Jon de Vos: Hard custody choices
April 12, 2012
When it comes to things like our dogs, my wife, me, and our relationship, it all resembles nothing so much as a married couple with no intention of separating, but nonetheless arguing ferociously over custody of the kids.
“Nuh-uh, no way! You’re the one that always wanted dogs. I’m not putting up with that kind of talk without speaking to my attorney! By the way, I made lasagna. Let’s have a nice dinner at home and you got a couple of Netflix.”
At night, her dogs resemble nothing so much as hairy speedbumps lurking directly in the center of the dark. I’ve bent formerly straight toes stumbling over her sleeping mutts in the middle of the night. My yelp splits the air. Theirs sounds strangely like Tarzan’s cry, as they leap for my pillow before I can recover. Then they immediately fake sleep with a satisfied smirk over a good, well-executed plan. They growl menacingly if I come near.
Last Monday was a magnificent spring day. We were walking briskly when Freeta, my wife’s basset hound and self-styled goddess, got tired and lay down in the shadow of a tree. I was 4 feet ahead, attached to the mutt’s harness with a 6-foot leash. Two feet passed uneventfully before my arm, normally comfortably attached to my body, was wrenched from its usual position and painfully rearranged into the shape of a pretzel intersection.
We don’t have much company at all. It’s because my wife’s dogs are security experts. They subject anyone who enters the house to a full pat-down, along with some decidedly intrusive nosing around. Their priority, I believe, is to protect us from those evil-doers who threaten the world’s bacon supply.
One thing I am proud to say, her dogs were doing full body-cavity searches well before the Supreme Court affirmed their constitutional right to do so.
Dinner company is completely out. The dogs circle under the table, weaving through chairs like sharks counting the toes of swimmers. One of them distracts with their cutest anorexic face while the other gobbles your potato salad. Once completely stuffed, they’re content to retire peacefully at our feet, quietly passing gas like leaky propane cylinders. Consequently there’s a frightfully long list of people who’ve been to our house. Once.
Recently I lost a bet and had to wash the basset. I did not know the stubby bratwurst could extend a paw to all four corners of the bathtub and remain there quivering, 6 inches over the water, stretched as taut as a trampoline. Finally, after a world-class smackdown, she lowered her corpulent body into the warm water, wiggled her butt, smiled and decided life was suddenly better. After a thorough sudsing and subsequent rinse, she wasted no time dashing through my slippery arms and out the door to roll in something stunningly abhorrent.
A mother wrote Dear Abby with concern about her daughter’s new baby around the husband’s frisky, 3-year old yellow lab. But the concern wasn’t for the baby’s safety, this finicky mom was fretting because the dog was unruly and potentially vicious, and “didn’t that mean,” she asked Abby, “they would raise her grandson the same way?” Abby agreed, but pointed out that all kids grow up unruly and potentially vicious, how could they blame it on the dog?
After all, if people were judged by the dogs they keep, I’d be deemed stubborn and ill-tempered. No, don’t ask my wife.