Excerpt . . . "You’ll never mean as much to them as they mean to each other. . . Never."
There was no question of the inter-species rules in her worldview, nor that she was the pack leader of her realm. Our conversation, she felt, was far from over and she wasn’t going to let go yet.
“All you can hope to do is to have a relationship with each of them — individually. You’ll train them individually; you’ll make sure they sleep on opposite sides of your bed, tethered to either side at night so they can’t see each other. Any food must come from your hands to each, individually. After that, they will eat in separate rooms. In addition to their individual names that you’ll use when training them individually, you’ll need to establish a name for them as a duo — probably ‘Puppies!’ when you command call them as one unit — and otherwise use their names when you are training or walking them — individually. . .
"And for God’s sake, no doggie play-dates. I don’t know what this world is coming to — people are acting like their dogs are their children.”
I gulped guiltily at that, as I’d hoped my friends’ dogs and ours would play when our children did on play-dates.
She continued the drill of the new life ahead of me: Two of Everything, one-by-one.
Two walks per dog two times a day, minimum. Two feedings two times a day, four to start. Two beds. Two training courses individually undertaken. And two efforts on my part to behave as pack leader as well as two means of establishing communication for each dog’s individual personality.
It would be a life of side-by-side but apart, save for those rare, free moments when they were one unit of “Puppies!” at a call command from the back yard. Then two separate 'sit' commands, two treats, two releases, two down-stays in two separate spaces. If more trouble arose and they didn't listen to me, then two bounding pups tethered to each side of me as I did the daily chores around the house and chased the children — but better if I did that one at a time, she muttered, with the other at his/her down spot in his/her down stay for 30 minutes each day.
She paused triumphantly to let that picture of two-by-two work, and the double time spent attempting to achieve it (but I was clearly going to fail) soak in Technicolor as the vision of my future. My hand cramped and my ear ached on the small mobile pressed against my head for this hour-long reality check.
What I didn’t see at the time was how I’d be ever out of the middle of their interests in life, from sniffing to long legs to rousting rambunctious behavior, much less how I'd ever be privy to the middle of their intangible, instinctive and invisible communication. Nor did I flatter myself that I ever could be, really.I could never could be in-between their communication and relationship, I corrected myself, even if I was physically in-between them all the time.
“But . . .”, she interrupted that movie in my head and then paused again as if to make sure my reeling mind could hear her clearly, “You’ll never mean as much to them as they mean to each other.
Lecture over, I sat alone in the car for a few moments before joining the play-date inside, turning this fact, this prediction, this moment of hearing pronounced my Fate (Odysseus-style with my own Tiresias warning me) for all the days and years of my next foreseeable future.
“Never. . . . Never mean as much to them as they do to each other.” It flipped over and over in my head. Then a still, small voice rose quietly from my heart.