[I've always loved dogs more than babies.]
I'm an unabashed dog lover. When I see one, my heart leaps. I get younger. My mind quiets. My instinct is to nuzzle the dog. To let the dog nuzzle me. I know not all dogs are people-lovers, as all people are not dog-lovers. But it doesn't matter. I turn to mush. Dog putty. I want to curl up in a ball on the floor, surrounded by fur and paws and dog saliva and not communicate with people. I know this sounds disgusting to non-dog lovers, but it's how I feel. Give me a yellow tennis ball and a chocolate lab and I'll be out of your hair for hours. My affection for dogs is pure and addictive. I'm like a boy at a monster movie, cupping a supersize Coke, guzzling and burping. No need to come up for air. In the presence of dogs, I boil down to my purest self. Most four-legged animals make me feel this way. I wish I could say the same for babies. Babies and I operate on a different level. My insides don't turn to apple sauce and cherry cobbler in the company of babies. It's an honest admission from a pregnant woman. I'd rather watch a two-hour Discovery Channel documentary on the mating habits of otters than tune into some TLC reality show about 25 screaming kids and their tummy-tucked mother.
While I have always enjoyed the company of children -- peculiar, opinionated, imaginative children -- babies have always existed to me on another planet, in another solar system, in another galaxy, ruled by exotic women wielding bottles and burp cloths, juggling diapers and cranky rattles with a gummy smile, blessed with better instincts and motherly warmth than me. I know my time will come. In less than three months to be exact. Until then, I mother my pug, a sausage-shaped fur child with raspy breath, a flat gorilla nose and paws pads that smell like corn chips. If my pug were a child, he'd be in first grade by now. He'd be carrying a Star Wars lunch box, packed with a salami sandwich, string cheese and a juice box Maybe fifty cents for a hot pretzel. He'd be well-adjusted and sleep through the night. Sure, he'd pee on his friend's toys in a futile and offensive attempt to mark them as his own. But he'd be well-groomed and well fed. He'd play with the neighbors and go on long walks with his mom long walks with his dad. He'd have performed on stage in Tampa. He'd have traveled across the country in a two-door Honda Civic. Camped in a two-man tent in the Smokey Mountains, in the middle of Missouri along a creek in Colorado beside a lake in Utah and a hayfield in Idaho. He'd have climbed Pike's Peak in Colorado's Springs, where he'd have sunk his bare toes into snow for the first time, which would have confused him because it was summer and at the bottom of the mountain, we were sweating. He'd have eaten the snow. He'd have wade up to his belly in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. And when he returned to Florida after nearly two months on the road he'd have sprung like a greyhound into his daddy's arms. By his fifth birthday, he'd have developed an annoying habit of begging for cookies by scratching incessantly on the garbage can. But he'd know when to stop when his parents banish him to the living room, where he'd forget about the cookies and instead stretch out on the couch, where he'd play the part of his mother's good luck charm during a heated game of Rummy. He would be profoundly loved, if my pug were a child. Which is all I need to know to bridge the light-years I often think separate me from the planet of the perfect moms. --- PS. The picture was taken in 2006 by my friend Peter Acker, an awesome photographer and wonderful friend. We were at the 17th Street Paw Park in Sarasota. I was surrounded by mutts. Unbridled joy.