• February 25, 2004

My Child?

Restoration Diary, ,

When you are married, of a certain age and childless by choice a strange thing starts to happen. It sneaks up on you slowly, over time so that you don’t recognize what is happening to you.

Suddenly, it’s Christmas time and you find yourself also booking a ticket for the dog because it wouldn’t be fair for her to spend Christmas at the kennel. It is cold in Salt Lake City, of course, the dog will need a coat. It becomes a little clearer as you realize there isn’t enough room for your clothes because the dog’s Christmas presents and four different dog coats fill most of the suitcase. The dog almost has a different coat to wear for every day you will be on vacation.

You decide that blue is the dog’s color and get her a matching collar and leash in the shade of blue that will contrast best with her fur. The dog has a special dog seatbelt that will keep her safe in the car. The dog has a basket overflowing with toys that she never plays with. You rotate out the toys to better grab her interest.

You start taking her to dog parks so she can have playtime and become socialized with other dogs. You insist that your husband speak to her clearly and not in baby talk so that she can learn more words. You decide the dog needs a larger more comfortable dog bed and start searching online for one that is down filled.

It doesn’t dawn on you that maybe it is a little odd that your dog has a middle name and you use it when the dog is in trouble. “Lulu Bell Chiu, stop chasing that cat this instant!”

It becomes a little more obvious when your family starts sending you Christmas gifts for the dog, although you did send them her Christmas list. Once your Mom starts referring to the dog as her grandchild and has her photo up on the refrigerator next to pictures of her human grandchildren the truth is hard to avoid. Lulu has become a surrogate child. Lulu seems perfectly happy with the arrangement.

My conversations with friends and family usually include the inevitable question, “How’s Lulu?”

Looking down at the framed photo of Lulu and my husband on the desk, “She’s fine.”

“What has she been up to?”

I’ve come to terms with having a dog for a child but a house? We spend a lot of time planning and saving for our house’s future. We want to make sure the house reaches its full potential. We have taken numerous photos to document all the stages in the house’s development. When friends pass around photos of their children we pass around photos of our house.

Questions about Lulu have been replaced with questions about the house. “How’s the house?”

“The house is fine.”

“What has been going on with it?”

“We are thinking of giving it a middle name.”

Comments { 6 }
  1. jmo

    Heather–Your entry made me laugh out loud this morning!

    Yes, we bought a house for the dog because she was having trouble on the stairs at the condo. Um, yes, shopping for a dog bed gets more attention than shopping for anything for myself. And, er, taking her with us on every family holiday is just assumed. (I mean, who else would open the presents if she wasn’t there?)

    She was adopted and already had a name. But we had a long talk with her and she knows that she is extra special because we chose her specifically. If she whimpers in the night, I spring up to comfort her.

    We are trying to find new playmates in the new neighborhood. In the old one, none of us knew each other’s name. It was “Coco’s Mom”, “Sasha’s Dad”, “Layla’s Mom”, “Sammy’s Mom”, etc. Even if we met out somewhere without the dogs. “Honey, you remember Sasha’s dad, don’t you? Rhodesian Ridgeback who lives on Kedzie?”

    I am a dog mom. Yes, I am proud to be a dog mom.

    p.s. check out Dean Allen’s photos at Textism.com of his kids…the kids and photos are super lovely… http://textism.com/photos/

  2. Kristen

    That was great! You should try to get that published somewhere (I mean in print form :) ) Any papers in your area take essay submissions? Sometimes papers’ weekend magazine sections have a ‘Thinking out Loud’ type of feature with reader essays or publish special Home sections. Wish you lived in my readership area in li’l Rhody – I’d print it!

  3. heather

    Oh, thank you! (blushing)

  4. Kristin

    Sounds familiar, only in our case the surrogate children are our two cats. We plan to have human children in the future, but we are getting good practice spoiling our orangey boys Alistair and Henry. By the way, our first “child” Alistair has a middle name, Owen, but Henry has yet to get one.

  5. Jenny

    Too funny!

    We too have two dogs that are our “babies”. Sadie Sue Harr is a 6 year old Westie and Buddy Boy Harr is a 11 month old Jack Russell.

    I was so excited about the dog bed I just bought that I told my sister about it and now she wants one for her Boston Terrier, Benny.

    The reason we got a second dog was because Sadie needed a buddy. We kept asking her if she wanted a “buddy”. So once we got another dog we felt we had to name him Buddy so she knew who we’d been referring to.

    My father n law actually stops by to visit the dogs and the whole time he is over he is on the floor playing with them while I try to make idle chit chat for the sake of normalcy.

    My grandparents keeps dog treats in his trunk for my dogs. He doesn’t own a dog. They always tell me to say hi to the dogs when they call.

    I found a needle point Christmas stocking with a picture of a Westie on it and had my grandmother stitch “Sadie” on the top. Now I am searching for a Jack Russell needle point stocking. So far no luck.

    We are also looking for baskets for our bikes so the dogs can go for bike rides with us. LOL!

  6. Sandra

    Hi Heather!
    I know it’s almost three years since you posted the above musing, but I couldn’t resist writing to say that I too am in the same boat. My cat, Mr. Knightley is our precious “child” who never wants for anything, gets spoiled rotten, is asked after by the family, etc. He’s our baby.
    Then again, so is our home, “Harmonie”. See, we even named it. :-) We’ve been here 9 years and are constantly busy with taking care of our 1917 home. Thus far we’ve been researching the original family history, redoing one of the upstairs guest rooms, planning on a complete laundry room restoration (especially since I’ve been getting pieces of plaster coming down on my head), and future painting projects.
    I’ve enjoyed visiting this site and have become inspired tremendously. I’ve enjoyed all your house vids and pics. You and Dave have done a fabulous job! I think I’ve become overly inspired and have been hounding the husband about new projects!
    I think he might just ban me from visiting this site. :-) Nah! He wouldn’t dare.
    Take care and lots of luck!

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