On a recent Sunday morning, Galen threw her version of a hissy fit.
It was about seven o’clock, and Kevin wanted to take her for a walk, but Galen didn’t want to go. She stood in the driveway, immobile. Kevin yanked her leash; she stood her ground. He came inside, grabbed a slice of American cheese, and bribe in hand, returned outside. I was sitting at our kitchen island reading the newspaper. I looked out the window expecting to see my husband and our dog round the corner of our driveway into the street. I saw nothing.
Moments later, there was Galen in the backyard, darting after her purple ball, pouncing on it, shaking it, romping with it, exuding pure joy. She’d gotten her way: She was playing ball with her daddy.
Studies show that dogs have the mental acumen of a two-year-old. Both know about 165 words, understand numbers up to four or five, and can show basic emotions like happiness and anger. I would add (anecdotally) that both can be stubborn, especially when demanding their way.
When my now-eleven-year-old was two, she threw a tantrum because she didn’t like an outfit I picked for her. She was intent on choosing her own clothing, which would have been fine if what she chose matched. But it didn’t. So I yelled, she screamed, and we got nowhere. In that moment, I believed that what she wore reflected my competency and ability as a mother, not to mention my sense of style. Kevin stepped into the room and said, “Pick your battles.” I swallowed my pride and empowered my daughter, and from that day forward her clothing clashed – until one day it didn’t. (Of course, by then our younger daughter was either mismatching clothes or leaving the house in full princess regalia.)
As many parents learn, not every battle is worth fighting. But I’ve begun to see that when it comes to Galen, we pick fewer fights. She demands to eat her meals outside. Fine. She refuses to go for a walk. Fine. She wants to walk, but without a leash. Fine, but not on main roads. She sleeps on our bed. Fine –we half-heartedly fought this battle, but caved to her crying. We are suckers for our dog. We are far more strict with our daughters.
Perhaps that’s how it should be. Galen will always live under our roof, a toddler for all time; our girls will grow up, move out, live life on their own. The battles we pick — and choose not to pick — will shape the adults they become. So we indulge our dog, but we battle our daughters. Because we are madly in love with them both.
As Kevin was persuading Galen to go for a walk, I was reading this in the New York Times: “A few months after we took him in, Harley began conducting sit-down strikes during our walks, sprawling as flat as he could in the road in sort of a canine version of planking.” I had to laugh. I’ve stood in this reporter’s shoes, as Galen, too, sat then sprawled mid-walk. It’s nice to know there are other canines as quirky as mine.