Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Open to interpretation

Did I mention the dogsitting? I don’t believe I did. In one of those no-good-deed-goes-unpunished situations, my household found itself at +1 in the dog column over the Fourth of July weekend. At a remove, I suppose it’s kind of fascinating how these things play out. To be a veterinarian, as my wife of course is, one must maintain a examining tableside manner which simultaneously earns and keeps the trust of a frightened animal and also gladhands the owner who, nine times out of ten, is about to be informed that they must spend a certain not insignificant amount of money to maintain the health of their pet. One of the ways in which this can be accomplished is to cuddle and coo over the pet in the most complimentary ways possible, and my wife is really aces at this. Helping her out is the fact that she genuinely does love animals, so to a large extent when she gushes to a cat that he is very handsome or insists to a dog that she is the best love-a-muffin in the world, there’s an underlying sincerity that’s simply being amplified for the benefit of the human client. The funny thing is that when my wife meets a legitimately adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (the very same breed as the backup dog we rescued this spring) and enthuses “You are such a good boy! You can come stay with me at my house any time!” the Cavalier’s owner might very well pick up on the grain of truth in my wife’s words and actually come right out and ask if my wife would be interested in dogsitting while the Cavalier’s family goes on vacation for the Fourth. And because my wife is a big-hearted people-pleaser … humans = 3, dogs = 3, severely put-out cats = 1.

It really all worked out fine, and could even be seen as an inoculation against sliding further down the slippery slope of turning our entire house into a large den for a pack of seven or eight dogs. Two dogs has been pushing our limits at certain times. Three dogs was tolerable for a weekend but absolutely untenable in the long term. We probably already knew that, but it doesn’t hurt to be confronted with living proof. The major concern, then, was that our little guy would get attached to the new temporary Cavalier boarder just as he immediately bonded with our own Cavalier, and be crushed when the temporary arrangement came to an end.

At this point I will break longstanding blog protocol and give the guest-dog’s actual name, which is Beaux. Middle name Jangles. I bring this up partly because it plays into the story I’m telling. And partly because … First name Beaux, middle name Jangles. Come on.

Anyway, I got the little guy home from day care yesterday and he started getting a little fussy about getting out of the car. Nor was it immediately clear to me whether he was disappointed that we were home already and weren’t going to be driving around looking for choo-choos and big trucks any more that particular afternoon, or whether he simply objected to the manner in which I was helping him out of the backseat and needed to climb back in so that he could climb back out the right way. My recourse was to retrieve from under the passenger seat a slightly crumpled piece of foam headgear which is a yellow toy construction hat. And in that hilariously random way in which two-year-olds are capable of being distracted, my little guy was much happier with the construction hat on his head and immediately acquiesced to exiting the car and heading from the garage into the house.

Once we were in the house, sure enough, the first thing the little guy said was “where’s bo-bo?” which of course was his name for Beaux. We had been keeping Beaux’s crate just inside the garage door, so its absence was immediately apparent. I reminded the little guy that Beaux was only visiting, told him that now he was back with his own family (my wife had taken Beaux to work that day so the owners could retrieve him), and maybe we’d see him again some time. And we moved on, fairly well … or so I thought.

A little while later as I was trying to get dinner together, the little guy got my attention and pointed to his head. “Bye-bye bo-bo hat?” he asked. This struck me as fairly odd, that he would grasp that Beaux was gone and that we had said goodbye to our guest, and that somehow he would connect this to a construction hat. But I tried to roll with it and said, “Yeah, Beaux’s back home with his family. But, your hat is … pretty cool?” “Bye-bye bo-bo hat!” my son repeated. And we went back and forth a few times until I finally realized that the actual sounds “bah buh boo buh hat” were not in fact connecting Beaux the Cavalier’s departure with haberdashery, but rather that the little guy was saying “Bob the Builder Hat!”

I'm waiting for the Bob the Builder/Maximum Overdrive mash-up.  Because I am a very disturbed individual.
Which, you know, yeah, totally. The little guy really wasn’t fazed by the 33% reduction in dogs in the house. Once again a little overthinking and a little projection go a long way in thwarting the translation of two-year-old-speak.

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