Doing it doggie style


After listening to three days of complaints and pleas from our daughters, my husband and I decided to take all four children to the dog show yesterday. The intensity of the girls’ desire to go to a building packed with pretty doggies can be measured by their willingness to forsake not only Strawberry Shortcake, but also My Little Pony in order to get to the Expo Center early enough to be able to see many dogs of many different breeds and, hopefully, to procure a parking spot that would allow us to avoid a mile’s hike with four little kids, one of whom would be testing the weight limit of a Snugli. Breakfast was bolted, clothes and shoes were rapidly donned,  coats were zippered. We were off on a grand Saturday adventure.

I must admit that the effect on Bugaboo, Beanie, and Mr. Man of seeing hundreds of dogs, grouped by breed, was exceptionally enjoyable to watch. We have dogs, as do many of our neighbors, but I think today was the first time they realized that there exists more than one of any given type of dog. Our two canine kids are both of uncertain origin (although we are reasonably certain that the puppy is a Saint Bernard mix), one of their uncles had a basset hound, the people across the street also have mutts . . . they’ve never before seen two dogs that looked alike.

As we entered the building, the first show ring we saw had the Scottish Terriers gaiting, little prick ears on the alert, little stubby tails quivering, and little beards fluttering in the jogging-dog breeze. Bugaboo was astounded at the sight of so many dogs that were indistinguishable from one another. Beanie giggled at their laughing, furry faces.  Mr. Man stood silently, his mouth slightly open, as is his custom when he sees something so completely outside his frame of reference that he simply must stop and let it wash over him.

And so it went. They met borzois, akitas, mastiffs, dachshunds, spaniels of every kind, poodles of every size, and an enormous Great Pyrenees. The girls and Baby Guy met them with Daddy.  I had Mr. Man detail.

I’m not quite sure there are words adequate to describe the fun of pursuing a 21 month old boy who absolutely loves dogs through his first dog show. Everywhere he looked, there were more dogs, of every size, build, color and shape. He wanted to pet some and stare at others, and startled a sweet golden retriever by barking at her (she jumped in surprise at this odd little human trying to speak her language, he jumped in surprise at her jumping).  Being a little guy only recently liberated from the confines of the stroller, however, his overwhelming desire is to explore everything, without regard for such niceties as getting permission or making sure he has an adult’s hand clutched in his own.

Luckily, I managed to herd my enthusiastically (if unintelligibly) chattering son away from areas where he would have caused problems, like the show ring full of cairn terriers.  Mr. Man is a beanpole, so if he becomes too persistent in pursuit of his interests, it’s not terribly difficult to wrap and arm around his waist and swing him up onto my hip for a quick discussion of appropriate behavior.  Mr. Man is also a bright little fellow, and it did not take him very long to discover that he could complicate my elbow-crook lift if he dropped to all fours and crawled towards the objects of his desire.  As we were, at that time, in an area where there were very few people except for two vendors (and their wares), this struck me as a pretty good opportunity to let him be silly for a few minutes.

He had a merry time crawling around on the floor and cheerfully woofing at any dog with whom he happened to make eye contact.  The four or five people who wandered past smiled indulgently at him, and I hovered very close to him, ready to snatch him up quickly if he was blocking the path of an exhibitor, a dog, a spectator, or a potential customer for the two vendors.  As I returned the smile of a lady who was sitting with her schnauzers, a voice, sour with disapproval, quavered towards me.

“That floor is dirty.  You shouldn’t let him do that.”

Mr. Man was having a fine time imitating a nearby Rhodesian Ridgeback’s pant.  No other humanity was passing by, but I traced the voice to one of the vendors, a lady who was scowling disapprovingly at me.  I was evidently wearing some sort of sign indicating that I have a hearing impairment, because she reiterated her point.

“That floor is dirty.  Dogs and people have been walking on it.  It’s no place for a child to play.”

Now she had Mr. Man’s attention.  He started crawling towards her booth.  Some of her wares looked fragile.  Bearing that last in mind, I scooped him up and looked her in the eye.

“Ma’am,” I replied as evenly as it is possible to speak while flerberting a squirming, protesting toddler’s cheek, “I have four children under the age of five, two dogs, and a husband.  I can virtually guarantee you that this floor is cleaner than my living room, but I thank you for your concern.”

After that, we decided to investigate the wares of some friendlier vendors.  Our dogs scored the biggest bag of rawhide chewies either of them have ever seen, and, had the three ambulatory members of the tribe had their way, would have also been joined in their romps by the most enormous fuzzy toys any of us had ever soon, several of which were longer than Bugaboo is tall.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You created all things, and made each one unique.  One of the hallmarks of Your creations is that no two are ever precisely the same, and Your blessings discovered yesterday that while there may be many dogs which are called “Scottish terrier,” “schnauzer,” or “Leonburger,” no two of them are exactly alike.  They already knew that each person is unique in some way, and have now learned that every living thing has some small difference from every other living thing of its kind.  Thank You, Lord, for giving them the eyes to see those difference, and the wisdom to see them as part of the beauty of Your creation.  Thank You for their curiosity and their wonder at the diversity of life.  Please help us find some way, every day, to show them some part of Your world they’ve never seen before, and to see Your hand ruffling the ears of every dog they meet.

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