Trying my best to catch a glimpse of her like the Wolf seeking Isabo in Ladyhawke.
Lately my thoughts about her have been about dogs .
I realize it must sound strange to link my beloved mother with dogs and yet I cannot think of my mother without a dog. For her dogs were more than family or companionship, they made her feel safe. My mother trusted dogs more than humans, something she made no apology for either. Growing up we had a variety of dogs. In my youth we always had medium large dogs as my mother had no great love for " little yappy dogs". Dad traveled frequently leaving Mom as the parent on point with a house full of kids. Our dog(s) would be outside during the day but inside with us at night. Sometimes, when I am drifting off to sleep, I hear the recording in my memory banks of the click-click-click of dog toenails on hardwood floors as they patrolled from window to window while we slept. I doubt my mother would have ever slept without a dog protector in the house.
In her later years my mother progressed to smaller dogs, ending with Chihuahuas. We are not talking about sweet faced little darlings like Boxer's Henry. We are talking horrid excuse for a dog type of Chihuahua.
she at least was never one to carry it with her in a purse, talking baby talk and acting like an old fool. I try not to focus on these later dogs.
When I reached my early teens lots of things changed for me. One of those things was I developed allergies. I would have terrible sneezing spells, sneezing as much as 50 times in a row. This sounds funny but it is not. You cannot do anything while having a massive sneeze followed by dozens more. My throat and ribcage ached, my eyes watered and my voice turned raspy. At first this was an occasional event but things progressed to daily then to multiple times a day and so on.
Sadly, I was found to be allergic to a few food groups and environmental things like Pines, Cats and Horses. In revealing this diagnosis to my mother and I, our family doctor finished with,
"probably dog dander is the chief offender"
There was the briefest of pauses before my mother said,
" Well, what do you plan to do about this? There are as many Pines as people in the world, plenty of cats, horses and dogs too. The world will not change because Fishy has allergies so there has to be something you can offer."
" Any chance you can limit your animals to outside only?", inquired the doc.
Her answer was swift and absolute. I had a momentary fear of being adopted out to some dogless Huns with a sterilized house and a cleaning fetish. Truly, there was not even the tiniest pause in her response which sort of irked the doc who said,
" Maybe you and Mr. should talk about this before we make decisions."
" Mister", responded my mother, " Is not here to make a decision. I am. Since you cannot issue an order for every Pine in the state to be removed or every shellfish to be taken off local menus or euthanize every animal with dander then the obvious solution is to prevent Fishy from having a reaction to any of them. This is a very basic issue. The world is not going to adapt to Fishy therefore your job is to help her adapt as needed. She cannot sneeze a thousand times a day."
Decades later, when my Mom was having a hand wringing melt down about a sibling living alone without a dog I asked her how it came to be she did not feel safe without a dog. Her response astounded me.
Although it was rare at the time, my mother's parents divorced before her second birthday. The judge in the case must not have found either parent to his liking since he awarded custody to her paternal grandmother. So she would at least have the same surname. Some criteria! When my mother was 4 the question of where would she start school arose. Where indeed. In those days the guidelines were you started Kindergarten if you turned five before the end of the calendar year. My mother has a Winter birthday meaning she would be one of the youngest in the school and would start school at age 4. It was decided she should leave Granny's and live with her Dad who had moved across the country with the railroads.
Because he disliked others knowing his business he did not rely on neighbors to look after Mama. He relied on Brownie to look after Mama in his absence. In fact my mother swore he would cuddle the dog before opening the door saying, " Now Brownie, you best take good care of our girl".
This apparently worked out pretty well until the schedule changed and my grandfather was moved to a run with one overnight a week. On the new schedule he would be there to see Mama off to school and would be back home by bedtime but, on one night of the week he would be away. In this day and age, it would be beyond crazy to leave a 4 year old in the custody of a dog anytime, never mind overnight.
But Brownie was not just some dog.
He was a trained companion dog, guardian dog and hunting dog.
My grandfather trained my mother as well as the dog for this schedule change. Both knew the rules. Brownie would bring her home from school and they would stay home until he came back the next morning. There was a backyard with a bit of a garden and fruit trees which they were allowed to enjoy after school for a while. Dinner would be simple; peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a piece of fruit, a glass of milk and a cookie. Mama was taught to feed and keep fresh water for Brownie. When she went to bed, Brownie came with her and stayed until morning. Mom said she always felt safe. Her Dad regaled her with stories of great protector dogs, of stories of dogs as man's best friend through all the ages. She was proud to be the child of a dog.
She was taught to not mention " family matters" to teachers or neighbors.
Eventually they got caught.
I had heard much of this story growing up. At no point had I understood how young she was or that she, at four, was left overnight in the custody of a dog. I immediately understood why my mother always had a dog, why she felt safe with a dog and was frightened when she did not have one. I understood why our Dad accepted her need to have a dog in the house and why he often referred to our grandfather as that "crazy old man". All her life my mother trusted dogs more than humans. All her life every woe could be lessened by a good dog, and maybe a mug of crackers and milk. Dogs were her family every bit as much as we kids. Maybe more as the nest emptied of husband and kids but never of dogs.
Mermaid lives alone and does not have a dog.
I think my mother is displeased with this circumstance.
I might have to visit there soon.