Once, it seems like a hundred years ago (at those times when it doesn’t seem like just yesterday…), I was in the esteemed position of raising two precious little girls. They were not quite three years apart in age. Jenny, being the oldest, was usually the first to discover and act on little divergences from our normal acceptable behavior.
Jenny was a good girl, and they were minor infractions. Still, whether it was blowing bubbles in her milk at dinnertime, bouncing on the furniture or arguing about bedtime, there were times when I would remind her of the rules, and suggest the responsibility of being a big sister. She should try to be a good influence for Katey, I would tell her, and show by example the way we should behave.
That’s when Katey, who up to that point had been innocent, would get involved. I could always see it coming. First the slight raised eyebrow, then an expression that showed both thoughtfulness and determination. She’d give me that sideways eye, then proceed to do exactly what I had just scolded her sister for doing!
The message was clear: she would rather be in Jenny’s camp, no matter what the consequences.
I am now in the fortunate position of sharing my life and my home with two nice dogs. I make no excuses for talking to them as we go through the day. Not constantly – we’re a fairly quiet bunch – but enough. Sometimes it’s just random chatter; other times it’s flattery, scolding or reassurance. “Good girls, going outside together,” I’ll encourage them, or, “I think we’re fine, girls,” as they madly bark at the road truck passing by.
Yesterday, we were out in the front yard together. I was gathering sticks and branches that had fallen during the storm, checking the blackberry bushes and taking clothes down from the line. Darla and Rosa Parks were chasing scents: wild turkeys had been in the yard. They each found smelly patches to roll in, so that they could carry that odor through the day. Darla took off, then, through the thick brush beyond the maple trees, with Rosa Parks on her heels. The partridge they were interested in took flight, and Darla came right back into the yard.
“Where’s your sister?” I asked her, “Where did you leave Rosa Parks?”
Rosa Parks is still nursing a dislocated kneecap. Though any exercise she will take is good for her, she can’t always manage to get over, around and up onto things the way she used to. In her enthusiasm to be on a hunt with the big dog, she had managed to get over logs and through brambles. The way back was a different story. “You can’t just leave Rosa Parks behind,” I told Darla as I scrambled through the underbrush to retrieve my little dog, “You have to watch out for her.”
Just as we were all safely back in the front yard, two riders on horseback came down the road. The big dog, barking, bounded down the driveway. “Darla, NO,” I shouted with enough authority to give her pause. That’s when I noticed Rosa Parks. First a slight, raised eyebrow. Next, a look of both thoughtfulness and determination. That old, telling sideways eye. Then, she went tearing down the driveway to chase after the horses!
The message, once again, is crystal clear.