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When Bad Pets Happen to Good Pregnancies

Briggs with Alli, Kirby and Jack.

So wow. We’ve officially reached the Honey, I hate your dog portion of the pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong, this wife versus dog thing is nothing new. See, Caroline’s allergic to dogs, so Briggs (my well-meaning chocolate Lab) has been a factor from day one. In fact, even before day one, as evidenced during my engagement to Caroline when her best friend demanded to know (somewhat insultingly) what I was “going to do about Briggs.”

“I guess I’m just gonna put him down,” I answered without missing a beat. “It’s sad, and all, but he’s had a good run.” I mean, seriously, what did she expect me to say? Briggs is part of the deal and Caroline knew that. Still does, in fact. Only now, it seems as if she wants to renegotiate that deal. At least so I gathered on Saturday.

“You dumbass dog is at it again,” she announced before telling me all of the things my well intended, lipstick-sporting canine had been up to. It turns out he’d been interfering with what can best be described as an extremely aggressive nesting initiative which Caroline began implementing a few weeks back. Thanks to that initiative, all four of our children now have new beds. Three of them also have new rooms. Four if you count Grand Finale. To make it all work, we had to move the playroom down to the basement and shuffle around a couch or two. The end result is an exciting and new landscape which has undoubtedly stimulated my dog (lipstick aside) and compelled him to do a little nesting of my own.

Or at least that’s what I concluded as Caroline pointed to the white-upholstered rocker in our newly converted nursery. It was covered with dog hair. “Briggs has been up here snoozing,” Caroline said none too pleased. That little vein on her neck was popping out so I knew she meant business. Still, I decided to do what I do best. Play dumb.

“How do you know for sure?”

“Oh, I dunno,” Caroline began, her voice thick with sarcasm. “Perhaps it’s the presence of brown dog hair, Inspector Clouseau?”

“Your Honor, my client’s a DOG,” I protested, “and with all of the furniture-moving, he’s simply forgotten that he’s not allowed on the chair.”

“Or the couch,” Caroline said as she led me to exhibit B in Alli’s room.

“Well what do you wanna do?” I asked.

“Get rid of him,” she answered, her blue grey eyes casting an icy glare I’d never before seen them cast. “Now’s the perfect time. Because I will not have him ruin…this whole…you know…this whole…”

“Agressive nesting initiative?” I offered.

“Sure. That’ll due. I’ll not have him ruin this whole aggressive nesting initiative. PLUS,” she continued, “I’m certain you remember what a nuisance he was right after the triplets were born. We may as well just get rid of him now before Grand Finale comes along because you know he’ll be up to his same old tricks.”

Ah, yes. Dogs and babies. If the Briggs / Grand Finale version is anything like the Briggs / triplets version, we’re in for quite a ride.

You see, Briggs’ already pathologically active disposition grew to even greater heights with the advent of Sam, Jack, and Kirby. And with me away at work, and Caroline and Abi (a girl who used to help out with the triplets) up to their ears in babies, Briggs quickly learned that he lived in a society without enforceable rules, where there may have been reaction to his constant wrongdoing but very few if any consequences.

Accordingly, Briggs turned into a pleasant but annoyingly hyper bandit, navigating his way through that exciting and lawless land, led by his cold wet nose positioned mere inches from the ground, busily gobbling up all the foreign scents this new era had to offer.

“Honey,” Caroline announced over the phone to me one day, “your dog is at it again. He’s scampered off with Kirby’s cap and hid it under his dog bed.” But soon capers involving bottles, lovies, toys, or clothes proved to be pedestrian to our likable villain.

“Honey,” Caroline began another call to me, “your dumbass dog has struck again.”

“Oh no,” I exclaimed. Even I was getting sick of his shenanigans. “What was it this time? A toy? A shirt?”

“No. He’s on to much messier and disgusting things now. He dug into the garbage and chewed up a full bag of…”

No. No. Please no. Not a bag of…

“DIRTY DIAPERS! A whole day’s worth. Not only that, he must have eaten some because he’s thrown up on the floor. And I’ve got news for you. IT DOESN’T SMELL LIKE THROW UP! IT SMELLS LIKE SOMETHING ELSE!”

“Well, honey,” I answered, “you always said he had shit for brains. I suppose it was only a matter of time before he started having shit for lunch.”

While such exploits made Briggs easy to dislike, the constant companionship he provided Alli, as well as his good-natured interest in the babies, also made him impossible not to love.

With the triplets an ever-present force in the keeping room, and with adults always in that room tending to them, Briggs (when not engaged in DNA-seeking missions) was always in there, too. At times, he seemed to be oblivious to the babies’ frailty. Whenever a sound from outside triggered his spasmodic interest, the trio of newborns provided little in the way of a deterrent to his famous mad dashes to the door.

During such dashes, the three of them would usually be lying silently in their gliders, which were swaying back and forth, turning an ordinarily straight path into a fun-house maze. But Briggs wasn’t the type to give too much thought to little things like paths of least resistance. He was more of a point-and-click entity. His goal was to go from point A to point B in the most direct way possible, babies or not. That usually entailed series of poorly timed jumps, stumbles, skid-outs, and thuds. He constantly jarred the gliders that held our babies, who, still very much in the fog of infancy, were completely oblivious to the near peril they were in as he recklessly leapt over one before haplessly crashing into another.

Yet as clueless as he seemed to be to their frailty at times, he was inexplicably gentle around them at others. He loved to tiptoe up to them and slowly stick his nose within inches of one of their faces, moving it back and forth in perfect time with the glider until he had sniffed to his heart’s content. After such stints, he’d sit down and stand guard over them for hours. Literally.

Briggs knew that they were our babies, and he also knew something that I’m not so sure Alli, Caroline, and I had figured out by then—yes, Sam, Jack, and Kirby were fragile, but not as much as one might have thought. They weren’t going to break. His juggling act between tiptoeing around them with the greatest of caution and barging through life like nothing was different reminded us that the best course was usually one taken by instinct.

As we recounted all of these memories, Caroline’s angry gave way to laughter and I’m happy to say that my client will, indeed, remain in our household. Which is a good thing. Because Alli, Sam, Jack and Kirby love him so much. It’s a lock that Grand Finale will love him as well. Even if Briggs does make off with his cap a time or two.

visit John’s personal blog.

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