Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Brooklyn




"Mom, Michael got a dog."
"Really?"  I continued writing the email I was working on without looking up.
"Look!" Miles thrust his iPhone in my face.  There was a picture of a cute, red-furred puppy.
"That's not a dog," I smiled.  "That's a puppy."  
I turned my chair to face him.  I knew what was coming next.
"It's so cute!" he squealed joyfully.
"Yes," I said in a measured tone.  "It's very cute."
"So can we get one?"
I took in a deep breath and then exhaled slowly.  "Miles," I held his eyes with mine and shook my head no.
"But Mom!  Justin and I really want a dog -- please!"
We then played out the scene that had been reenacted in every room of our house at least twice a day for the past three months.
"You can't have a dog because you won't take care of it."
"Mom, I swear, Justin and I will take full charge if it.  Please Mom!"
"Really?  You're going to get up 6:30am and walk it before school and walk it again when you come home from practice?"
"Yes, Mom!" he said brightening.  
"And who will clean up after it?"
"We will, Mom, I swear."
"And what happened to the turtles and the frog?"
Miles opened his mouth to speak and then closed it abruptly.
"They're at Grandma's" he said with a sad look.
"And did we not have this exact same conversation about them?"
"Yes," he said with a look of determination.  "But this will be different.   We'll be able to play fetch and football and frisbee with our dog!  We'll swim in the pool with him and take him to the beach.  I couldn't play with the frog and turtles really."
"You're also allergic to dogs," I said switching tactics.  "So am I, so's your brother."
"But that's what I wanted to tell you!  Michael's dog isn't allergic!"
I smiled again.  "You mean its hypo-allergenic."
"Yeah, whatever you said. Can we get one?  Please?"
"No, sweetie.  I'm sorry.  My answer is still the same."

Brian and I had been divorced for almost a year.  For the first time ever, I was a single mom with two kids.  We lived alone in a fairly big house with lots of windows.  
It is kind of scary at night.  Maybe it would be smart to have a dog for protection?
I took a sip of water and swished it around my mouth before setting the bottle back down on the desk.
But I don't really like animals.  I've never owned and dog or a cat as an adult.  I'm not built like those people who dress up their dogs and put pictures of their cats on their holiday cards.  I feel like I'm missing that gene.
I turned my eyes back to my computer and started typing again, but then I stopped cold.
The boys must also working on Brian to get a dog.  What if he gives in and they never wanted to come home to my house because they love his new dog so much?
We brought Venus and Serena home when they were 9-weeks old in August of 2009.  They are sweet, beautiful black Labradoodle-sisters.  I gated a small area of the house for them with access to the outside "poo" area. They slept in their crates and came out during the day. We all spent the first few days marveling at them.  But a few weeks in, the complaints started:
"Mom, they won't play with any of their chew toys."
"Mom, they won't play fetch."
"Mom, they're scared of the water."
It was true.  It turns out that our girls seem to trend more feline than canine.  They glanced haughtily at the chew toys with which they were presented. They seemed to be scared and confused by our efforts to get them to play fetch or frisbee.   When we tried to dip their paws in to the pool to show them that it was just water, they scampered frantically back in to the house as if they'd been burned.
Ah me...

In 2012, three-year-old, Venus and, Serena were watching me through the gate of their enclosed area of the family room while I opened mail in the kitchen.  Miles and Justin came running in the house after a weekend with Brian.  Miles handed me his phone with an expectant look.  I pushed it out to an arms length away so that I could see what he was showing me.
"What is it, Sweetie?"
"Look at our new dog!"  He was bouncing up and down with excitement.
On his screen was an adorable puppy with golden, curly fur.
"His name is Brooklyn.  He's so cute mom.  He's a Golden-doodle.  That's what we should have gotten, Mom.  He's really little but he already loves to play fetch.  And you should see him wrestling with his chew toys!  Mom, he's so cute!!"
My stomach turned upside down and I fought to put a smile on my face.
"He's super cute," I said as brightly as I could.  "I didn't know you were actually getting a dog."
I glanced over to Venus and Serena's enclosed area.  As if on cue, they both suddenly stood on their hind legs and wagged their tails in unison.  My heart wrenched in my chest.
Yes, you guys are really cute too!
Justin appeared next to his brother and dropped his back pack at my feet.
"Did you show her?  Mom you have to see him!  He slept in my room last night! He's so cute!"

Every Sunday I heard more tales of the feats of "Brooklyn The Wonder Dog."  Every week he seemed to do something cuter and more ideally dog-like.  I tried to keep my heart from hardening against this new "scene-stealer," but it was challenging.  I'd never met him, but I was already pre-judging this golden boy who seem to have it all over my girls.  I was in no hurry to meet Brooklyn.

