I’m a Helicopter Mom. Of a Chihuahua. So Sue Me.

I don’t remember my parents being particularly overprotective when I was growing up. I certainly played my share of sports, had minor bumps and bruises, even a few concussions, and they didn’t whisk me off to the doctor every time I stubbed my toe or had a snotty nose. Then again, my mother was a nurse — which meant she could quickly determine whether something was really a crisis and act accordingly. More often than not, the “crises” were manufactured by me, a self-confessed hypochondriac from a young age with an extensive ACE bandage collection my family still teases me about. (I don’t think I’m really a hypochondriac, incidentally — I’m using the term loosely — but I do tend to be dramatic about my own injuries … as well as most things in general.)

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Rosie with her “Noni” (my mother), who calls me “Helicopter Mom”

Today, my mother’s theory is that she spent the day working with patients when I was a child; when she came home, I wanted her attention. I wanted to be the patient. So I made up ailments. Like sprained ankles, headaches, and other things I could pretty easily exaggerate. I wasn’t conscious of it. And lord knows I got tons of positive attention from my parents all the time. I don’t know why I was such an attention whore, but I apparently was. (And yes, I’m in therapy now. Twice a week. I know, it should be like 17 times a week at least. I’m accepting donations.)

Before Rosie, I had cats — Lucy and Ethel — who lived to be 17 and 19, respectively. They were pretty healthy up until they died, and I don’t remember being particularly overprotective of them. They were pretty independent — coughed up the occasional furball, got a UTI or two, then just got sick at the very end and died. I don’t mean to sound callous; I loved them dearly, but that’s what happened. They were healthy and then they were not. I simply didn’t really worry that much about them.

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Ethel (left) and Lucy. R.I.P.

Rosie is a different story. I worry about her incessantly. My mother has dubbed me a HELICOPTER MOM. I hover. And it’s been this way since I rescued her last year. I clearly didn’t learn this behavior from my mom, so I don’t quite understand why I hover. It’s not like Rosie’s done anything to make me not trust her. She doesn’t drink (well, just lots and lots of water); meets her curfew; doesn’t run around with shady neighborhood mutts; and, as far as I know, does not smoke or take drugs (except her once-a-month heartworm treatment).

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I can seeeeee youuuuuuuuu!!!

My “helicoptering” started almost immediately after I rescued her. Maybe it was because I saw her as especially vulnerable and viewed myself as her savior; maybe there was some weird tie-in with my aforementioned “hypochondria”. Perhaps I project it onto her. Maybe it was simply because I was a new dog mom and I wanted to do everything perfectly and I was just a nervous nelly. Whatever the reason, I have become one of “those smothers mothers” who practically hold out a safety net underneath the monkey bars every time their kid is on the fucking jungle gym.

I fell instantly in love with Rosie (which wasn’t hard to do) and couldn’t believe how quickly we bonded. When she arrived from Los Angeles via Waggytail West, she was exhausted the first few nights. I would just walk her, feed her dinner, wrap her up in a little blanket and watch the sweet little thing sleep. Sometimes my eyes would well up with tears, as I couldn’t believe how lucky I felt to have this little puppy in my life. She was truly my dream dog.

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If dogs could talk, this one might say: “Um, mom would you stop being such a fucking creeper?”

As I watched her sleep more closely, I observed the way she loved to make her body as small as possible in the blanket (this is very Chihuahua-like); her gentle breathing; the way she adjusted herself every ten minutes or so, and the way she opened her eyes and look around every so often as if to say, “Where the fuck am I tonight?”

When she would go back to sleep, I started to focus on her sweet little blonde lashes and the way they fluttered a little, as if she was dreaming.

Continue reading “I’m a Helicopter Mom. Of a Chihuahua. So Sue Me.”

Yes, I Talk to Rosie Like She’s Human. She Talks Back. And no, I’m Not Schizophrenic

I said to someone once, and I can’t remember who: “I have some of the best talks with Rosie that I have with anyone.”

“That’s okay,” the person responded, “as long as she doesn’t talk back.”

Well guess what? In my head, she does. And as far as I know, I’m not schizophrenic.

I’m certain I’m not alone; tons of people talk to their dogs. It’s the extent to which I talk to Rosie that I find kind of funny.

