When your first child (Duncan) is special needs, you can only hope that the second (Birdie) will be a breeze of regularity. And, it’s mostly been true in our house. Many of the bad habits and general attributes of a broken puppy have evaded her. Getting her to stop urinating in the house lasted the expected length of time, and before long she was standing at the back slider, barking for us to let her out. Unlike, say, her brother who still pisses on our carpets at the age of five out of sheer, small-dog-syndrome petulance. She also, since just a puppy, showed a distinct trait of independence that we never saw in Duncan.
She enjoys lying in the backyard for hours, entertaining herself with sticks, dirt, bugs. The pug, on the other hand, is quite literally incapable of sitting anywhere within the house that isn’t my lap. Or next to my lap. Though, he really isn’t satisfied until he’s compromised my own comfortable sitting position to accommodate his own. Birdie also hasn’t developed her own version of the demon screech that Duncan uses to make pedestrians, cyclists and small children think he’s going to rip out their throats instead of sneeze on them. Aside from her general puppy energy, she’s settled into an easy-going, independent, exceedingly adorable pup. A great rescue. A great addition to the family.
And then, three days ago, this happened:
So I arrive home on Friday night just minutes before Meredith and the first thing I notice is Birdie’s bark. It sounds close, like, too close. As if she’s barking at the front windows of the house, which of course, she isn’t. Her box is in the addition at the rear of the house and she’s been locked away while Meredith and I are work. But then, as I approach the side door, it becomes clear that she is, in fact, not in the box at all but ready to greet me as I unlock the door. My mind then does these really fast, incorrect calculations as to what has happened:
Oh shit, comes first and then, No wait – Meredith is at the grocery and probably left her out for a quick second, but no – Boston – working – 8 hours – escape – shit.
We tried leaving Birdie out with Duncan a few times, thinking wouldn’t it be great to have them chum around together chewing bones or sleeping peacefully on the couches, eagerly awaiting our return. But while Birdie could care less about electronics, shoes, or couch cushions while in our presence, she was not above destroying each and every one if we left her alone and box-free.
The first thing I see upon entering the house is a roll of paper towel on the floor, peeking around the side of our island, mauled by a wild beast. Again, Oh shit. Without further investigation, I get the dogs outside immediately, knowing I would need Meredith’s emotional support to see the rest.
And it’s moments like this that really give us the slightest glimmer of what’s to come in terms of parenting. I’m not saying dog training/discipline = raising children (and Suzanne will be irate that I’m drawing this comparison). I’m just saying there is cause to say the two are at least vaguely similar, says the lesbian who has never parented an actual human. But when it comes to discipline, it’s not predetermined which parent you’ll be or which role you’ll take. The ticking time bomb? The calm voice of reason?
I’m standing in the yard, peering over the fence when Meredith pulls into the driveway and opens her car door.
Me: Something bad happened.
Me: Birdie was out of her box when I got home.
Meredith: Oh Jesus. How bad is it?
Me: I don’t know exactly – I was waiting for you. I saw a shredded roll of paper towel on the —
Meredith: NOT THE VIVA!!!!!
Meredith enters the house through the side door, me and the dogs through the back slider, and this is what we see:
And so it became glaringly clear that if there is one thing Birdie has learned from her older, damaged brother, it’s severe separation anxiety. Terrific. Meredith took in the site … audibly. I was having a calmer, shock-and-awe reaction as we walked our way through the destruction, and then Meredith says: Oh shit – the bedroom door was left open.
And that’s when we found the shredded dog bed, a pair of chewed earbuds, and (moment of silence) the case to my Dawson’s Creek season 3 DVDs. By this time Meredith had pitched and shouted and sentenced Birdie to confinement. In total, she managed to destroy 6 rolls of paper towel, three pairs of shoes, 1 pair of earbuds, a dog bed, a DVD case, and a bottle of Prilosec. The whole scene reminded me of an incident from my youth when we came home from Easter service to find our black lab had pilfered through all four of our Easter baskets. And one of the precious few moments I can still remember clearly from my childhood is me and my three sisters in frilly dresses and bonnets and shiny patent white shoes standing huddled in the living room. My mother, exasperated from the destruction of the baskets she prepared, and with apparently little immediate regard for the dog who had consumed its weight in chocolate, shouted: Oh HORSESHIT!
It was the first swear I had ever heard from my mother. And it was Easter Sunday morning. And it was awesome.