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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Puppy Love – howl at the moon

One of our most serious and all pervasive issues has been the matter of pretend play.

My son would often pretend to be a dinosaur and he was a very good mimic. As soon as I commented or guessed, “are you being a Triceratops?” he would collapse in a huge meltdown. I assumed it was because my guess was wrong and therefore very annoying.

I later learned that it wasn’t the ‘guess’ that was wrong, it was the trigger word ‘pretend.’ Much later still, I learned that the word ‘pretend’ was offensive. It was offensive because he wasn’t ‘pretending.’ As far as he was concerned, he ‘was’ whatever he was mimicking. He ‘became’ whatever he mimicked. A budding method actor.


It’s the new wallpaper to my day. It doesn’t really matter what the subject is, or what we might be talking about, everything is peppered with Chihuahua. I blame the friend, or more specifically, the mother of the friend that bought the dog. She has no idea what her new pet has done to my family, and let me tell you, it is not a pretty sight. Fortunately there are no sound effects, just dog talk.

“He is dah Christmas present?”
“Who is a Christmas present?”
“Dah Chihuahua?” It colours every conversation. He’ll manage to squeeze it in to the most unlikely chat. “Would you like barbeque sauce or ketchup?”
“What do Chihuahua’s like? I like what he likes.” It’s a blatant lie and a figment of his imagination at the same time, quite a feat. I was never particularly keen on the breed in the first place, but they are rapidly descending into a puny pet peeve.

I try deflection. The subject is moot. “We can’t get a dog until after Christmas. It’s not fair to find a puppy and then leave him in kennels when we go to England.”
“Dey have Chihuahua’s in England?”
“Yes but you can’t bring a dog from England to the States….” I avoid the Rabies, customs and waiting period, period.
“Because…..English Chihuahua’s don’t understand American, it would constitute cruel and unusual punishment.” Oh how I love the Constitution!

I distract.

“Can you read that sign dear?”
“What does it say dear?”
“Danger keep out.”
“That’s why it’s red, to tell you about the danger.”
“Dey have a big dangerous dog? Chihuahuas are not being dah dangerous.”

His sister joins in the debate. She has her own agenda. Perhaps she can muzzle him?
“We can’t get a Chihuahua as they bark all the time.”
“Dey only have dah little bark.”
“They have sharp claws and they’ll scratch yah when they jump on yah.”
“Dey do dah little jumps and I am big.”
“He’ll lick yur face and bite ya.”
“No he will be dah good dog.”
“A lab would be better or a retriever. Now that’s a real dawg.”
“I don wan a real dawg I wan a Chihuahua.”
“Anyways. They don’t have Chihuahua’s in America. You have to go to Mexico to buy Chihuahua’s.”
“Mom I need to go to Mexico!”
“We’re not goin to Mexico, we’re going to England dummy. Mum tell him we’re not going to Mexico. Tell him we’re not gonna get a Chihuahua. Tell him we’re gonna get a big dog.”
“We go Mexico before dinner?”

I fly away. I remember our one holiday to Mexico. It was based on the sound theory that we should visit Mexico, whilst we were here in the States. Once we returned to the UK, it would be a much longer and far more expensive holiday. It made perfect sense. It made perfect sense before we went. Mexico had been Americanized. It was just like America but with different accents and a milder climate. As it turned out, it was not just like America. They had no Goldfish, which was far more distressing that no seat belts in the cars.

Everything is a prompt, so I stop, prompting that is, in the remote hope that we can avoid this all pervasive subject.

He self initiates conversations, in a sly and circumnavigatious manner.
“You like em?”
“Like what dear?”
“Hot dogs?”
“Er, not really.”
“Hot dogs are like wieners.”
“Er, yes, little ones, so they are.”
“You can get wiener dogs.”
“Dachshunds dear.”
“Dachshunds are little dogs just like Chihuahuas.”

I wonder if we have time to stop by the travel agent before dinner? How much does it cost these days? One adult, one way to Mexico? I should pre-order the vegetarian option, a tofudog?

I am hounded on every front. There is no way out. I should start practicing commands like ‘down boy!’ Little traps await me around every corner, ready to pounce. Logical persuasive leaps abound.

He fingers the old one, the red collar with the bell and little name tag.
“We are recycle?”
“We are recycle dis?” He shoves the collar in my face.
“Well it’s a cat collar really.”
“Chihuahua’s are been having dah tiny necks just like dah cats.”
“It be save.”
“It be cheep, cheap, cheaper if we dun buy a new collar.”

His powers of persuasion are unleashed. He crouches on the floor on all fours.
“You like me?”
“Of course I like you dear, I love you.”
“I am cute?”
“Very cute.”
"I am a lovely little guy?"
"Of course!" That's so odd. I'm not permitted to call him little any more.
“You see my bootiful eyes?” He blinks to wet the deep brown pools.
“How could I not?”
“You see? I am be……I am pretend…….I am an adorable Chihuahua.” Pretend! Hallelujah! He said it! He said it out loud! I was here, I heard him and there is no meltdown. A new all time first.

But it's not the last we hear about puppies. There is always another line, paragraph and chapter. Puppy talk dogs our days.

I need a campaign or an escape route or an ‘off’ switch. I think I’ll start by buying a dog house, a little kennel that I can hide in, with optional drawbridge.

The next day following his playdate, he accosts me in the kitchen.
“You are dah dumbass?” Well really!
“I beg your pardon!”
“Oopsie. I sorry. You are dah stoopid?” Good grief! I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a improvement. I wait. I prompt, and dangle a treat, against my better judgment.
“Yes dear?” I do not snarl. I am obedient and stay put.
“Why you say it a Chihuahua?” he yips.
“Um….your friend’s puppy, that little dog…..well it is a Chihuahua,” I avoid barking.
“No!” he woofs. I listen to His Master's voice and beg for more information.
“Yes?” I am at heel without the restraint of a choke collar.
“No. You got it wrong."
"Yes. On my playdate......"
"..his mum bin......."
"She be..." I wait. Prompts and encouragement can only take you so far. Sometimes you just have to wait for them to retrieve, regroup and restate.
"His mum din bin say dat .....he’s a Pomeranian,” he says with perfect diction without slobbering.

You know, some parents can be a real handicap. I adopt a hangdog expression and I slink away, with my tail between my legs.

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