I forgot to mention another family member, one of the furry variety: our dog, Scout. Adopted from the local shelter, he’s always been a little skittish. He’s a loving, patient, low-key, middle-aged beagle who is perfect for us. All he wants are sleep and cuddles. By the time Teen Spirit was 10, he’d been nagging to get a dog for so long he’d perfected an incessant buzz of whining. Like a fly divebombing my head, bzzzing “dog dog dog” all day long. With full-time jobs, long commutes and a new baby on the way, we didn’t think we had the time or energy for a pet, too. I was dug in – it would take an act of God to get me to want a dog. I went to the shelter, under duress, prepared with a litany of reasons why none of the inhabitants suited us. But once I saw those huge brown eyes and his quiet demeanor, I was sold. He was shaking from nerves – because the other dogs were making so much noise barking to get the attention of the new humans checking them out. He was scared then overjoyed when we took him out for a walk around the parking lot. We would have taken him home right then but, of course, there’s a waiting period so they can check out the adoptive family. I don’t know who had it worse that night – the poor quivering canine who had to return to the tiny cage or the people imagining how sad he was in there.
He came home with us a few days later and promptly escaped. Down a busy street. He mastered not bolting every time the front door was cracked an inch, but then figured out how to dig under the backyard fence. Every so often, you’d look out the front windows and think, “Huh, that dog skulking along the sidewalk looks exactly like Scout. I wonder where his owner is.” We made sure to fix that fence.
La Principessa has a more complicated sibling relationship with Scout than she does with Teen Spirit. Scout sits patiently as she plays dress-up with him -- without snapping or nipping, albeit with the put-upon look of a husband dragged through one too many antique shops. Every so often, I arrive home and think, “huh, look at that fuzzy diaper thing she’s got rigged about around Scout’s hindquarters. That’s funny. It looks exactly like my red cashmere scarf. Hey, wait a minute!”
He’s good for her. Caring for him, getting his food, helping with his walks have helped her figure out routines and learn so much. I think it’s helped Scout too – we came to find out other families had adopted and then returned him because he was too timid and introverted for famiiles with more kids, running around expecting him to, well, be a dog. He doesn’t even want to be a dog at the dog park. After running one lap around and engaging in a few perfunctory hello sniffs with his peers, he slinks around to each owner to get a few pets and kisses.
I once looked in at La Principessa having a snack in the family room while Scout was padding around. I heard her rustling (never a good thing) and sounding agitated. When I checked again, I saw Scout’s front paws perched on her knees. He seemed to be trying to hug her. I ran to get my phone to capture this priceless Instagram moment. I thought to myself, “It looks exactly like he’s trying to kiss her. How sweet.” As I got closer, I could see he was actually just eating random food off of her shirt. She swatted him away but then petted him with her small chubby fingers. Which he then licked in hopes of just one more shred of cheddar. I’m not sure what this says about us but he fits right in.