Monday, March 21, 2011

Just Not the Baby Talk, Please...

by Sophie

The photo to the left is proof of my great hypocrisy.

Lisa occasionally teases me for my animal-hating ways, and it's true that I'm contemptuous of animal mollycoddlers - people who dress their pets in costumes, or talk to them as if they understand, or - most dreadfully and horribly - speak in baby talk to their pets. People who, in the wake of terrible catastrophes, spend enormous amounts of time and money and energy on animals when there are people - human beings, children of God - who are suffering.

Yes, I have strong feelings on the subject, which are no doubt a result of being the granddaughter of homesteaders who raised animals to eat, and of having grown up among pragmatic and largely broke people who could neither afford nor countenance thousand-dollar vet bills when there were human mouths to feed and, besides, all around the countryside, a new litter of pups or kittens were generally a stone's throw away.

Ahem. All of that said....I do love my dog.

I've loved all my dogs: McDuff, Spot, Freddy, Stella, and now - gloriously - Bridget. McDuff was my childhood confessor and comfort, and I whispered all manner of secrets into his malodorous matted collie fur. Spot - oh, Spot, dog of my heart, best companion during the painful aftermath of my parents' divorce. Freddy, the sweet little ugly mutt who was the first pet I owned as a couple, followed by darling Stella - our first beagle, after I admired one in a movie and Bob surprised me with her for Valentine's day. Stella lived exactly fifteen years and died on Valentine's day two years ago.

After Stella died, we neither wanted nor needed another dog. Life was and remains complicated, far too complicated to fit a pet into the picture. But...well, then this happened:

and before long that damn dog grew up and things looked about like this:

...and as much as I'm loath to admit it, she's part of the family now.

I am still very uncomfortable with the amount of money and emotional investment Americans pour into their pets - I think we'd all be well served to spend a little more effort connecting with our neighbors, families, the downtrodden - and a LOT less money on pet accessories and toys and, God help us all, doggie day care and monogrammed water bowls and such.

But I have as much trouble resisting this as the next person:

So, here's a conflicted and ambivalent coffee-cheers to all the pets out there. In my heart of hearts, I do know how much they mean to so many of us, and today I honor that bond. I'll take Bridget on a walk, feed her an extra ration of frozen vegetables, let her jump up on the bed. It's the least I can do, given all the joy she's brought my dear ones. And, perhaps, me as well.

Oh, and P.S.? Just to make sure that my confession is year when my daughter was little, I made her an angel costume and I may have made Stella a little red satin doggie devil suit. And when my daughter was a bride for Halloween, I not only sewed Stella a bridesmaid costume but had their picture taken. With a parasol. And flowers.


Juliet Blackwell said...

Oh, Sophie. A little red satin doggie devil suit? For real???
One of the things I love about you is how you embrace your own contradictions. You would do Walt Whitman proud.
And I've seen you with your current pup, as well as Stella (for whom you named your first published protagonist, am I right?) You old marshmallow, you.

Rachael Herron said...

You big softie. We knew it. :)

L.G.C. Smith said...

My mom is like you. She grew up on a ranch, and animals were outside residents who had jobs or were destined to become dinner for people willing to pay for the privilege of eating them, which kept the family in shoes. However, once my mother gets to know a critter, let's just say they don't have to sleep outside. Or stay off the couch. Or the beds. And the only reason I ever wanted to sew was to make capes for the dogs for Halloween. I never got around to it though, so they had to make do with towels thrown over them. Stella was lucky. :)

Unknown said...

***In a whisper so as not to hurt Bridget's feelings, cause she is cute and all*** Oh, I miss Stella. LOVED that dog. :) Why haven't I ever seen a picture of Stel in her bridesmaid's glory???? :)