Yesterday, we were walking up 22nd Street and a woman walking her Rhodesian Ridgeback approached us. Rosie pulled on the leash and made a beeline for the dog, tail wagging like a manic metronome. The owner, an eccentric looking woman, quickly crossed the street with her dog, as many people do when they either have a dog that’s not friendly, are in a hurry to get its “business” done, or simply don’t feel like interacting.

As this woman crossed to the other side of the street, Rosie looked up at me, rejected and seemingly crushed.

“Next time, Rosie.” I told her. And making sure we were a safe distance from the woman and her Ridgeback (and anyone else), I added: “That lady was probably a bitch anyway who had no life. We’re better off not having met her. Let her go home to her empty house and empty life with no friends and wallow in her despair.”

Rosie stared at me, and I wondered what she was thinking. It was one of two things: “Lady, you’re fucking bonkers” (likely), or, “Yeah! I’m glad we didn’t meet her! She didn’t have a life!” (Not as likely.)

Then there have been those times when people have “caught” me talking to Rosie on our walks. I generally don’t care, but I don’t want to be known as the crazy in the neighborhood (come to think of it, I probably already am).

It’s usually the little things I say often that people hear — the less extreme, off-the-wall things, like, “Rosie, good walking!” (when she’s not pulling on the leash). Or, “Good job! Do you want a little piece of chicken jerky?” as a reward for putting something down she has picked up off the street. Or, “let’s go home,” or “get busy” if she’s dallying and taking too much time to pee. (Although once on a very cold day, someone did catch me saying, “Rosie, will you please hurry up and shit so we can go inside?”)

Then, the crazy rears its head again and things like “leave it” turn into “Rosie, don’t eat that feces, it’ll give you a parasite, we’ll have to go see Dr. Farber, he’ll diagnose you with Giardia and have to put you on Metronidazole.” Or “Rosie, do you want to go to Chula’s and play later after you eat your pancaketh?” (That’s pancakes said with a lisp. Translation: breakfast.)

Generally, our two-way conversations go something like this. We may come in from a walk and I might say,” “Rosie, would you like a piece of freeze-dried liver, a Greenie, a piece of chicken jerky, or a cheese treat?”

Rosie’s Bath time (in the sink)

“I had a Greenie after breakfast,” I imagine as she looks up at me with her doe eyes. “So I think a liver treat.”

Or, it could go like this:

“Hey Rose, it’s time to brush your teeth.”

“No.”

“We have to or you’ll get plaque and then they’ll have to give you anesthesia and that could be dangerous because you have a heart murmur.”

“I’m still not brushing, so I think instead I’ll go curl up in a little ball on my bed and avoid you altogether.”

Sometimes she gets feisty.

“Rosie, it’s bath time.”

Nietzsche

“Sure it is.”

“No, really — it is.”

“Mom, maybe it’s your bath time.”

“Rosie? Don’t get fresh.”

Our deeper conversations can be on all sorts of topics. We usually get deep on Friday nights. We talk about music, art, film, and philosophy. The other day we talked about Nietzsche.

“God is dead, mom,” Rosie quipped.

“I know, I know, Rosie. I know.”

Rosie is a Tween Now. Enough With the Baby Talk.

So, Rosie had her second birthday on January 18th. I don’t actually know if it is her “real” birthday, but it was one year after the day the shelter picked her up off the L.A. streets and estimated her age to be one. As a dog parent, it’s always hard to figure out which occasion to celebrate: the actual birthday? The foster anniversary? The adoption anniversary? Or what? For the sake of not driving myself crazy, I picked her “birthday”.

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Rosie on her birthday with her “cake”.

We all know that a pet’s age in people years is their chronological age multiplied times seven. So with that logic, Rosie is 14. A tween. She’s not a baby anymore. She uses emoji, watches Jane the Virgin, and listens to Drake (because the Biebs is so “last year”).

So please riddle me this: why do people talk to her like she’s a baby? She’s so beyond the cootchie cootchie coo language (as in, “Rosie, fetch!”) and now understands adult commands like “Rosie, would you kindly bring me my crack pipe?”

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Rosie’s Chelsea digs.

