In the last week Leta has discovered with much delight that an animal worth torturing lives in our house. Before last week he was just a living vacuum to her, always at her side to clean up any food she dropped. In fact, whenever I put her into her highchair for a meal she’ll hear Chuck bolting up the stairs or sliding across the floors in a hurry to partake in whatever she discards and this makes her smile, sometimes giggle, like, Oh, that silly vacuum cleaner. He likes raisins, too!
Last week, however, I noticed that she had become aware that the dog has toys of his own, and ever since then she will crawl over to him while he’s chewing on a bone and YANK IT OUT OF HIS MOUTH. Normally Chuck would respond to this sort of gesture like, Oh so you wanna play it like that? Okay, sucka, we’ll play it like that! And he’d dance around the room trying to get the bone back from you BECAUSE OH MY GOD SOMEONE FINALLY WANTS TO PLAY WITH HIM. Sometimes Jon will get him so riled up that Chuck will be holding on to one end of a tug toy, Jon the other, and he can lift the dog off the floor over and over again as he bounces the toy up and down. It’s very fun to watch especially when Chuck is wearing a flowery, silk blouse with matching sash.
But when Leta tries to engage him in play his ears go missing and he looks up at me like WHY DID YOU BRING HER INTO OUR HOME? Both Jon and I have made it explicitly clear to the dog that if he so much as THINKS about touching or even breathing on the baby the wrong way that we will deliver him to the taxidermist next door with a pink bow on his head. So Chuck chooses not to touch the baby at all. He lost his balls, that dog did. He’d like to keep all his other organs, thank you very much.
We’ve tried to teach Leta how to play with the dog gently because he is after all a member of this family, albeit one who will occasionally eat poo and sit for hours smelling his own bottom. But when we tell her to be gentle all she hears is WAH WAH WAH which apparently means TAKE AWAY THE DOG’S WILL TO LIVE. She could sit for hours pulling at his whiskers with her forefinger and thumb, and once I saw her visibly shiver with pleasure when she gripped his whole snout with her tiny baby hand as if she were calculating in her head how she would one day lift him off the ground by such means.
A few days ago Chuck was standing up looking longingly out the screen door when Leta crawled over and discovered the back side of his body. I was sitting a few feet away on the couch and before she reached up and started pulling on both of his back legs she looked over at me with the hugest grin, like, YOU MEAN HE’S GOT LEGS, TOO? IT’S LIKE CHRISTMAS IN HERE! She managed to pull him a few inches from where he was standing, and before losing his balance he sat down thus presenting her with his imminently pull-able tail which she then began tugging as if it were a rope to pull her to safety.
At that point I couldn’t help but laugh. I tried not to because I suppose we don’t want to encourage the baby to torture the dog, but then I thought, why not teach the baby to torture the dog? Fuck TiVo, just let Leta wave a snack in front of Chuck’s face and watch as the drool pools on the floor beneath his head, his eyes darting to the treat and then back to me IMPLORING me to make her stop. I could watch her torture him for hours, and one of my favorite things she does is crawl to the end of the bed where he is sleeping and fall backwards onto his torso like it’s a big bed of pillows. She thinks this is the funniest thing any human being has ever done, and she will laugh so hard that her tummy shakes. Chuck will gingerly roll over and lick her face, but I know that he’s thinking I HATE ALL YOU MOTHERFUCKERS.
Occasionally she will be very sweet with him, and pat his ears or fiddle with his collar, and those quiet moments are truly beautiful. There are times when she will hold his paw in her hand, brother and sister lying side-by-side in an informal truce, and both Jon and I will look at each other like we do at the end of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and see who is going to cry first. Usually, though, before either one of us can shed a tear she’s grabbed a wad of his furry flesh and is trying to poke out his eyes with her fingers. And he just sits there and lets her explore, because he’s a good dog that way, and because this is nothing compared to being dressed up in a pink tutu and having pictures of it posted on the Internet. Oh dignity, where art thou?