Bella(3) and Meredith (6) came downstairs this morning with arms full of dogs. While my nieces stayed with us, Mere and Nila could hardly stand going to school, because that meant their playtime was interrupted for things that, although fun, were not nearly as important as tending their huge litter of dogs.
Now, this is not new to our house. Tara(8) has been an avid dog lover her entire life. We house dogs in every color, shape and size. We have long haired mongrels and short, sassy diva dogs. Some have collars, and names, whereas others are just part of a hoard of nameless, but extremely valued, pets.
In real life, we share our livingspace with just two, airbreathing, toy chewing pets. Carl, the youngest of the two, was the birthday present my husband loves to hate. He has poor house manners, gets into everything he is not suppose to, and nips and bites at the kids. We hear, "NO, Carl!" several times a day, and I trip over him at least 6 times a day! But, we love him. Alot. He has the sweetest eyes and when he sleeps, he is simply adorable.
The second dog is perfect. She never messes in the house, never chews anything she is not suppose to chew, and is loyal to the point of perfection. She can tell time, we assume, because she knows exactly when Tyler's (13) bus is due to arrive. She came to us named Butterscotch, but most of us call her Baby. She is sweet, gentle and perfect as a family pet. She mothers Carl and the 6 month old kitten, Martin, and does a fine job of it.
I tell you about Baby and Carl because they are dogs. They are real. They are a part of our family. But as far as the kids are concerned, they are not really real dogs. The real dogs are the ones that they can pile on top of each other in their play carriers. They never have to go out to potty, although they spend alot of time outside with the girls. So much, in fact, that dogs are a large part of our weekly laundry.
The dogs that are real to the girls do not eat much. However, I continually find little kitchen containers full of dog chow in hidden places in our home. Sometimes I even see little feet sneaking into the bathroom, and then little hands carrying small bowls of water out of it. I know they are feeding their dogs. They are not as sneaky as they think they are.
What this dog fantasy world has created in my girls is wonderful. Mere is quite the animal lover, to the point that she often refers to her dog pets as her friends. She is nurturing (mostly) and is totally absorbed into her play world. Her dogs talk to one another, unless she is in the barking mood. She even has taught Bella how to drink her milk out of a bowl like a puppy, and they often walk on all fours.
Tommy (6) is quite content to play his fantasy worlds on the Wii game system. He builds people with facial hair, personalities, and eye glasses. He does not bark. He likes the music that beep, beep, beeps without ceasing when he has the controller in his hands. But Mere and Bella like the real life. Dogs. Dogs. Dogs.
Some moms are not supportive of children who walk on all fours, bark and drink their milk like puppies. I love it. They are learning to care for those who can not care for themselves. That is a good trait. A trait I want to foster in each of them.
I do not even pretend to know all the names of their dogs. If I call one of them "Tinkerbell" or "George," I am politely reminded that I am calling the dogs by their wrong names. No wonder they don't come running when I call.
It's an facinating world living with dogs. Oh, yeah, and kids.