At 4 a.m. when our dog, Murphy, inexplicably hops up and runs to the top of the stairs with his head cocked to one side and his tail arrow straight in the air, I beg him to talk and tell me what has him so rattled.
I know that in a moment he will be curled up, fast asleep as if nothing happened and I will be spooked from the experience for hours, imagining all manner of harm because I have no facts to dispute the notion.
The rest of the time however, I am thankful he is unable to utter a word. Because, like a life-long friend from grade school, he knows too much. I take his silence as acquiescence and validation. If he actually spoke, everything might unravel. Here is why:
He knows my secrets.Murphy could crack my carefully crafted parental façade in a nanosecond. He sees everything because he follows my every move. He sees that I forgot to buy milk at the store despite a list and 3,000 reminders from the kids. He then witnesses me recover from that misstep by adding water to the milk jug, shaking it and placing it back in the fridge before the kids come down for breakfast.
He is also aware that often times I get in my car and drive away only to return again moments later. As I skid to a stop in front of the house, leave the driver’s door open and fly back into the house to retrieve the bag, water bottle, wallet or phone that was forgotten, he takes it all in without being able to tell a soul how truly pathetic I am.
He judges me. I am sure of this.
Five episodes into a recent “Sex and the City” marathon, Murphy planted himself at my feet and gave me a withering look. The words “get up, and do something productive,” were written all over his face. No doubt, the word “productive” would translate into a walk for him.
I didn’t move; but only because one of his treats was within reach so I was able to toss it to him as a distraction without lifting my feet off of the ottoman. He acts so haughty like he wouldn’t watch the Animal Planet channel nonstop if given the opportunity. Please.
And when I eat the equivalent of half a dozen cookies in raw dough every time I bake, he squints his eyes in disdain, sizing me up as the batter covered beater hangs out of my mouth. His steady stare silently chastises me for taking food from my children; as he remains hopeful that there is some there for him.
Yes, I know the box says the dough yields two dozen cookies but everyone—except dogs—also knows that number is just a guideline. Good old Betty Crocker has, no doubt, licked countless beaters and ingested more raw eggs than Sylvester Stallone in the “Rocky” movies. She knows the score.
So, it is a blessing that Murphy can’t converse with me because I really don’t have the energy to explain that someone needs to test this stuff and make sure it is safe for my family. All my energy needs to be focused on not wasting any dough, also a valuable lesson in food conservation for my children. If we are being honest, sneaking batter is but one of the selfless sacrifices I make as a mother every day; a concept obviously lost on the canine world.
He would confirm what I already suspect.
For an animal, Murphy is pretty good with the non-verbal cues. When he hangs his head as we walk in to get him groomed, I suspect he is miserable. If he could verbalize his feelings, then I could not rationalize that he is fine after I leave.
He would surely tell me he is miserable in the car, walking into the groomer, while he is there getting groomed and for an hour after we get home. He would blather on about how insulting my fake smile and over-enthusiastic wave are as I turn my back on him and walk out to the car leaving him to suffer alone.
He would then challenge me by asking if I would like to be placed on a stainless steel table and subjected to poking, prodding and scrubbing before being put in a cage and confined until someone came to set me free. Little does he know that after three babies, I know all about steel tables and being poked, prodded and feeling totally trapped. He has nothing on me here.
He might be smarter than I think he is
Or I might be dumber… or something like that. Either way, I have had great success tricking Murphy into doing anything I want him to do. Toss that rawhide bone out on the deck, watch him scamper after it and then slam the door behind him. Look at me; I am so crafty!! He falls for it every time!
But what if Murphy looked at me laughed and said, “Sucker!” What if it turned out that he goes through the motions of being agitated, barking and following me everywhere just knowing that I will toss him a treat to get rid of him? He is probably laughing all the way to the yard, high-fiving his puppy friends and marveling at his success in tricking his owner into doing his bidding. I could very well be the laughing stock of his canine crew and Murphy the hero who reigns supreme.
As I am left to wonder about these thing and more; Murphy is at it again. He is staring at me right now. Does he know I am talking—well, writing—about him this very second? Maybe so, but most likely he just wants his belly rubbed and I am barking up the wrong tree.