Friday, April 26, 2013

The Dog Is In Charge

Our neurotic ancient terrier mutt went berserk this morning.  It wasn't the first time.

The whole problem, the thing that upset his apple cart, was that my daughter, who's spending the night with a friend and going to the friend's house straight after school, came down the stairs carrying a suitcase.  She proceeded to put the suitcase into my van.

You can see how this might be upsetting.

Under Dog loses his marbles at the sight of a suitcase.  Always has, and, judging from this morning, always will.  He was around four months old when we rescued him from the parking lot of a CVS pharmacy (Hence his breed:  "CVS terrier."  It always kills us when people nod sagely and say, "Ah.  I've heard of those," as though he were some fancy-schmancy animal imported at great cost from the British Isles.).  He's thirteen now.  Not once in those thirteen years have we ever abandoned him after packing our suitcases.  Not once have we ever beat him with a suitcase.  Sometimes when we pack suitcases, we're taking him with us to our mountain house, which he loves.  Sometimes we're going on vacation, and we leave him at a very posh kennel where he gets to play with other dogs, which he loves.  Sometimes we're packing suitcases because my daughter is visiting a friend, and it really won't impact him at all.

He still freaks out.  Sometimes I think a Lizard Brain is all he's got.  Today he coped with his overwhelming feelings by jumping onto my office window seat and barking maniacally while the children drove away.  As they do every day.  Then he barked maniacally when the friend who boards his horse with us came to do morning chores.  As he does every day.  Then the dog ignored my husband's departure entirely, curled up in his bed, and took a nap.

While I was in the middle of writing the paragraph above, the phone rang.  It was my son calling from the high school.

Son:  Mom. You didn't buy me a yearbook.
(The school mails yearbook order forms in the fall; you mail back your check.)
Me:  I'm pretty sure I did.  I always do.
Son:  Nope.  (He sounds harassed.  He's a senior, and the yearbook is important to him.)
Me:  Well, can you buy one today?
Son:  Yep.
Me:  Ok, do that.  Do you have enough cash?
Son:  Nope.  It's seventy dollars.
(Seventy dollars!  I don't have that much cash, either.)
Me:  Will they take a credit card?  (He carries one.)
Son:  Nope.
Me:  Will they take a check?
Son:  Yep.  But you have to come now.

I am categorically against rescuing my children from their own problems.  Even when they were little, I tended to reply to cries of "You didn't remind me I needed my P.E. clothes today!" with, "Honey, I have no idea which days you have P.E."  However, this problem seemed to be mine, especially since I remembered telling my son more than once that, yes, of course I had ordered his yearbook.

Halfway to the school I realized I'd run out of checks in my wallet. 

Home again.

 School.  I am not the only parent standing in the office.  There's a line of adults and students both.  The school secretary deals with us sympathetically and quickly.  She pages both of my children from their homerooms, then turns to the kid behind me and says, "What, oversleep again?", scribbles him a note, moves on to the annoyed father holding a graduation cap and gown.  I step to one side and see that if I want a photo of my son in his cap and gown--those photos being taken today--my son needs a form and a check for fifteen dollars.  When my son shows up I give him two checks and an empty photo order form, tell him to fill out the form, and tell him, yes, I do want a photo of him in his cap and gown.  And I'm sorry about the yearbook.

Identical twin girls come in, looking slightly confused.  "What do you need, honey?" the secretary asks one of them.  "You called me," the girl says.  "No, honey I didn't," says the secretary.  But the girl's name is quite close to my daughter's, alphabetically, and I know that the school divides students into homerooms by alphabetical order.  I ask the girl if she's in my daughter's class.  The girl's expression clears.  "Oh, Bradley!" she says.  "On the intercom it sounded like broccoli, so we were guessing who you meant.  We'll get her."  She and her sister bounce out.

My daughter comes in, carrying an extra-large sweet tea from a local fast-food chain, Pal's.  Pal's sells gallons of sweet tea to the high school students every morning.  My daughter laughs when I give her the yearbook check.  She tells me the voice on the intercom sounded like it said broccoli.  She says her friend brought her the tea, and also a small cheddar rounds, which helps me understand how she never starves to death before lunch despite eating barely any breakfast at all.

I come home to my half-completed post.  If it were a normal morning--if I ever had such thing as a normal morning--I might draw a tidy conclusion to the parable of the dog and the suitcases, about how Under thinks he has something to fear, but doesn't really, and how he seems to think he's doing something constructive when he barks, but is really just ticking me off.  How he's not controlling his world despite his delusions.  There's a lesson in there, somewhere.

But I can't find it today.  Just now it seems like the dog might be right:  the best thing to do is bark your fool head off, and then go take a nap.