There’s a doorman in my building who talks to Rosie in this Muppet-like voice when I take her out at 5:00am — he says things like, “Heyyyy Rosie, girl, did you sleep with mommy last night? Are you going for your walky? (He really just puts a Y at the end of everything.) After your walky will you have some brekky? (No, he’s not Australian.) Will you make poopy for mommy like a good girl?”

I never know how to respond to him — but he looks at me like I’m supposed to throw my voice like a ventriloquist and talk back to him through Rosie. “Yes, sir, I am going to eat my brekky and make poopy for mommy like a good little girl.” Hell if I’m doing that.

I don’t usually respond at all; I’m usually too groggy (remember: 5:00am). Then I feel kind of guilty — the guy is totally nice and means well. He’s just irritating as all fuck.

He also does this other thing — where he calls Rosie “bicoastal” (ok, kind of cute/clever) and imagines that she’s a little surfer girl who hates the East coast and the weather here. Points for imagination…. but still… 5:00am.

“Hey, little surfer girl, you’re not gonna like the weather outside, surfer girl — it’s rainy wainy — bet you’d rather be at the beach with the sand between your toes catching some rays.” Oh-kayyyyy…..

I know I’m probably just super irritable (you think?), but I may start getting up at 7:00am when this dude’s shift is over. What do you think?

On Dogs, Depression, and Rickie Lee Jones

I used to have a dog named Domini when I was a child who licked my face every time I cried. When I was home sick from school, she’d lie at the end of the bed and keep watch until I was better. She was so sensitive that when she went into heat she would take all of the stuffed animals off of my bed, arrange them in a circle, plop down in the middle of the circle, and tend to each one with kisses and licks. She was an extraordinary animal.

I thought all dogs expressed sadness and glee and pain and sensitivity and emotions in the same way Domini did, so when I got Rosie, I was pretty sure I knew what to expect. The first time I cried with her was the day I adopted her, and they were tears of joy. I pulled her onto my lap and held her tight. She looked at me for a second, and then she jumped off. Wait, what? Where were my licks and kisses? Aren’t all dogs the same? In my naiveté, I thought so.

I’ve come to the conclusion over the past few months — as I’ve been battling a pretty brutal depression — that Rosie doesn’t express empathy through licks; she worries and takes on aspects and qualities of my mood, like a sponge. She’s a worrier. When I’m depressed, she gets depressed, too. She doesn’t look me in the eye, and she sleeps with her back to me (if she sleeps with me at all). Which makes me feel fucking horrible and awful and like a bad mother.

But Rosie’s really the best reason I’ve had these days to get myself well — she’s forced me to turn my focus outward because I have to take care of her. I can’t bear to see her unhappy. Just as I’m sure she can’t bear to see me depressed.

Fiona, my wise friend, said, “When you feel better, so will she.” The anti-depressants have just begun to kick in and I swear Rosie has that little smile on her face again, because so do I.

I did this experiment the other night because I wanted to see what kind of music — voices, pitches, sounds, instruments — were appealing to Rosie’s ears. The winner, hands down? And wouldn’t you know it — my favorite: Rickie Lee Jones. Often not the most uplifting, sometimes sings songs my mother and I dub “wrist-slashers”. I put on the song “On Saturday Afternoons in 1963” from her debut album as well as the more upbeat, later-career track “Jimmy Choos”. And the dog was fucking mesmerized. At first, she stretched out her paws as if to get settled. Then she lay still, eyes darting back and forth, as if taking it all in. When Jones went up to the higher registers, Rosie shut her eyes, and opened them when the higher part was over. I swear, I may have been reading into it – but it was truly amazing to watch. And beautiful. And no, she did not slash her paw when it was all over. She just seemed relaxed and “in a zone.”

Rickie Lee Jones

Other music/sounds Rosie seems to like: Kraftwerk, Jimmy Somerville, and Justin Timberlake. But she doesn’t seem to enjoy Katy Perry. Today I’ll try some classical and see if she can distinguish between composers. (Yes, I’m nuts.)

Oh, one more thing: the other day I Googled: “How do you know if you’re obsessed with your dog?” And it said, “One: you constantly worry about their feelings.” And “Two: you Google things like ‘How do you know if you’re obsessed with your dog?'”