"Can Brooklyn stay with us for a week?"
Miles was staring at me. He had just rushed in to my office from the kitchen.  
I tried to compose my face before I turned to face him.  But inside I was like WHAAAT?!?!?
But I closed my eyes for a moment and remembered to breathe, "What?"
"Dad and Tracy are going away and they usually board him," he continued, with an anticipatory smile.  "But that's silly, right? We'd thought you'd probably just say we should bring him to our house."
"But..."
This can't have been Brian and Tracy's idea.  I've seen Brian with Brooklyn.  He's very protective over him.  He barely lets him play with Venus and Serena when he stops by with him!  They can't be okay with him staying here for a whole week!
"Ummmmm..." I stalled.  
"Did you tell her?" asked Justin, sauntering in.  "Mom, can Brooklyn sleep in my room?"
I felt trapped.  Here I was faced with yet another aspect of the "unusual arrangement" that Brian and I have.  We've deliberately blurred the traditional boundaries that guide most divorced couples over and over again.  We celebrate birthdays together, I'm invited to Thanksgiving at their home every year, Brian and I attend every school event, fundraiser and parent-conference together.  We confer with each other on all things which affect our children and truly and gratefully share our boys with the other.  But now, here I was feeling some type of way about the idea of sharing their family pet.
Isn't that taking it too far?  I have to take care of their dog while they're away?
"When?" I cleared the croak in my voice.  "When are they leaving?"
"Tuesday!"
The day after tomorrow?!  My mind started to race.
"We don't have a bed for him," I said.  "And what does he eat?  We may not have the right food for him either.  They'd have to bring all of that stuff with him."
"Yes!" said Miles.  "Thanks, Mom!!"
They both walked out of my office talking excitedly about how great it was going to be when Brooklyn arrived.

Tuesday morning came and after I got home from dropping the boys at school, I found myself in an agitated state.  I kept starting emails and stopping to look at the clock.  Brian had said that Brooklyn would be at my house by noon.  
Why didn't I get the exact time he was dropping him off?  Now I have to hang around all morning?
The gate bell rang and I sprang up like a firecracker had gone off under my chair.  
Calm down, Laura.
I put a fresh smile on my face before I opened the door.  There they were. Brian had a dog bed under his left arm and held the taut leash of a very enthusiastic Brooklyn in his right.
"Hey."
Brooklyn pulled his way over to the girl's enclosed area and yipped playfully.  Brian let him off the leash and went back to his car and came back with a box of Brooklyn's food.  Pleasantries were exchanged.  Instructions were given and then he was gone.

I stood there watching as the three dogs greeted each other with enthusiasm for a minute or two and then turned to go back in to the house.  Shortly, I heard a "clip, clip clip" behind me.  I turned to see that Brooklyn was stand there panting, looking up at me quizzically.  
"Hello Brooklyn," I deadpanned.
Venus and Serena ran inside after Brooklyn to see where he'd gone.   Normally the girls languished on the sun-warmed living room floorboards all day.  But that day, nothing was normal.  The girls were all wiggly and anxious as Brooklyn sniffed around and inspected everything.  He poked his curly head in wastepaper baskets and drawers.  He came running triumphantly out of Justin's room with one of his socks.  
"Brooklyn no!"
I closed all of the bedroom doors and went back to my office in a huff.
The annoyed tone of my voice seem to put him off the idea of more exploration.   From that point on, whatever I did, where ever I was in the house, Brooklyn, Venus and Serena followed and watched me with questioning eyes.  
When the boys came home from school there was a brief flurry of excitement to see him before they had to start homework.  Brooklyn was happy to see them too.  But still, when I left the kitchen and walked toward my bedroom I heard that "clip, clip, clip" behind me.
The girls stopped short at the end of the hallway as usual (they know they're not allowed in our bedrooms), but when I came out of the closet after changing, there was Brooklyn on my white bedroom carpet, staring at me like "what?".

