What’s wrong with my girl, huh?
Did you get enough sleep last night, huh? Did you girl?”
It was then that I could hear the the footsteps making their way in our direction with intense purpose.
I saw her out of the corner of my eye as she jumped on the bed but it was too late she already had her tongue on my forehead.
Honey is our little entre”pit”neur. She has her very own licker-store. She sells you licks whether you want them or not and you pay her in belly rubs. There are days that I want to get her licker license suspended. This was one of those days.
Alba and Honey are two of the most adorable pocket pit-bulls that I’ve ever met and I am just lucky enough that they are now part of our lives. Honey has a love sensor with a 50 foot radius that alerts her to love being given to any dog in her vicinity. When that alert goes off, Honey cannot help but speed to the scene of the love, intrude and insist that she get some love too. This particular morning was no exception.
Alba acts like when it come to love, she can take it or leave it. That is because she was abused by previous caretakers. Abuse makes you wonder if you deserve love. She wants love just as much or more than Honey but she’s decided humans are not reliable in that regard and accepts love most times but doesn’t count on it and definitely doesn’t demand it like Honey does.
I don’t have human children so, outside of a few young people I’ve mentored, Alba & Honey are the closest thing to children I will ever have. It’s remarkable how different their personalities are. “Person”-alities, Ha!
Using that word shows how people like me believe dogs have some human traits.
“Canine”-alities just doesn’t do the trick.
Before we got Honey, we had Alba for a year and I grew to adore her. When talk of getting another rescue dog would surface, I had trouble imagining how I could care enough about another dog in any way close to the love I developed for Alba.
As it turns out, it is quite possible to love two dogs at the same time. Who knows, maybe more. When I give Honey love, I make sure I give Alba love too. If I give Alba a little treat with her medication hidden inside of it, I give Honey a little medication-free treat. When I give Alba a massage which she has trained me to do, I naturally rub Honey’s tummy (she’s got me trained too) because I know how much she likes it and she will not let me get away with not loving on her.
I admit Alba has a special place in my heart because she was my first pet as a full fledged adult. I didn’t even want a dog and she came and stole my heart. In spite of this, I don’t have a favorite. I want the best for both of them. Their best.
Each of them has these little quirks that are unique to them. Both of them do specific things that make me smile and laugh and that make having them in our lives so special. There are ways that I have to speak to Honey that I don’t employ with Alba. Alba hates loud noises, sudden movements and the Fourth of July and New Year’s eve because of the firecrackers and gun shots. Honey does not like if we use the fly-swatter to kill the errant fly that get’s in the house. She literally scuttles into the back bedroom and cowers in the corner until we are no longer emanating that vibe that comes when we’re out to kill.
Both of them do things that upset me. That frustrate me. That inconvenience me. I still like them and want the best for them.
Experiencing life with Alba & Honey now reminds me of how silly it was for me as a kid to think my Dad had favorite children he showered love on at the expense of the others. My oldest sister and I would commiserate with one another about my Dad liking my older brother and younger sister more than he liked us. That shaped me in crazy ways because I felt like I needed to earn his liking me. I knew he loved me but I didn’t think he liked me.
I was always in motion. Moving, jumping, flipping. One day I was dancing around the house and my mom said something that caused me to stop in my tracks.
Knowing how I acted back then, it was probably the umpteenth time she had told me to chill out and she had probably reached her limit. It’s important to mention that I don’t remember exactly what she said to me but I remember how it made me feel. If I were forced to put into words what she said, it would go something like this, “Boy, will you sit your ass down. That’s why your Dad gets so upset with you.”
Now, on the real. I’m sure I upset both my Mom and my Dad numerous times just throughout the course of 1 day so being told to sit my ass down and being told that my Dad gets upset was no big thing. The reason that this particular situation was so significant to me is I had recently become aware of classical dance and ballet. I must have seen it on TV and I was blown away by the power, the control, the poetry in motion and the sheer artistry of it all. So like with most things athletic that I was exposed to, I imitated it. I was fascinated by it and had begun doing my versions of it whenever the urge moved me. Just like everything else that interested me that I imitated, chances are that I did my classical dance / ballet imitations everywhere I went. The grocery store, the park, on the way to school on the way back home, in the front yard, in the back yard, everywhere.
The way my Mom said whatever it was that she said indicated that there was something about this particular dancing that was the problem. From my perspective, I was just dancing like people I saw on TV. People who were amazingly talented and who moved me with their ability to speak to me without ever once opening their mouths and uttering a single word. I wanted to be able to inspire people the way these dancers inspired me.
I wanted such power, such giftedness, such purpose.
On this day though, I was inspiring no one. Instead, It was as if I had heard someone using the F-word and I decided to use it in normal conversation not knowing what the word meant and not knowing that it was impolite to use it and even rude. That is the closest I can get to explaining the way I felt. I was imitating something that I saw others do that I thought was cool and apparently there must be a time and a place for it and I was not adhering to the unwritten rules surrounding it. Looking back on it, I must have created some awkward situations doing ballet pirouettes and leaps whenever the feeling moved me.
I wanted to be liked by my Dad (which I was) and anything that might jeopardize that, I put in check as much as possible. I did fewer pirouettes and leaps and became one of the best running backs in the neighborhood pickup football games we played in front of Hallett Elementary.
Both Honey and Alba do things I don’t like and I am sure they pick up the vibe that I don’t like it because I can see it in their behavior. In a way, I am training them. I know what’s best and when I have to be stern with Honey for something she crossed the line with, she drops her head, she sulks, she looks like she is pleading for me to forgive her.
We are shaped by those things we aspire to as well as those things we avoid. The quest for significance is a sort of training program, unintentional as it might sometimes be.
I became a better runner and jumper and acrobat not only because I loved doing these things but also because I wanted my Dad to “like” me more. I kept in check ballet and contemporary dance stuff because I believed that would lessen my likability in my Dad’s eyes but I didn't abandon it completely. The beauty and power in it that I wanted to replicate were reflected in other things that I did.
I asked my Mom once if she remembers this episode. She didn’t. It was one of hundreds, maybe thousands of necessary sit your ass down commands she uttered in my direction over the years. Mom, if you’re reading this, and wondering if you could have handled the situation better, just know this is not that kind of story. You are amazing and If there is anything significant about me it’s because I am your son and my Dad’s son.
This is the kind of story where I recognize how my desire to be worthy of my Dads liking motivated me to be better. That is the kind of story every son can probably tell.