My kids are going camping this week with Grandma. They’ll be gone from Tuesday until Sunday, which is a pretty long time to take three iPad-loving, GoGurt-chugging little girls into the Michigan wilderness (“wilderness” meaning “campground with a playground and a heated camper”). My husband and I are not campers per se, so my wonderful mother-in-law whisks them away for all the outdoor adventuring that we can’t give them here in the suburbs. They have an absolute blast and come home tan, happy, and very dirty, which is absolutely how it should be.
While my kids are Up North having fun, I’m left here alone with the empty cereal bowls and toys that stay where I put them when I put them away. I can’t do the childless life anymore. My brain has been rewired. I’ve been Shawshanked —
prison being a mom is all I know now. I’m used to mothering a house full of kids every day, and when that gaggle of girls is suddenly gone, it creates a a huge disturbance in the Force. I need someone (or something) to direct all my love and smothering towards.
Shaft is our eleven-year-old Boston Terrier and our first baby. We bought him when we were young and newly married and it didn’t matter if we blew our entire tax refund on a purebred dog. When we filled out his AKC paperwork, we gave him one of those long dog show names. After a list of ridiculous options that only two 22-year-old idiots could come up with, we decided on “Shaft’s Bad Mutha”. But after sending in the paperwork, we received a response about two weeks later, informing us that the AKC will not accept names that are “offensive in nature”. So we changed it to “Shaft’s Non-Offensive Name”. They were either satisfied with this or tired of dealing with us, because it was approved, and Shaft got to keep his name.
It was just us and Shaft for a few years, until the kids came along. It was little Shaftie that I walked around the neighborhood the day I went into labor with Phaedra, hoping all the walking would help move things along. When I brought her home, he would cry when she did, which I think was more his way of grieving for his former life as a dog of leisure and less sympathy for the baby. Shaft has always tolerated the kids, and even kind of likes them now that they’re older and leave real food at dog-level all over the house. He made it through Bella’s weird “turn your head and cough” exam phase, and has learned not to get between Surrey and her food lest he be chased and screamed at in gibberish. They’ve learned how to let him outside, which he likes. They’ve also learned that Shaft gets a treat when he comes inside, and argue over who gets to give it to him, meaning he gets three treats (which he really likes).
So when the kids are gone, I aim my tractor beam of love at him and pull him in, like it or not. I need someone to ride with me in the car and listen to Kidz Bop. I need someone to lecture about going to bed, to yell at for making annoying noises, and someone to squeeze in at the last second between my husband and I when we go to bed at night.
I make him take selfies with me.
He gets snacks and love and hugs and cuddles and if he tells you he hates it, he’s a goddamn liar.
But believe me when I tell you that he’s just as happy to see the kids when they get home as I am. There’s only so many snuggles a little dog can take.
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