|"What are you looking at?"|
I can’t remember if I was ever Star of the Week at school. I received an award from an old employer in 2006…but who wasn’t getting awards from their employers in 2006?…Anyone who didn’t get an award from their employer in 2006 definitely received one in 2007…then the bottom dropped out.
But I digress.
I am currently living with a Star of the Week. Truth be told, he is the Star of My Every Week but recognition at home doesn’t carry the kind of perks that Star of the Week at school brings. Like having your teacher’s permission to bring your giant, old black Labrador retriever to school for Show and Tell.
“Mommy, she said I can bring Stitch.”
“I don’t know, honey. There are 'no dogs allowed' signs all over campus.”
“Julia brought her iguana.”
“Iguanas are different from big dogs. Has anyone ever brought a dog?”
“Yes, Audrey brought her dog. It was big and it’s only one.”
Nick knows the difference between puppy behavior and the behavior of our stately, soon-to-be-ten-year old, pure bread, ex-show dog. That’s right. I am bragging about my dog that I didn’t train. That’s what my life has become.
“Was her dog as big as Stitch?”
I’m not calling my Nick a liar but a tall-tale-teller if it means getting what he wants, absolutely.
“Yes. Definitely as big as Stitch.”
“Alright, honey. I’ll send your teacher an email to confirm day and time. And I’ll get Stitch groomed for his big appearance.”
“Thanks, Mommy. I am so excited. I know they will looove Stitch.”
Stitch visited the groomer Tuesday. When I went to pick him up, she asked if he’d been more lethargic lately, if he was drinking less water. I said I hadn’t noticed any behavior changes and we always give him a healthy amount of water mixed in his food bowl, a bowl that he continues to leave pristine after what feels like no more than 15 seconds of power consumption, so he is definitely drinking water twice daily.
“Well his coat has changed and he has lost weight since last time.” She continued.
“He was just here in the beginning of December. And he’s been getting the same food plus treats and more fruit lately.”
It doesn't matter if Stitch is sound asleep on his bed in our bedroom upstairs, when the knife hits the cutting board at the first slice of an apple for the boys, Stitch is at my side in an instant, tail wagging.
“I know. When is the last time he went to the vet?” She persisted.
“He just went for a check-up and boosters in October.”
“Well, next time you go in, ask them to do a blood panel for thyroid. I’m worried about his thyroid.”
I could feel my chest tighten. Fortunately, I had Jeff with me.
As we walked out the door of the groomer, he gave his typical response to just about anyone's assessment of anything that he doesn't agree with:
“She’s full of shit. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
Whether his response was born of a genuine belief that our crazy groomer who talks openly about having fleas because she sleeps with her flea ridden dogs really is full of shit, or Jeff too felt his chest tighten at the thought of our Stitch beginning to show physical signs of aging, I'll never know.
When we arrived home, I gave Stitch a treat and topped off all three of his water bowls before returning to my desk and getting lost in work.
Stitch's big moment came yesterday. I followed his teacher’s email instructions:
Bring him five minutes before school lets out.
I felt I was running late because that’s how I seem to perpetually live my life so we parked the car and ran together to Nick’s classroom door. Of course Stitch had to stop, sniff, and relieve himself here and there but fortunately the latter was done on some shrubs “outside the school gates”.
The classroom door was open when we arrived, both out of breath. I caught Nick's teacher’s eye and she came to the door.
“We just started a lesson so it will be a couple minutes.”
Soon Nicky was at the door, all smiles.
“Is it time, honey? Did your teacher say it’s time to bring Stitch in?”
The kids seemed to be putting away papers.
“Let me ask.” Nick bolted into the class and back in seconds. “It’s time!”
We shared Stitch’s retractable leash handle as we walked inside together, to the front of the class. The kids were already getting loud and a little rambunctious.
“Nick, do you want to tell everyone about Stitch?” I asked.
“No, you tell them.” He was quick to reply.
I began to search my brain for where I would start…where I could start…I ran a few scenarios through my mind…
ME: We adopted Stitch when he was 17 months old because we couldn’t get pregnant, and the following month the IVF worked. He’s our good luck charm…
SECOND GRADERS: Mrs. Pieri, what’s IVF?
ME: We were going to get a puppy but when we met Stitch, he was so nice and the breeder told us they couldn’t breed him out because they found separation in his hip joint which is a marker for hip dysplasia. They said he may develop a limp and that’s why I hold my breath every time I watch him go up and down the stairs.
SECOND GRADERS: What’s hip dysplasia?
ME: The first time I heard Stitch bark was when a stranger came to our door after Nick and his brother came home from the hospital. He was protecting us.
SECOND GRADERS: From what, Mrs. Pieri?
That won’t work.
ME: I have the best pictures of Nick and his brother putting stickers on Stitch when they were not quite two years old. Stitch just laid there and let them have fun stickering him up. Stitch has always been such a good dog; such a kind, old soul.
I started, “When Nick and his brother were really little…” My voice caught. I could feel the tears coming.
“What mommy?” Nick looked up at me, wanting me to continue. None of the other kids seemed to notice or care as rambunctiousness had turned to chaos when Stitch caught the scent of who knows what under a cluster of desks and scurried himself between legs and under chairs and desks.
I smiled down at Nick.
“What do you think they want to know?”
“They can ask questions.” Nick decided.
“Ok. Does anyone have any questions about Stitch?” I asked as I pulled Stitch out from under the cluster of desks.
The hands slowly went up and at the same time, Stitch began to sniff his way over to another cluster of desks, his back and the top of his head covered in little hands that were now following him around the room.
“How old is Stitch?”
“Did you name him?”
“Does he bite?”
And my personal favorite:
“Um...um…um…I think I forgot.”
Soon the final bell rang and there Stitch and I stood alone together, all but forgotten. Even by Nick, who had moved on to conspiring with his brother for an after school play date.
I have never considered myself a “dog person”, though I did grow up in a household that had one or more dogs at all times. All I can say and say with a great deal of certainty is that Stitch has given me; my family; and countless children in my home, on walks, and at the park, more than most human beings I know.
And he just keeps giving.
|Stitch today (as featured on Nick's Star of the Week poster).|
Yes, I’ve looked into it and it turns out it’s not such a good idea…not that I’ve made my final decision…