It was during the lean years. We were renting a house in Half Moon Bay, CA, which is just south of San Francisco. We had sunk all kinds of money into our rent and into a dot com start-up company that was failing miserably. Eleanor was four years old and Magnolia was about 18 months. I was about 25 or 26 while most other moms with kids my age were in their 40s. So, I put a lot of pressure on myself to prove my parenting skills. I also love dogs.
While I knew that the timing was pretty wrong for getting a dog, I still did it. He was a pound dog, a mix of Great Dane, Dalmatian, Black Lab, possibly some Pit Bull. He had slick black fur, a white belly, and a face like the guy in the photo there. We named him Doug. Josh would say, “Go get the Doug! We’re going to the beach!”
But Doug had some issues, namely anxiety. He could not be left alone. At all. The first time we tried to leave him home alone, he successfully scratched and chewed his way through a wooden door and went on a search through town to find us. Or maybe a new family. Who knows? Later, he destroyed many of my college papers and yearbooks and boxes of books. While that hurt, I could still forgive it. He let me cry all over him when I didn’t think my friends could stand any more of my sadness over the fact that Josh’s dot com was probably not going to make it and I was about to have to move back home.
Then my birthday came. Josh bought me a new pair of running shoes. It was a generous gift; I’m particular about my running shoes. And obviously, we had little money.
You know what’s coming, right? I don’t know why I didn’t simply take the dog with me that day. I just needed to pick up Eleanor from preschool. I guess I figured it was going to be a quick trip, and I was probably running late. Don’t you hate those programs that charge you for every minute you’re late to pick up your kid?
So, I walked back into the house, set Magnolia down to play, went into the kitchen with Eleanor and there were my brand new shoes torn to shreds. It was always so damn personal! My yearbooks? My college papers? Now my shoes??!! I gave in to my emotions. I picked up what was left of one of those shoes and I whacked the dog. “Bad dog! You are so bad! I rescued you, you ingrate!”
“Mommy?” Eleanor looked concerned.
Oh, hell. I’d just hit and name-called in front of my four-year-old. If I wasn’t crying already, I was then. The weight of that moment fell hard on me. I crouched down and looked at her and said, “Eleanor, you know I would never do that to you, right?”
She shrugged. “I know. I would never chew your shoes.” And then she went off to play.