I’m a mom of a little guy named Tucker. Uh, yeah. He’s a dog. No, no special breed. A little bit of a lot of things. Just like me. I guess we’re both mutts.
Being Tucker’s mom has taught me so much, and not just information I needed about nutrition, immunizations, exercise and behavior. I learned about being responsible for another life. It’s not easy, and sometimes it’s a burden. But, in the end, it’s SO worth it.
Believe it or not, taking care of Tucker has made me appreciate my mother more. She had all my current responsibilities and then some. Tucker’s five years old. Though he still needs me, he’s pretty independent now. It takes humans a lot longer to grow up, so heavy-duty parenting goes on and on and on … What my mom must have gone through! Did I ever say thank you? By taking care of Tucker, I get a glimpse of just how hard it must have been.
Food, Glorious Food
Tucker would happily dine out of the garbage can if I let him. He’d eat cat droppings and anything that rolls onto the floor. When I was little, I was obsessed with sugarcoated cereal and licorice. Also, if I found gum on the sidewalk, I’d pop it into my mouth. How did I survive to adulthood? Because of my mom, of course. Sure, I wanted sweets 24/7, but that doesn’t mean I got them.
Mom kept healthful foods around the house, and they went on my plate. I did get treats once in awhile, but seldom licorice! I follow the same rules with Tucker. I give him the food his veterinarian recommends. I follow serving portion guidelines. Tucker would be a butterball if I let him feed whenever he wants. Doggie snacks are for special occasions, no matter how much he pleads with those soulful eyes.
You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile
Thinking of food reminds me of brushing teeth. My mother had a strict oral hygiene regimen and indoctrinated me early. And guess what? No cavities! The procedure is so ingrained now that I feel naked if I don’t have dental floss in my purse. I want Tucker’s teeth to be strong, too. I’d feel so bad if he ended up as a toothless old man.
Tucker’s a rescue, and I didn’t get him as a puppy. Much as I tried brushing his teeth when he first adopted me, the fight wasn’t worth it. So I give him rawhide, which he loves to gnaw. While he chews, he’s also clearing away tooth gunk. When his vet insists, I admit I take Tucker to a doggie dentist. Neither of us likes the process, but I want his teeth to be as healthy as mine. We both have big smiles in all our selfies, and I plan to keep it that way.
And speaking of health … I managed to get through childhood without any serious diseases or injuries. I was a bit of a risk-taker, but my mom tempered my wild child activities with regular visits to my pediatrician. I got the annual physical and recommended immunizations. Whenever Mom was unsure, she’d make a quick call to the doctor’s office. Usually it was nothing. Apparently falling head first from a loft bed doesn’t actually crack the skull. Who knew?
I’m the same way with Tucker. Once a year, like clockwork, we’re off to the vet, no matter how much Tuck complains. Honestly, you’d think they torture him there rather than shower him with affection. He’s up to date on all his shots. If I notice something out-of-the-ordinary, I’m on the phone. Like the time his eye was so watery and bloodshot — a course of antibiotics, and he was fine. I learned you don’t mess around with the eyes.
To keep me healthy, my mother was obsessed with safety. But now that I think about it, “obsessed” is too strong a word. I think I just mean she was “parental.” Look both ways before crossing the road, don’t run with scissors and, sadly, don’t chew gum you pick up from the ground. Mom had double duty — be aware of common dangers and anticipate what other trouble I could get into. And I tried… believe me, I tried.
Tucker is the doggie-me, always getting into something. I have to maintain constant vigilance to keep him safe. Like the time I had mice in the house. I heard the scrabbling feet at night and saw the telltale droppings. I wanted them out — fast — but needed to be cautious about it. Using poison could be toxic to my dog. Remember, he’ll eat just about anything. I ended up with a humane trap that Tucker can’t mess with.
All You Need Is Love
Without a doubt, the most important parental lesson Mom ever taught me was unconditional love. It didn’t matter what stupid antics I got up to or how many times I screamed, “I hate you!” I always heard “I love you.” It’s not that she let me off the hook. My mother was strict but, in retrospect, I’d have to admit she was also fair. She never gave up on me. Look at me now — a functioning member of society and a proud dog-mom.
It’s the same way with Tucker and me. I love him to death, but he can be so incredibly frustrating sometimes!
His unquenchable and embarrassing interest in sniffing people’s private areas. His demands to be scratched NOW, no matter how busy I am. His undying love for all things stinky. Sometimes he drives me crazy. But I signed up for this. I knew he wasn’t perfect when I adopted him, and, by now, he’s realized the same about me. But, trite as it sounds, love does conquer all.
Sometimes it’s tough being Tucker’s mom, but I’m pretty sure my mother had it a lot harder. Actually, thinking back to how I was as a kid, I’m absolutely certain. I whined more than Tucker does, but I never begged for food at the table. Seldom. Ah, well. Sorry, mom, and thanks.