Monday, January 23, 2012

A Friend for Mindy

Mike and I never intended to create a “middle child” when Naomi was born.  Although I had read every book I could find on sibling rivalry to prepare Jenna, our firstborn, for the arrival of her baby sister, I didn’t put much thought into preparing our dog. Sure I sent Mike home with a baby hat from the hospital with Naomi’s scent and I allowed Mindy to sniff Naomi in my arms and lay her head on her blanket to encourage their bond. But soon after I was thrown into survival mode with crying infant and tantruming two year old battles.

I remember days not long ago when I’d have a screaming Naomi in my right arm, a hysterical Jenna on my left hip and Mindy using the couch as a spring board to repeatedly make eye contact with me as I did endless laps around the living room.   If I tried to nurse Naomi, Mindy would burrow onto my lap, flip her belly up and enthusiastically thump me with her tail while Naomi was shot in the eye with a stream of milk. Most days I was too tired to do more than move Mindy to the side and pet her head a couple times.

My mom had a Chihuahua named Holly who made war with the carpet under my brother’s crib when he was born, so it is a credit to our terrier/Italian greyhound mix that she handled the transition as well as she did.  Mindy got depressed for a while and a touch rebellious.  She’d steal Jenna’s food whenever she got the chance, pull out and shred the garbage bag from our flip top pail and “kill” diapers so the “remains” covered three rooms.  As things grew more and more chaotic, Mike and I decided that Mindy was feeling neglected and that we had to take action to help her feel less forgotten.

Mike and Jenna started taking Mindy on long walks in our neighborhood twice a day. We bought some special dog treats, bones, and toys just for her-most of which she just sniffed at and then ignored. We placed special soft blankies in her crate and went out of our way to snuggle under the covers each night during family movie time.  It was crowded to be sure, but gradually Mindy’s spirits lifted a bit.  But the bounce in her paws didn’t completely return until Christmas. 

My family packed up Christmas night and drove to my Aunts’ house in North Georgia for a week long cost effective vacation.  My Aunts have dogs so it was wonderful to be able to take Mindy along.  She enjoyed tasting the dog scented toys and bones and for the first time was able to experience the freedom of a fenced in yard. Because of Rudolph and Frosty Jenna was dying to see snow and amazingly her wish came true on our second night there.  Jenna and Mindy were in their glory! Mindy darted around like she was experiencing life for the first time.  Leaping and jumping like a kangaroo on a diet of Mountain Dew, she bounded to and fro after tiny snow balls Jenna tossed through the air.  Their joy was contagious and Mike, the whole family, and I came back with a full battery charge. 

Something must have triggered new life in Mindy because after that trip she developed a taste for toys.  Of course it wasn’t the doggy ones we bought her. No, it was one toy in particular that Mindy set her mind to.  Mindy fell in love with Naomi’s pink Pillow Pet.  At first we fought it.  Naomi and Mindy would be sitting on the foam mats on the floor, each with their face burrowed into the fluffy piggy body.  Naomi would squeal with delight as Mindy would take the pig by the neck and pull it toward herself a little at a time.  I’d take it from Mindy, tell her no, give Mindy her chew bone and the pig back to Naomi.  I’m sure Mindy was confused by the mixed messages because Naomi would slap the pillow happily and grunt at Mindy to encourage her to play some more. 

A few days later I noticed the pig was being relocated to odd places: behind the lace curtains in the window, under our bed or Naomi's crib, stuffed between the blankets in Mindy’s crate.  At first I suspected Jenna was the culprit and was hiding the toy to get back at Naomi for sliming her new tea set. But one day I caught Mindy red handed while I pretended to be folding laundry.  Mindy slowly crept up to Naomi, and grabbed the pig pillow by the scruff of the neck like a mother dog carries her puppy. I waited a moment, followed her to the bedroom, and then peaked around the corner. 

There Mindy was in our bed burrowed beneath our pillows, her paws wrapped protectively around the pig pillow’s neck.  Just as I was about to scold her I stopped when I realized that Mindy was carefully grooming the stuffed toy.  She gave it a few flea bites, bathed it and nuzzled it, and turned it over each way to make sure it was thoroughly clean just as a good mommy would do.  Then she pressed her forehead into the neck of the pig and fell asleep.  It melted my heart.  I decided to give up the three week long fight and relinquish the pig pillow for Mindy to love.

Now Mindy-dog carries that piggy everywhere.  She drags it from room to room and lays on it at my feet.  Mindy pushes it into the living room windowsill and with one paw draped over its back she barks at neighbors walking by.  If by chance the stuffed pig starts to fall off the couch, Mindy will grab it by the neck with her mouth, growl softly, drag it back, give it a few soft tongue licks, and then go back to barking out the window. I’ve never seen a dog so in love or one so happy to have found new purpose in life.  I guess in the end Mindy was just looking for a baby of her own to love.  

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