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Life Lessons from The Gray Girl: a Goldendoodle.

Gray just finished reading a book about why humans rarely relax. She has noticed this, and is concerned.

I don’t have kids. I likely won’t have kids. Well, I won’t have my own children. I have plenty of “kids” who filled this heart space to spilling over. But birthing my own? Nope, too old for that. Some days I get sad and other days, especially when traveling next to a two year old on a plane, or sitting in a booth with an un-disciplined 5-year-old behind me poking my head with chicken nugget flakes on her fingers, I do a small cheer. And furthermore, even if I were to committed to resist the kid-centered culture with all my Philly strength, I would fall into it too, I’m sure.

I do have a dog. Which is not a kid. I don’t put dogs in the same category with humans, though I know some people do. Truth be told, if the weather is right, I think dogs and kids can sit in the car when we have to run into the store. I did fine with it. Now, I don’t think they are “just animals” with no value, I just disagree with them being treated like humans. Why are we putting dogs in carts and strollers so that they don’t have to walk? I thought the point was to give the dog exercise and an opportunity to poop. And I guess I get confused when I see a dog in a purse. Though I could be wrong, I feel quite sure the breed that fits inside a purse didn’t exist when I was growing up. That size dog must be a new engineering accomplishment in the dog-breeding world. Maybe the New York City rat has been worked into that breeding equation. No offense to you who own the 1-pound dog in a purse.

I am sure you, like me, have seen dogs get royalty-worthy treatment. And believe me, I get the temptation. With enough time in your daily routine, or maybe immediately on the drive home from the breeder, we fall in love with these creatures. We kiss all over them, cuddle with them, and take them everywhere we go, like real companions. Like kids.

It’s been over a year since my husband spent hours on Craigslist in research mode to find just the right dog for us: a mini Golden-doodle. In a litter of 11, we hoped for her. Not a minute past the date and time allotted we emailed her name as our top pick. Just before Christmas, we were texted a picture of our first-choice puppy in a wrapped box. “Gray is yours!” it read. Now she is full grown, short and even a bit chunks-chunk. We named her Gray because that was the color of her collar. It was easier than late-into-the-night conversations about which literary figure or artist we hoped she would grow up to be like. So Gray, a half poodle and half retriever, is half-trained. Unfortunately, she wags her tail when I make my mean voice/mean face. My guess that’s a bad sign. Maybe you relate, Gray seems to fit the “strong-willed dog” chapter in the puppy manual.

Each day, I find a few life lessons popping up when I observe this dog. It’s curious how much “human” they have in them and yet they eat trash, which most humans don’t find tempting. They are smart on a level that floors me, and yet so dumb at the same time. I guess that does sound like a human. Oh, a day with my dog. Sometimes she looks at me as if to say, “Well, Dawn, at this point, I was hoping to be further along in your training.” And in some ways, she’s right, doggon-it. I think Ms. Gray has some solid tips to share. If you are a pet lover and need a good challenge now and then from a dog, keep an eye out for my blogs that feature The Gray Girl. You may find them amusing, but you may find them helpful as you raise your kids. Maybe one day Gray will speak English and learn to write; that way, she can teach you herself. Until then…I’ll interpret her lessons for you.

Dog lovers…I’d love to know how you have been raised by your dog too :)

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