"How's it going?" asked Scottie when he came home later.  "How's the boy doing?"
I lowered my voice.  "I don't know if he really fits in.  He's got the girls all wiggly, he stole a sock from Justin's bedroom and he came right in our bedroom with me — he was standing there when I came out of the closet!"
Scottie laughed and ruffled Brooklyn's 'fro.  "He fits in just fine.  He'll learn.  It's a new house, different rules.  You have to give it a little while."
I put them all to bed that night in the garage like I always do and Brooklyn tried to follow me back in to house.  
"No, no Brooklyn," I said trying to keep the frustration out of my voice.  I felt like all day long I'd been telling him "no" about something.
"You have to sleep in here with the girls."
He stood statue-still and stared at me with his little round, brown eyes as I turned off the light and shut the door.  I took a few steps away and thought I heard a noise.
Was that him?
I stood still and listened, my bare feet motionless on the cool, grey ceramic tile.
He might be scared.
I took a few more steps and made it as far as the laundry room before turning to tip-toe back to the garage door.  I waited outside with my ear pressed against the door listening for the sound again.  When I didn't hear anything, I cracked it open slowly and peeked in with one eye.  Sure enough, he was still there in the same place -- staring at the door unblinkingly.
Brooklyn!
"What's wrong, Boy?"
I opened the door and knelt down.  He padded over to me and placed his huge curly mane on my knee.  He looked like a big teddy bear.
He's so funny!
I resisted the urge to laugh out loud as it might have startled the girls (who were already nestled together in their bed).  I rubbed my fingers through the fluff on his head and felt my insides begin to melt.  
You're really sweet.  And really, really cute.
"Okay," I whispered, reaching for his doggie bed.  "You can sleep inside tonight."

Spring 2016
"Brooklyn is here too?" asked Michael above the din of all three dogs whining and prancing in circles — anxious for their walk.
"Yeah, sorry I meant to tell you."
Michael was expertly clipping the walking leashes on all three dogs.  He's been walking the girls since they were two and has been walking Brooklyn as well for the last couple of years.
"Oh that's right, they're out of town again, right?"
"Yeah, for a week this time."
"That's so great that he comes over here whenever they go away."
"Well, Michael," I said putting my cheek against Brooklyn's head.  "After all, we're his family too."
Michael grinned at me with a knowing look, "How many times has he stayed here now?"
"I don't know, 4 maybe 5?"
"Amazing!" said Michael.  His eyes were alive with admiration.  
"I just love how you guys put your kids first.  The two-legged and the four-legged ones."
As we laughed, I got an alert on my phone that Brooklyn was getting picked in an hour.  My laugh faded away abruptly.
"Oh!  Looks like he's going home soon,"  I said.  "You'll probably just have time to walk them."
I was on my way out the store, but I was pretty sure that I'd be back in time to say goodbye to Brooklyn.
I watched Michael walk the "pack" up the street and then jumped in my car.
When I returned home 45 minutes later, I took one look at the girl's dejected faces (laying on the garage floor with their heads resting on their paws) and could tell that he was already gone.
Oh no!  I missed saying goodbye to him!
The girls got up and followed me sorrowfully as I walked into what felt like an empty house.  I halfway expected to see his fluffy head peering through the kitchen doorway.  
Scottie was sitting at the counter on his lap top.  He looked up and saw the look on my face.
"What's wrong, Hon?"
"Brooklyn's gone.  I'd thought I'd have time to say goodbye."
"Awww," he got up and put his arm around me, pulling me in close. "He'll be back soon, right? Aren't they going away again in a couple of months?"
"June!" I brightened.  That's right!  "Hear that girls?  Brooklyn will be back in June!"

"Brooklyn is here too?" asked Michael above the din of all three dogs whining and prancing in circles — anxious for their walk.
"Yeah, sorry I meant to tell you."
Michael was expertly clipping the walking leashes on all three dogs.  He's been walking the girls since they were two and has been walking Brooklyn as well for the last couple of years.
"Oh that's right, they're out of town again, right?"
"Yeah, for a week this time."
"That's so great that he comes over here whenever they go away."
"Well, Michael," I said putting my cheek against Brooklyn's head.  "After all, we're his family too."
Michael grinned at me with a knowing look, "How many times has he stayed here now?"
"I don't know, 4 maybe 5?"
"Amazing!" said Michael.  His eyes were alive with admiration.  
"I just love how you guys put your kids first.  The two-legged and the four-legged ones."
As we laughed, I got an alert on my phone that Brooklyn was getting picked in an hour.  My laugh faded away abruptly.
"Oh!  Looks like he's going home soon,"  I said.  "You'll probably just have time to walk them."
I was on my way out the store, but I was pretty sure that I'd be back in time to say goodbye to Brooklyn.
I watched Michael walk the "pack" up the street and then jumped in my car.
When I returned home 45 minutes later, I took one look at the girl's dejected faces (laying on the garage floor with their heads resting on their paws) and could tell that he was already gone.
Oh no!  I missed saying goodbye to him!
The girls got up and followed me sorrowfully as I walked into what felt like an empty house.  I halfway expected to see his fluffy head peering through the kitchen doorway.  
Scottie was sitting at the counter on his lap top.  He looked up and saw the look on my face.
"What's wrong, Hon?"
"Brooklyn's gone.  I'd thought I'd have time to say goodbye."
"Awww," he got up and put his arm around me, pulling me in close. "He'll be back soon, right? Aren't they going away again in a couple of months?"
"June!" I brightened.  That's right!  "Hear that girls?  Brooklyn will be back in June!"


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