Suburban Snapshots

My Favorite Bitch

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Update: after a day in the specialists' office, Stella is doing much better though the source of her bleeding is still unknown. Thanks for all of your support!

The only reason I agreed to buying our own place after renting around Boston for more than ten years was that I wanted dogs. Two months after we became the proud owners of our condo we adopted Henry; a scrawny, terrified Dachshund who'd been removed from a puppy mill in North Carolina.

We had more disposable income then than we do now (and maybe than we ever will again), so when Henry's back gave out leaving him nearly paralyzed, we took out the credit that allowed us to spend $4,000 on surgery to save his legs. I'm not entirely sure he appreciated our dedication, as now he spends most of his time under my feet in the kitchen daring me to step on his delicate spine, and despite a series of ramps to accommodate our tiny, thumb-legged beast, he barks relentlessly at us until he is lifted to his destination. I love him, but he's kind of an asshole.

Soon after we brought Henry home, I decided that with us both working full-time he needed a companion. A friend connected me with Stella through a rescue organization out of Puerto Rico. I agreed to adopt her sight unseen, knowing only that she was a smallish terrier mix.

Stella has turned out to be far and away the best of our three dogs; she's good with kids and the elderly women who would nearly crush her with desperate hugs on our visits to the local nursing home. Stella is the most independent, not interested in staking claim to our bed or occupying our laps. She doesn't snatch food out of Anna's hands or chew up the mail. When I was pregnant she'd lay on my foot or shadow me around the house, always by my side. I don't love all my dogs "equally but in different ways" — I love Stella the best.

A month ago she started leaving blood stains on the couch and rugs. Some were small spots, one was alarmingly big. I found dried blood caked in her chin and neck fur. Her vet suspected periodontal disease and told us to keep an eye on her. She also informed us that Stella has a significant heart murmur. A second vet found troubling signs of heart disease. Stella's gums and tongue have gone pale, she's become lethargic, and she's starting to scare me.

Tests were recommended, and as much as I hate to do it — hate what I feel is judgement from clinic staff, hate the assumption that maybe I'm not willing to spend money on my animals rather than the truth that I just do not have the money to spend — I asked how much her tests could cost. I sighed heavily at the answer. I fought tears both at the potential diagnosis and the existence of a comma in our estimate. I looked at Steve, he looked resigned.

Some really wonderful, generous people have given significant help to get Stella well. Steve is selling a surfboard to cover some of the expense. But what I wanted to say to the well-meaning vet who said, "I know it sounds like a lot, but this test in a human would run two-thousand, not three hundred dollars." was that right now, three-hundred dollars might as well be two-thousand — might as well be ten-thousand.

Shit, am I seriously bitching about money again? What I meant to do was tell you that I have this awesome little dog who better goddam outlive these other two bed-hogging, baby-biting punks. She's my sweet little bitch and she's sick and she's got to be alright. If you find any spare karma in that jacket you haven't worn since last spring, maybe you could send it our way.

Captain Oblivious

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When I was twenty years old, I almost accidentally killed a guy.

I was driving a jet ski for the first time out on the Long Island Sound, towing a friend on an inner tube. Because I had never operated any kind of watercraft previously, and because we were twenty-year-old idiots, he wore no life preserver. We hit some wake, he flopped off of the tube and I, believing any number of falsities about the depth and expanse of the Sound, drove off oblivious to my friend's peril. Ten minutes later he was rescued, flailing, by a fishing boat.

One of the men on that boat sent a letter to the editor of a local Hamptons paper, dubbing me "Captain Oblivious." I felt hideous that day and it took ages before I could even think about what I'd done without feeling gnawing, gut-churning shame over my carelessness, imagining how much worse things could have turned out.

I've had many, many moments of being inattentive, zoned out, unaware of my surroundings — the time I mistakenly took a stranger's hand thinking she was my mother and walking half a mall corridor before realizing my mistake, for example — but none as potentially tragic as this one. It's not a trait I'm proud of and now that I'm responsible for keeping track of another human being, sometimes it's pretty terrifying.

I worry for two reasons; the first is that I see hints of this same affliction already in Anna, who spent most of our time in airports this week walking blindly in front of golf carts and luggage trolleys, and tripping up senior citizens. The second is that it is I, Captain Oblivious, who's supposed to not only teach her to be attentive, but be focused enough myself to keep her out of danger.

Last week in a classic scenario that has for generations significantly reduced the lifespan of parents, Anna hid herself in a clothing rack at the mall. I knew where she had gone. All of the logic centers of my brain were saying, "Yup. Right behind the cute jeans on clearance for four-dollars that are, of course, only available in size 00." But that twinge of panic was still there, "What if you slide those pants apart and she's not in there? What if someone carted her off while you weren't paying attention?"

Anna pulled a similar stunt on Steve waiting in line at Disney World, and I was relieved to hear that his reaction was similar to mine — that he knew she could only be inches away (she had repositioned from in front of his knees to right behind them), but the realization that she'd gone out of his sight in a split second set off some parental DEFCON alert.

Between Steve and me I'm pretty confident we can keep Anna well-wrangled, but with my tendency for distraction and Anna's inability to focus, it might be best if she and I have a chaperone for a few years.

Vagina Vagina Vagina

Monday, May 02, 2011

I always knew I'd be the kind of mom who'd tell Anna the anatomical names for her body parts. I know there are other, cuter versions of words for female genitalia that make situations less awkward for parents with foresight who anticipate things like their naked daughter mooning her seventy-something grandparents while singing, "Coolie! Vagina! Coolie! Vagina!" But I want her to be proud of her junk and of her femaleness, though somehow I did not foresee the weeks of vagina parades, songs, and choreographed numbers I was setting myself — and anyone who happens to drop by the house — up for.

Anna doesn't spend as much time naked as she used to. In fact, now she painstakingly chooses every article of clothing she wears — a lengthy process involving negotiations, bribes, and reverse psychology. I'm all for individuality and autonomy in my preschooler, except when I have anything else planned that day. But the second she's pantsless, choruses of "Coolie-Vagina" fill the house from one end to the other. She works on her pitch and tempo, ignoring badly needed lyrical development.

Thankfully she hasn't taken to prodding and poking and tugging just yet; I've seen what my nephew puts his penis through and I fear for Anna's brand new, delicate business. She's happy to point and twist, singing her little song, emphasizing and dragging out the already overly-syllabled "vuh-GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-nuh!" like it's a piece of salt water taffy.

When we visited her doctor for her three-year checkup, he said, "I'm going to take a look at your vagina now, and that's okay because both your mom and dad are here." (He was only looking at the area near her hip bones, really.) I was relieved when a few days later she repeated what he'd said about Steve and I being present as she undressed for her bath, hoping she'd retain the instruction without asking for reasons. Two minutes later I had to pull her naked, dancing self out of our picture window.

Steve's gotten almost as comfortable saying the word as he is saying, I don't know, "proctologist," which is helpful. I have no idea how long this fascination will last or where it will lead, but she's going to have that vagina forever, and I don't plan on teaching her to be ashamed of it any time soon. So how do you explain modesty and privacy to a three-year-old?