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Dog Envy

I’ve written many stories about my family’s blunders for a long time now, even during the twelve years I wrote forDan’s Papers of the Hamptons, when my kids used to complain, ‘Mom-m-m, how can you tell the world about our idiosyncrasies? It’s so embarrassing!’ Okay, so maybe it is a clear case of exploitation, but my daughter and son, and especially my husband, supply me with some damn good material. Even our pets have gotten into the act . . . actually, our first pet was our son, Jeffrey, when he was a pre-schooler and he thought he was an imaginary dog named Duke.  For a solid year he was always on all-fours, begged for his dinner dish to be placed on the floor, and chased his non-existent tail in circles. Of course we were a bit concerned at first, but he outgrew his identity crisis when I tried putting him on the leash.

Our daughter, Janelle, had her own dog-related issues, but they came much later on in her life when she was in her last year of college. I think it was because of an assignment she had in one of her Psychology classes where they dug deep into relationships, you know, the role of each child and where each fit into the family: youngest sibling, middle child, the dog. Her paper was titled “Dog Envy.” I admit I’ve always been a little dog-crazy, myself, but my husband, Bruce, is over-the-top obsessed. As far as he’s concerned, the dog rules the house…he not only allows her to sleep in our bed, but allows her to hog the bed because he doesn’t want to disturb her (no wonder I’m an insomniac.)

Anyway, back to our daughter…after college graduation, Janelle went on her European vacation and came home with 17 Scandinavians…I’d never seen so many blondes at one time. It was a wild summer weekend party; I’d open the laundry room door and there was Sven and Jesper; when I walked in one of the bathrooms, there was Patrik and Sladja sound asleep in the bathtub, etc., etc.  One of the Swedes was called “Love” and went missing overnight – don’t even ask. The following day, to my daughter’s dismay, her 17 houseguests took our “retriever” a little too seriously, and threw tennis balls into the pool, nonstop. The dog was in her glory, running and jumping into the pool after each ball, to the point of total exhaustion.  Again, Janelle was miserable, competing with the dog for attention.

And then one day, the jealousy finally got to me. I don’t exactly recall when, but I noticed little things, like if our cupboards were bare, and Bruce didn’t blink an eye, as long as the dog was happy. “Janet,” he’d say, “I think Jude’s looking a little peaked.  When did she eat last? How much did you give her? What about her water bowl? Is it filled? And did you walk her today? You know she needs her exercise.”

I wondered if he noticed that my ribs were starting to show through my clothes lately. That my skin was dry andmy lips were parched and chapped. That my left arthritic leg was causing me to limp. I looked over at the two of them sitting on the couch together, watching the baseball game on TV. Bruce was running his fingers through Jude’s hair, and said: “Don’t tell me you didn’t make that appointment yet for her grooming?” I stood there in disbelief, static electricity making my hair stand on end, and cursed under my breath as I crossed off my own appointment on the calendar at the salon and penciled in “dog groomer.”  Then I looked in the yellow pages under Therapy.

He patted her head and spoke baby talk to his little schmoopie…”Hey, he said, “It’s her birthday next week and she’ll be five…what should we do to celebrate?” I thought of my last milestone birthday he blew off and rolled my eyes. Then I quickly did the math – dog years times human years, and wondered how much longer I had to put up with this.

“Awww, dogs are swell, aren’t they?” he said.  “All they ever want is unconditional love.”

“Reeeally?” I started panting.

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Published by Janet Berg

Janet Lee Berg is a novelist and a blogger, who is known for her freelance writing on the east end of Long Island, NY, including Dan’s Papers. Keep an eye out for the release of her upcoming novel Rembrandt's Shadow, a Holocaust-related story about Sylvie Rosenberg, the privileged daughter of a prominent Dutch art dealer, who never knows her father's love until the day he trades his beloved Rembrandt to the Nazis in exchange for her life.

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