Our new dog is scared of paper towels. Also, coffee cups. And banana peels. And people taller than he is, which is shin-high. He quivers like a Jello-mold on a card table when you say his name above a whisper. He’s a mess.
He’s also my perfect replacement.
We went looking for a dog recently because 14-year-old boys need someone to shamelessly love. This is a challenge, because embarrassment is a 14-year-old boy’s natural state. Suddenly, brawny stone-faced boys, wiry wise-cracking funny boys, angry-for-no-reason man-voiced yellers — they all need someone to love unselfconsciously.
For our son, and for many good years, that someone was me. Sometimes it still is. We still fit on the couch together in sort of a modified semi-touching spoon. I still get a surprise hand squeeze under the table from time to time. But more often than not these days, if I ever-so-casually drop my hand on my boy’s shoulder, it comes flying off one millisecond later, propelled by a dramatic shrug and a quick 360-degree look to see whether anyone noticed.
This dog, though? This dog is allowed lick him on the lips. The two of them go full spoon, right in the dog bed, even. Apparently, according to the strict unwritten rules of teenage boydom, shaky little dogs are free to nuzzle boys’ muzzles on demand. Our kid may shrug off my affection and slam the bedroom door when I’m trying to talk to him, but he whispers sweet nothings into those tall pointy ears.
Those very ears seem to be the source of our new family member’s nervous condition. Our dog is … let’s say “sensitive” to some sounds. And by sensitive to some sounds, I mean terrified of all sounds. But one day last week, I had to run the vacuum. There was just no more putting it off. (When the cable guy put on his protective booties, I’m pretty sure it was for his own protection.)
Considering that our dog cowers when someone turns on the faucet, you can imagine how well he was going to enjoy being chased from room to room with a Dyson. So I asked my son to leash up and sent him off with orders to keep Mr. Shivers out of earshot for 20 minutes.
But there was really no sense in vacuuming before I dusted the dog hair off the side tables, right? And as long as I had the duster out, I might as well get those cobwebs, and and and — it was a classic If You Give A Mouse A Cookie situation, except I never got a cookie, which kind of stinks now that I think about it. But I digress.
I plugged in the vacuum and was really just getting going when I saw almost-man and his best friend headed back up the driveway, already done with their jaunt. I decided to press on for another minute until they came in the front door — but they didn’t.
When I eventually unplugged (Note to self: You get a cookie), I took a look out the window. And there they were: Sitting on a bench side by side like two old friends, a reassuring hand on a nervous-but-perfectly-still shoulder, out in public in front of everybody.
I took a mental picture and filed it away in my perfect-moment drawer. Our testosterone-charged son may be struggling for independence, but his heart is kind and his hands are gentle and comforting. Note to self: Give that dog a cookie, too.More On