Today is National Cherry Turnover Day. There are 1,000 varieties of cherries in the U.S. If you can prove that you care less than I do, I will give you a grape. And yesterday was National “Just Because” Day, which I am not making up. I have a whole list of stuff I want to do JUST BECAUSE – starting with hanging out solo for more than the time it takes to pee, which I hardly ever do by myself anyway. I’m not sure what I will do when I’m by myself. Drinking alone in bars becomes less alluring at my age. I imagine I’m like a faded Mrs. Robinson prattling on about seducing a horny Dustin Hoffman a hundred years ago. Don’t tell Hot Firefighter Husband I said that. Anyway, I never* seduced anybody. *never meaning pretty much never
Anyway, I only mention Just Because Day because I’m back-stepping to Tuesday, which was National Dog Day, and the perfect time to give you a Buddy the Wonder Dog update.
Buddy has turned into the best dog in the history of the universe except for Lassie, and maybe Bullet, who was Roy Rogers’ dog. Do you remember Bullet? I do, because Roy Rogers was MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE SHOW when I was growing up, and one time my mother took me to the grand opening of a Roy Rogers Roast Beef Restaurant and Roy Rogers shook my actual hand. For real.
Gentle reminder: Buddy is the autism assistance service dog we acquired for my son who is not autistic. The original goal was for Buddy to help the Pterodactyl cope with his severe anxiety. But he has gradually developed into a family service dog. And I am kind of his service human. Because honestly, he is a mess without me. Whole other post. BUT. Buddy earns his keep. Over the past two weeks, in particular, as our son has struggled to adapt to school being back in session, Buddy has kept each of us centered in his own special canine way. The Diva cups his face in her hands and stares into his gold-brown eyes a dozen times a day. The Tyrant likes to pretend he’s a student in her classroom, and he gamely takes a seat in her playhouse and listens to her prattle on about the Heidi Hecklelbeck book series. That’s normal dog stuff. But the Pterodactyl uses Buddy to remind himself that he’s worthy of being alive. He pulls Buddy onto the couch and leans up against the dog’s warm bulk, and loudly whispers, “Look, Mom, Buddy loves me.” He scratches Buddy’s belly until he finds that spot, and which makes them both happy.
And me! Well. Who knew I needed a service dog? But I totally fucking do. Buddy once watched me like I was a piece of bacon. But his connection to me has changed. Now it’s more like he’s constantly prepared to lick me back to life. He observes me at CrossFit in a calm, well-behaved state of semi-panic. And if I cry – not at CrossFit, but just in general – he won’t leave my side. Not that I haven’t cried at CrossFit. Because I have. But what’s nice about crying at CrossFit is that I’m usually so red-faced, with rivulets of sweat flowing through my wrinkles like flash floods, that nobody can tell that I’m crying, unless I have devolved into heaving sobs, and that only happened once. And when it did happen, Buddy was RIGHT THERE, licking me and waiting for me to collapse on the floor so he could lie next to me and lick my arm.
So last week, the first week back to school, was especially tough for Mr. Pterodactyl and me. He held it together during the school day, but by the time he walked into his home, AKA The Safe Zone, his reserves were depleted and all he had left for me was shit. He couldn’t verbalize how mentally drained he was – so instead he found something else more tangible to tackle. One day it was not being able to find his Pokemon cards; another day it was the way I measured milk for his oatmeal.
And one day it was shoes. I had gone shoe-shopping for the girls that day, and although he didn’t need any shoes, I had purchased a pair of on-sale casual slip-ons about a 1/2 size too big for him. I thought he would like them, and that he could grow into them.
Well. He flipped the fuck out because he noticed immediately that his sisters’ shoes were the right sizes and had NOT been on sale, and so CLEARLY I LOVED THEM MORE, which at that particular moment I definitely did because they weren’t accusing me of maternal treason and shrieking like banshees.
There was a lot of stomping involved, and sobbing, with big fat tears. Explaining anything to him was futile – he could barely see me much less hear me. I imagine it’s like he was standing chest-deep in the surf as a big wave of fury approached, and he needed to either dive under it, feel its strength and let it pass, or push off and ride it to shore. Sometimes I can help him dive under it, but not on this occasion. If he was atop the wave, I was like a lounge chair on the beach, waiting for it to crash on top of me and drag me into its salty mess.
The whole incident lasted about 45 minutes. Afterwards, I held him in my arms as he took deep breaths and said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” over and over, and we talked about how much I loved him and how often I buy him things that aren’t on sale and why that shouldn’t even matter.
I landed in bed that evening like a felled tree and felt my heart and belly flip-flopping with the stress of the afternoon. I was too tired to cry, too sad to sleep, too worried to talk, so I just rolled on my side and stared at the wall. Hot Firefighter Husband was at work, which left room for Buddy jump up next to me and put his paws on my hands. I smelled his paw pads, which is gross, but they always smell like popcorn to me. That’s how I fell asleep that night, his paws in my hands, one of my beloved brown-haired 75-lb boys consoling me about the other.