Once upon a time, there was a Mommy who had three little girls: an Oldest, a Middle one, and the Youngest.
When the girls were little, they all loved dogs. They played with their uncle’s dog, Zach; they babysat their friend’s dog, Blackie. And when Blackie stayed with them, they would spend time at the dog park.
The girls loved the dog park. They played with Princess, the golden retriever, who would trot over the minute she spotted them. They petted Dante the Italian greyhound, and marvelled at his tiny agility. And there was Morris, who could jump higher than your head, and loved to romp with the girls.
But the Middle one was the one most in love with dogs. She was most overjoyed when Blackie came, and begged hardest for a dog of their own. Finally, when she was 8, the family started to foster dogs. First came Cookie, then Bernita, then the fiasco of Cocoa and Caramel. Just as the family was ready to give up on fostering, along came Our Best Friend, who joined the family forever. And they should have lived happily ever after.
But life never freezes in its moment of perfection. The girls’ mommy and daddy divorced. Princess and Dante both crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and Morris went to live in another city. Trips to the dog park became a rare occurrence, rather than a common outing. Eventually, the older two girls stopped wanting to go to the dog park altogether.
Their enthusiasm for dog ownership waned as well. The Middle Child, who for a number of years had begged for a second dog, decided that one was more than enough. Taking him out was a chore akin to cleaning the toilet– only worse, because in winter you have to put on your parka and boots. They still loved him, they called him “the softest” and “the lovi-est,” but they no longer wanted to have their own dogs one day. The Youngest became the only one who still couldn’t imagine life without a dog.
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At the park last week, I saw a girl who looked about 11 years old. She walked among a group of dogs, patting each one, and when Our Best Friend trotted by, she patted him too. He stopped and wagged his tail, and she crouched down in front of him to scratch his ears. My heart ached a little, remembering my older girls at that age. and who are now too old and too cool for this any more. I hope the Youngest keeps that innocence a few more years.