Puppy Love

Back in 2007, there seemed to be some sort of fever sweeping through my friend group: everyone was adopting dogs. I couldn’t understand it. Why? All of our youngest children were finally starting school. We would have a moment to ourselves. Why would you bring another dependent into the house? A dog is a toddler that never grows up, I said. A dog will never be able to feed itself, I said. It will need walks, it will need grooming, medical care, it will bark, it will chew your shoes, it will pee in the house, it will steal food from the table…

You get the picture – I was not a fan.

My kids and my husband begged me, “Please, can we have a dog?”

Now, many people want to let others down gently. When they don’t want to say “no,” they say things like, “let me think about it” or “we’ll see.”

My response was unambiguous, “Over my dead body.”

Then, one day in the early summer of 2007, a strange thing happened.

My sister, Diana, and I were on the upper east side of Manhattan and passed the window of a pet shop. The most adorable puppies were in the window. And, yes, even I thought they were adorable because all puppies are adorable and I am only human.

Diana said, “Let’s go in…just to look.”

We browsed around. They had puppies and kittens, all looking cuddly and lovable, and heartbreaking in their tiny cages.

For reasons that remain unclear, I started asking questions:

Me: Do you have goldendoodles? My family has allergies.

Salesman: No, we only have purebreds here.

Me: What kind of purebreds are hypoallergenic?

Salesman: Why don’t I show you?

Never trust anyone who answers a question with a question.

The salesman went to an unseeable room in the store and returned with two tiny shitzu pups. One was the color of toasted marshmallows (which I love), and one was black and white like an Oreo cookie (which I also love). I have a sweet tooth. What can I say?

Without a word, he held them out to me. And without a thought, I took them.

That’s when it happened. It came without warning, I didn’t feel a tickle in my throat, or body aches of any kind. Nonetheless, I caught the fever.

The marshmallow was wriggling and squirming. The Oreo was totally zen. I handed the marshmallow back to the salesman and focused on the black and white fur ball that was now cradled in my arms. Like a seasoned pro, it nuzzled its little head under my chin. I was done for.

When I brought her home, my family must have thought I’d lost my mind, and I’ve never seen so much happiness stem from another person’s perceived dementia. After much debate, we named her Fluffy and she has been a beloved part of the family ever since.

After 13 years, Fluffy still can’t feed herself or walk herself, but she has never chewed our shoes (although she went through a period where she’d gather them like a nest around herself). She doesn’t bark. She doesn’t pee in the house. She doesn’t steal food from the table. Turns out, I’d been around some horribly “trained” dogs. She is nothing like them. She is my sweet, well-behaved little toddler that has never grown up and I could love her more. I have never recovered from the fever, and I never want to.

For Fluffy’s 13th birthday, I’ll show you how I baked her favorite treats. That’s love!

It’s Not A Floater

Every year since we got married, it’s been the same thing: my husband forgets Valentine’s Day.

In past years, this has made me mad, sad and exasperated – especially during those early years. He was working long hours, building his company and I was working hard as a stay-at-home mother. It was exhausting. What little time we had together was “family time” and our focus would be on our children. Mommy and daddy became two shipwrecks passing through a sticky playroom. So, on just that one day every year, I wanted him to fuss over me. His forgetfulness of Valentine’s Day felt personal, like he was forgetting me. Ouch!

valentines-day-restaurants-melbourne-flA day or two later, something would trigger his memory (like me throwing his gift on the table saying, “You missed Valentine’s Day, AGAIN!), and he’d go out and buy a huge bouquet of half-price roses. It was a great way to save a few bucks, but not for scoring points. In fact, his peace-offerings usually made me even angrier.

For whatever reason, he simply could not get it into his head that Valentine’s Day is on the same date every year. It’s not a floater, like Thanksgiving, Easter or Passover. It is always February 14th. Always. Maybe it’s genetic. Once, when I invited his mother for Christmas dinner, she asked, “When is it?”

To be fair, there were some years when he knocked it out of the park to make up for the year before. On one of those occasions, he arranged for a neighbor to take our then-toddler son overnight. He booked a supper cruise around Manhattan, followed by a night at the über-posh Peninsula Hotel. The magnificent suite was larger than our apartment. It was glorious. Then there was the time he surprised me by showering our bedroom with rose petals. I will not lie. My very first thought was, “Great. Who is going to clean this up?” Very romantic, I know.

Am I the only one who sees this as an accident waiting to happen?

As the years rolled by, I took it upon myself to start reminding him. I realized that waiting to see if he’d remember was the same as setting a trap (which is childish and unfair, yet inexplicably tempting). I’d tell him two weeks in advance because the closer it came to the date, the likelier that all the good restaurants would be booked up. However, he’d still wait until the last minute to try to make a reservation, or he’d take me someplace without one and we wouldn’t be able to get a table.

Ok, let’s be honest here for a minute: You and I both know that the worst night to go out for dinner is on Valentine’s Day. The “special” menus are always limited, the food is only marginally good, and the wait staff hustles you in and out because they’ve booked extra seatings to squeeze every last dime out of the busiest night of the year. And it’s February! Do you know how cold it is in New York in February? Who wants to put on a slinky dress and heels to slip and slide down the icy sidewalks of Manhattan? I’d rather be home in my jammies. (Author’s note: do not tell my husband I said that!)

Anyway, now that our son and daughter are older and away at school, we have a lot more time to focus on each other. Every Thursday night is date night, come hell or high water. Rather than making a special effort for each other once a year, we set aside time every week. It’s better that way, wouldn’t you agree?

Are you wondering what we’re doing together for Valentine’s Day this year? Nothing. I’m going dancing with my sister and my niece. My husband and brother-in-law are in Cuba with their father to celebrate his 80th birthday. When my husband booked the trip six months ago, he forgot that February 14th is Valentine’s Day.