I hate the words "liberating" and "empowering." They drive me crazy for some reason. Probably just overuse. But it occurred to me today how "liberating" it can be to have a dog for a four-legged daughter.
I was sitting on the couch with her this morning (my fur-daughter, Krimpet) and (I'm going to come clean with you here -- I do this a lot) I was talking to her and petting her. And I, I mean, I talk -- like, full paragraphs.
We have a lot of one-sided conversations, Krimpet and I. She seems to try hard to understand.
In short, she's good for the old ego.
But what's "liberating" is that I get to make all of the mistakes with her I could never allow myself to make while raising kids. In a way, I can even be mentally abusive. I can tell her, over and over, how unbelievably beautiful she is. I can chide her for having a burr in her fur with statements like, "How can you possibly be beautiful with burrs in your fur? [Removes burr.] There. You are the most beautiful girl in the whole world again." I'm, like, daddy dearest for God's sake.
And, furthermore, when she is wet after a swim or a bath, I often tell her that she is the ugliest creature I have ever seen in my entire life -- in those exact words. (And, really, she looks awful when she is wet. Just awful. She goes from Lassie to Gollum in an instant. It's really creepy.) Still, she looks at me with love in her eyes, even stinking of wet fur: "Nothing you can ever say will make me love you less, dad... If you say I am ugly, I''m ugly... Now, about that ear-scratch..."
...yet, in the next breath, I might call her an "absolute moron." This could be prompted by her running, at top speed, into a shut screen door or barking at a leaf for an hour. She has been, at choice moments "the dumbest creature God has ever created" and "a class 'A' ass." My favorite is a short, accented: "Imbecile!"
At tender moments, I assure her that her (literally) pointed head (she has a ridge like Pluto) is no indication of a small brain and that we will prove this by sending her to MIT some day. "Dream big, Krimpet -- you can do anything you set your walnut-sized mind to."
But, turning on a dime, I might call her "worthless" because she neither chases mice nor cleans the floor of crumbs. (I never knew a dog who would turn her lengthy nose up to a fallen treat...until this beloved cretin.)
And through it all, she looks at me, lovingly. There is no danger of scarring her with either misguided kindly words or by chopping down her self-esteem. With in the span of an hour, she can be called: "little friend," "dimwit," "the most beautiful girl in the world," and "Captain Bonehead."
I am free to say what I wish and I will receive unconditional love. This is mostly because, of course, she doesn't speak English. But this doesn't change the fact that I prefer her company to that of just about any human. In fact, I can honestly say that there are only about eight humans I would rather be with than with her and that list often wavers to lower numbers, depending on my mood.
In fact, I would risk my life or (I'm guessing, if the circumstances presented themselves) even give it up for her. One thing I do say to her, every day, is that she is "the best friend a guy ever had."
And there is another thing talking to her liberates me from: the writer's fear of cliche. Man's best friend.
Anyway, the bottom line is that she is very well adjusted. She even covers her privates with her tail when she lies on her back.