I Can Imagine Her with Kids

I Can Imagine Her with Kids

My neighbor got herself a dog. I knew about it before she told me or before I even saw the dog because it’s hard not to hear it barking every time someone comes up the stairs to the landing.

I don’t mind the barking. I grew up with dogs. But I can’t help smiling when I hear her try to keep the dog from barking, with her harshest tone yelling out his name and an order to keep silent. H.E. swears it sounds like she’s merely adding her own barking to his. It’s ineffective at best, and I can’t imagine the dog even understands what she means by the words “Be quiet!”

It’s not just the barking, though. The dog lacks discipline in other things. Sometimes, from my little work space, I can hear the dog getting away from her, running down the steps and all over the parking lot. She’d yell at him to “get back in here!” More than that, she’d tell him to “go back up those steps and get inside!” Again, more words than I think the dog even understands. If I didn’t know better each time I heard her yelling, I could swear she was yelling at her own kids. That is, if she had any, I’m almost certain her tone of voice would be the same.

“Junior! You get back in here right now! Right now! You hear me?!”

I can hear her try to instill some authority into her voice, but I don’t think it’s working. The dog certainly isn’t convinced that she’s his alpha and continually does whatever the heck he feels like doing. She could be yelling threats to cut off his balls, and all of it would be meaningless noise to him.

It makes me think back to the dogs I used to have and to the way my family dealt with them. I don’t remember a whole lot of yelling at the dogs. If we had to quiet them down, we “shushed” them with a hissing sound and a hard look, and that was that. But I don’t remember that being a problem at all in the first place. Even when I last spent any considerable time with a dog, there was very little barking, and even then it was only when the dog was distressed.

I feel lucky with my cat. All I have to do is call out to her and pat the surface of the bed, and there she will appear, cute and quiet as can be. She’ll curl up against me in the night snoring softly away, and during the day she never gets away from me and the house so that I feel the need to yell out to the neighborhood for her. In fact, she won’t go near an open door to the outside. She won’t even jump up on tables or counters. She won’t eat other people’s food.

The only time I ever have to discipline my cat is when she gets overexcited—she likes to lie on her side with her belly exposed so that I can brush her from head to toe; but sometimes, after a good long brushing, she starts to get excited and play with the brush, grabbing for it and then biting me in the process. If she bites hard enough to break my skin, I have to tap her on the head to remind her to cool it.

If I ever have kids, I hope they’re just as easy for me to discipline.

My neighbor? She should probably wait a while.

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