Oddchester: How to turn a lab into a blinged-out lap dog
Daughter Emma, 10, desperately wants a dog.
She has been checking out dog books from the library, constantly scouring the Paws & Claws website and drawing pictures of dogs and leaving them in conspicuous locations around the house. Every fourth-grade writing assignment she has turned in for the past three months — regardless of assigned topic — has been redirected and reworked to be about dogs.
Here’s a depressing twist: We already have a dog.
Emma, though, desperately wants a Pomeranian. Pomeranians, for those of you unfamiliar with the history of dog breeds, have been specifically bred — over thousands of years — to be voiced by Zsa Zsa Gabor in movies about talking dogs.
Our dog, Scout, an 8-year-old chocolate Lab, is the furthest thing imaginable from the kind of blinged-out dog that could be carried in a purse.
Scout has been a phenomenal dog. Sure, she has had her share of issues. Such as when she chewed off a saucer-sized circle of fur on her side — and spent a week wearing one of those giant plastic neck cones that made it look like she had fallen tail-first into a giant funnel. There was the full-basement cleanup caused by what we now only refer to as the “Flaming Hot Cheetos” incident. Earlier this month, Lindy sent me the following text: “Just a heads-up, the dog ate somewhere between 6 and 15 granola bars.”
Scout has made her mark on our family through her collection of hundreds of low-key examples. The way she rests her head on the kids’ stomachs whenever they lie on the floor. The way she seems to smile — laugh even — when she lays on her back and one of us scratches her stomach. The week when son Henry was extremely sick, and she lay against his closed bedroom door, just waiting for him to come out. The look she gave me — I swear she shook her head and mouthed the words, “Why are you doing this to me?” — when I had to Velcro that plastic cone of shame around her neck.
So when Emma began openly begging us for a Pomeranian — when she would scream with delight every time she saw one on TV — Lindy and I got the feeling Scout realized what was happening. And she found it hurtful.
It got to the point where the rest of us didn’t want Scout to overhear.
One recent Sunday, with Emma sick, we let her veg on the couch and watch Netflix. She spent the day searching for then streaming films from cinema’s worst-imaginable genre — movies about talking dogs. Almost every one of these feature a Pomeranian.
Periodically, we give Scout stuffed animals, usually from the dollar store or Goodwill, and she toys with them for a while before inevitably destroying them. It’s always a bit disturbing, especially if the animal has one of those squeaking devices in its innards because that gives the illusion it is screaming in pain.
That Sunday — and this story is so insane I’m going to make a point here of saying my wife will vouch for its validity — we gave Scout a tiny stuffed dog. Not quite a Pomeranian but close enough. That night, after having spent the entire day listening to Emma praise those Pomeranians, Scout ate the face — and just the face — off that tiny stuffed dog. Then left it sitting in the middle of the living room.
It honestly made Lindy and I wonder aloud if our dog was sending some sort of threatening message.
After months of Emma’s begging, she finally realized, two weeks ago, that we were not giving in.
Since that moment, she has decided to do the next best thing to getting a Pomeranian. She has focused her energy into converting our 8-year-old, 80-pound Lab into a blinged-out lap dog.
It is not unusual, now, to walk into the living room and see Scout wearing a pink bandana. Or a headband. Or laying on the couch on Emma’s lap.
Scout, apparently enjoying the attention, has been accepting — playing along, even — in a way I am certain she would not have before the start of Emma’s Pomeranian push.
It has worked the other way as well. Scout still rests her head on the kids’ stomachs whenever they lie on the floor. She still seems to smile — laugh even — when she lays on her back and one of us scratches her stomach. But now she gets the attention of a puppy.
It took Emma’s search for a new dog, apparently, to make us, once again, appreciate the one we’ve got.