon. But the cat… he always comes back.”
At the time, I thought that was just a cute play on words, a familiar refrain from an old children’s ditty. Now that I’m a crazy dog lady, I can see the wisdom in that one memorable line.
When we adopted our Bitch in Suburbia (and yes, that is part of the reason for this blog name), I foolishly believed that it was for the kids. My youngest had a thumb sucking habit that had to be broken, and once she held up her end of the bargain, I had no choice but to hold up mine — get our family a dog.
In one of those there are no coincidences moments, a friend happened to be fostering a dog that was pulled by a rescue organization (Molly’s Mutts & Meows, LA peeps), from the red-listed group of pups to be put down on Labor Day weekend 2008. Armed with a new bottle of Benadryl and absolutely no knowledge of the canine species, we brought our bitch home and nothing has ever been quite the same.
Cut to the present, and it is only to you, dear readers, that I can confess the insanity that this bitch has created:
1) Not only do we throw an annual neighborhood Labor Day barbecue for our dog’s “birthday” (anniversary of her adoption), but there is cake, cookies, and goodie bags for all. Well, not all, just for the dogs.
2) I apologize to my bitch when she shits on the floor. It means I left her for too long without letting her out, and I’m a bad mommy.
3) I make out with my bitch more than I do with my husband.
4) My bitch gets a new outfit for each season, and I’m still wearing clothes from 1987.
5) I hate the mailman and the UPS man now, too, just because my bitch says so.
6) I worry that my bitch is lonely, so I set up a continuous stream of play dates for her. But when my kids mention that they want to hang out with their friends, I tell them to make their own plans.
7) All of my shoes have tooth marks on them, but I don’t care — much like the famed red soles of Louboutins, I consider the chewed look as a signature detail of my personal style.
8) Buying elaborate Halloween costumes for my children is long a thing of the past, but I’m the first one in line to check out Target’s new season of dog costumes.
9) I keep a full drawer of fancy-schmancy dog treats, and go into a full-sweat panic when have less than a full package of organic chicken jerky left. Meanwhile, I routinely hear from the kinder, “We don’t have anything in the house that’s good to eat,” and usually they have a valid point.
10) I’m a co-dependent, wrapped in addiction, surrounded by obsession when it comes to my bitch. I just can’t get enough of those serotonin surges and other health benefits, not to mention her pure, unadulterated, unconditional love.
But the biggest reason I’m a freak for Fido became clear during the video montage viewing at the Bark Mitzvah. My bitch was around two-years-old when we got her, so she was fully grown. But my children? They weren’t much bigger than her initially, but as the pictures scrolled through the last five years, the kids morphed before my eyes. My bitch was like a live-action growth chart, and boy, so much has changed. Then again, the expressions on my children’s faces were almost the same in every picture. As the montage unfolded, the story it told was of a life full of love and contentment, playfulness and sweet companionship.
She might be a bitch, but she is also the secret ingredient to the world that I always dreamed I’d raise my own pups in. And revel in myself, too.
So if you see me on the front porch, calling for my Beloved Bitch, just know that I might be embarrassing the crap out of my children, but hopefully it will do something else for them, too — remind them that love is always the answer, and even though dogs are not our whole life, they can make our lives whole.*
* A variation on a quote by animal advocate and former president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Roger Caras; and if you’re not a dog person, feel free to substitute your bitch of choice — cat, goldfish, hamster…