Sam and I take the afternoon and drive to my son’s place, about 40 minutes north and west. She has her head out of the window, despite the speed and the chill. She’s happy. I’m certain she knows where we are headed. My son and his wife have two dogs, a golden doodle and a little, well, I don’t know what Belle is. A hairy Chihuahua? If not, she certainly looks like one.
We arrive and the dogs do their dance. Belle mostly hides, but Sam and my son’s dog, Franco, sniff and snort and chase each other. Once the hello waltz is over, both start to settle as my son and I begin our work on a list of “to-dos”—a stuffed drain, anchors on the drywall for heavy frames, and some autumn yard clean up. Dad goes to work
And so does Sam.
Franco and Belle are flush with toys—rubber bones, and a wild array of stuffed figures. There are Disney characters and I think a Bart Simpson in there somewhere. Dozens of them litter the yard and the hardwood in the living space. Sam, like the curious dog she is, dives in. She has her own stuffed toys at home, but here, for whatever ridiculous reason, Sam feels the need to destroy. She finds a stuffed figure, some sort of clown, and begins to annihilate it, tearing her teeth into the outer fabric and shaking out white puffs of innards. My son takes it away from her. Sam finds another and digs in.
—She never does this at home, I say.
—Sam! What is with you! Play nice, my son says.
—I don’t get it, I continue.
Sam carries her toys around her own house with a deft touch, sleeps with them, cuddles them. She has never once ripped one of her toys to pieces.
Is Sam the child who gets thrown out of daycare? Can’t have a play date? The one who can’t seem to get along with others? The one who bites other kids? Who throws toys? Has tantrums?
I scold her. But not too harshly. I don’t think she knows she is being a terrible guest.
My son cleans up more stuffing and smiles. “You apparently don’t know how to train your dog,” he jokes. He doesn’t really mean it. He’s only having some fun at the expense of his father, a son giving Dad a little poke in the ribs.
Still, Sam? Really? What is that all about? Some hidden seed of anxiety? Guilt? Does she feel neglected? Jealous? I doubt any of this. But me, well, I’m the parent who has to make excuses for his kid.
—She didn’t get her nap today, I say. My son and I laugh.
After all, Sam is only 3 years old. Wait, isn’t that 21 in dog years?
Sam. Grow up. 🙂
Photo by DavidWBerner