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Pup Up with the Joneses

Most mornings when I drag myself out of bed for my 5AM display of writing discipline, I head to our study and shut the door.

Now that winter has finally arrived, however, something in me craves the company of the wood stove (it’s a want, not a need – our earth-sheltered house keeps the temps pretty steady), and I’ve been making my way out to my kitchen-study.  On these mornings, a soft jingle greets me as Katy, the wonder dog surreptitiously hops off the big green recliner in the family room, and I start the morning with a chuckle, amazed she still engages in the charade, if only once a day.

When I was a kid, my parents had a big black Lab named Rurik (my mom was studying Russian history then).  Their house was decidedly neater than ours – the neatness gene went to my sister – and there was never a question of whether dogs should be allowed on furniture.  Rurik was not.  Still, while he never openly challenged this rule or appeared to disobey at night, my mom would sometimes find a mass black fur on the burnt-umber sofa cushions after a day out.

We had this same pattern of rules and quiet, civil disobedience with our first dog after we moved to Vermont.  We acquired Josie, a Spoffordshire Terrier mix, from the local shelter while we were still under the influence of the German suburban sensibilities we had absorbed a couple years earlier while living just north of Frankfurt.  While our international experience hadn’t pumped up my cleaning mojo much, we did come back with certain ideas about how dogs should behave, and reserving furniture for humans was one of them.  Like Rurik, Josie had her ideas too, and she obeyed when we were there and left the telltale black-and-white fur on the sofa while we weren’t.

But the longer we lived in Vermont, the more suburban sensibilities we shed.  After the second year, we both abandoned any interest in restoring the front door of our then 200 year-old farmhouse and creating a formal entrance – the default entrance in Vermont is through the mudroom.  We both enthusiastically embraced the Vermont version of business casual (wearing your good jeans or newer Carhardts to work), and as we visited homes and got to know more of our neighbors, I unconsciously noticed that many people let dogs on furniture.

When we got Katy, we still stuck to our old ways – more out of habit than conviction now, but after a  year I found the evidence that she had taken up the dogs-on-furniture banner.  We caught her once or twice and shooed her off, but I clearly did not express my position well enough.  I wasn’t sure what my position was now.

She must have sensed a possible change in doggie fortunes in our house because soon after I brought home the green recliner from a tag sale, she staked it out as her spot.  The Big Guy shooed her off multiple times.  I did it a few times.  But each time she would return, soon not even waiting for us to leave before she slid one paw and then another onto the seat and then her body the rest of the way onto the chair.

I’ve chosen my big battles at this point.  The only ones I wage seriously now are to be sure Thing1 finishes seventh-grade English with as few psychological scars as necessarily and that Thing2 takes off the rainbow wig before school.  It might be because the Wonder Dog looks relatively cute sitting on that chair, but now, when I go over to give her a little petting, I realize that I’m getting almost too good at letting go of little battles.  Some people might call that laziness, and maybe I am lazy.  We’re not just not keeping’ up with the Joneses, we’ve given up on the whole race.  And while that may be a sign of our sloth, it does give us a chance to look around and enjoy the journey.