Jack lives down the street. Except when he’s at our house.
And Jack takes his role as lapdog very, very seriously. If there’s a lap and a laptop, he really feels he has no other choice than to lay upon them both. No shirking of lapdog responsibilities around here, I assure you.
Now, I don’t have houseplants. And I don’t grow a garden unless my mama grows tomatoes for me. I don’t grow herbs in my kitchen window. And I had to find my front porch hanging flower basket a more loving home because, you know, I was afraid that Plant Protective Services would send the fuzz to rough me up.
The truth is, I am capable of keeping a very limited number of beings alive. I know this. Now you know this. And I pick my children. And one dog. And that is all.
“Mom? Can we have a puppy?” my children implore me.
“No,” I reply. “We have a dog. That is all.”
And then my children accept my answer and skip obediently and happily away.
(I’m a liar, and my pants are on fire. That never, ever happens.)
“But WHY can’t we have a puppy?” they beg. “I WANT one. I will feed it. I will bathe it. I will let it sleep in my room. You don’t have to do ANYfing, Mom! Pwease! Puh-wease! Pweasepweasepweasepweasepwease!”
“What about a kitty?”
“What about a turtle?”
“Dear heavens, no.”
“Cockatoo? Mouse? Rabbit? Hummingbird? Rat? Hamster? Hedgehog? Wizard? Porkypine? Mountain why-on? Guinea pig? Thnake? Disonaur?”
I have literally been asked for each and every one of these things, more than once. It’s a firm line I hold. I mean, I admit that having a pet wizard is very tempting. But still no.
“Really, guys?” I ask, plaintively. “Have you not looked around? Our house IS a menagerie. Your sister still insists on bear-walking everywhere. You boys were growling at each other this very morning. Every last one of you prefers to lick your milk out of a bowl. And our entire backyard is like a litter box. How, exactly, are we missing out?”
My children think I refuse them pets because I don’t want to do the work that more animals entails. They’re COMPLETELY RIGHT.
But it’s also because I hang onto balance in life so tenuously that I’m pretty sure it will take no more than a mouse who craps in a cage to tip me right over the edge into the abyss.
In short, I’m protecting my legacy. I just don’t want my epitaph to read “That Darn Mouse.” I guess in my heart of hearts, I’m still holding out hope for something sweet and sentimental like “Well, At Least She Tried.”
And that’s why I’m grateful for Jack.
See, Jack is in love with our dog, Chip. And Chip loves him right back. And, by love, I mean looooovvve love. Like, romantic, bottle of wine, dozens of roses, “Do you like me? Check yes, no or maybe. I have to hump you right now” kind of love.
Jack and Chip live in the same neighborhood, and they have parents who Just Don’t Understand.
We keep them home. We make rules. We forbid them to see each other except on special, supervised occasions.
But that’s never stopped love before. And, friends, it ain’t stoppin’ it now.
Chip is a Montague. And Jack is a Capulet.
Jack stands at his balcony, crying wistfully into the night. And Chip sits romantically in the shrubbery, willing to deny his father and refuse his name. If only he can be with Jack.
Jack’s parents and we have pondered together whether it’s right to keep them apart. Our Houdini dogs run away weekly to each other’s homes. We’ve considered a dog-share program where we take joint custody of the boys and they spend one week with each family. But then we couldn’t decide who gets them on Christmas, and our negotiations deteriorated.
Vacations, though, are bliss from the dogs’ perspective. ‘Cause that’s when they get to spend days and days letting their doggy-love dreams come true.
A couple of weeks ago, Jack’s family went to Hawaii. So we got him all to ourselves. My children’s puppy dreams came true. And Chip’s and Jack’s romantic yearnings were a blissful week-long reality.
But the vacation ended, and our darn neighbors wanted their dog back. We tried to hang on to him, but they sent their 10-year-old boy child with his big brown eyes and his “I missed Jack so much” grin. They play dirty.
So now, Jack is gone. And I have a houseful of mopers. They’re pitiful. Moping kids. Moping dog.
“Mom, can we get a… ?”
On an unrelated note, my lap is cold. And kind of lonely.
But I’ll pay you not to tell my kids.