I read recently that elegant dog garb and pricey canine day-care are "in" these days. Frankly, I was pleased to learn this. For until I acquired this seemingly frivolous bit of information, I was seriously concerned about my parents.
My mom and dad bought a toy poodle nearly a decade ago and, almost immediately, my mother took to her knitting. Multi-colored dog coats. Stylish woolen sweaters. Pixie the poodle dressed better than I do.
I wasn't worried, at first. I just assumed that my mother's knitting was part of a plot to garner grandchildren. Her unspoken message? "If you and your brother don't give me a reason to knit booties, I'll simply knit doggy-wear instead."
My mom's plan, although guilt inducing, didn't work. Neither my brother nor I had any interest in progeny production, and canine clothing wasn't going to change our minds. Nor were we moved to procreate by a parade of rhinestone dog collars -- one for each day of the week.
I must admit that I was a bit hurt when our graduation photographs were banished to the garage. Their replacement? A poodle portrait encircled by a frame worthy of kings.
Still, grandchildren failed to materialize. Which probably explains the mode my mother developed to introduce their dog to strangers: "I'd like you to meet Pixie, our only grandchild."
My father never took up knitting. Nor, as far as I can ascertain, has he ever mistaken Pixie for a granddaughter. However, he does have poodle proclivities that even my mother thinks strange.
Most nights, my father splits a banana with Pixie. If he's out of bananas, he serves her ice cream in a china bowl. And he's so reluctant to leave the dog home alone, that he'll forgo a gourmet meal and smuggle her into McDonald's. How does he avoid detection? He crams her into a carrying case and, as they approach the door, he bends to snout level and whispers "You're not supposed to be here, so keep down and be quiet."
"I told you she speaks English," my father proclaims after each poodle-smuggling success. And on those rare occasions when we persuade him to leave Pixie unattended, he talks about her constantly and hurries to get back. He even heralds his return with a honk of his car horn.
My parents have finally given up on getting non-canine grand-kids. But they still refuse to treat their dog like...well...a dog. Pixie parades about in poodle coats and presides at the head of the table. And, while she has yet to learn how to use a knife or fork, I'm sure it's only a matter of time.
So what does all this mean? Do my parents need therapy? Has grandchild-deprivation driven them mad? No, I'm relieved to discover. In fact, compared to many dog owners, my parents seem relatively sane. Not once have they considered a canine chiropractor. Or a coach to prep Pixie to meet with a co-op board. And they also spurn dog play-dates and doggie day-care where pets frolic, nap, swim, and watch cartoons. "Those dogs are spoiled," my mother says of canines who partake.
So I'm guilt-free at last -- I didn't induce dementia in my mom and dad. Thus assured of my parents' sanity, my husband and I may even adopt a poodle of our own.