My niece Everly is two and a half. She will let me put her hair in pigtails for a spritz of perfume. She will do anything for chocolate–jump, twirl and/or eat her veggies. When I ask her for a kiss, the response is most often no with a shake of the head. For dog she says, “Woof.”
When Everly was very little Kinsey would lick her face at every opportunity. Once out in the yard Everly found a bit of dog poop and squeezed it between her fingers. Both are quite unsanitary, I’m aware, but I will tell you that Everly does not have a single allergy.
At ten months old, I took Everly in her stroller for walks along the wash nearly every day. Rook was my boy then, and when we walked in the heat of September he couldn’t make it. He hopped into the basket behind Everly’s seat, and I pushed them both home.
One afternoon out at Bass Pro Shop a man walked two Golden Retrievers by the fish tanks. I asked Everly if she would like to pet them. She shook her head. Even at a year, she knew the difference. Those were not our dogs.
When she first began walking, the dogs knocked her over. It made her angry. She hit them. We talked about being kind to animals, and that we don’t hit when we’re angry. She felt bad afterwards, and gave each dog a kiss on the back. (Except for Quincy. She couldn’t catch her.) Now, at two, to avoid being thrown to the ground, she latches onto my leg or plops her bottom on the floor whenever Sherlock is loose.
Everly doesn’t have siblings, but she does share with dogs. If she leaves out a stuffed animal, it is shredded. If she sets down a cracker, it disappears. Sherlock once stole her baby doll out of her hands and ran away from her, tail up in the air with joy. Everly plopped down onto the grass and sobbed.
Since she’s learned to throw, there’s not much more she enjoys than tossing the ball in the backyard for Kinsey. When I put Sherlock on place she says, “MINE!” because she loves him and does not want me to tell her dog what to do. When we feed the dogs, she insists on being in charge of measuring and dumping the food into each bowl. If I get mad and yell at the dogs, she cries. She simply cannot bear it when the dogs get into trouble. (Which breaks my heart, so I’ve tried to moderate my tone. At the end of the school year my patience is short, not just with dogs but with everyone.)
When she is belted into her high chair for dinner she has an attentive audience–Kinsey, Quincy, Sherlock and Izzy. When she was younger food would fly off her tray accidentally. Now she asks before she feeds the dogs her leftovers. I tell her yes, but give some to everyone, and not too much to the little dogs. She clutches uneaten bits of turkey in her hand, and flings it with great abandon for the dogs to pick up off the floor. Kinsey will sneak in closer, head at tray height, and lick the turkey out of Everly’s fingers. Everly doesn’t mind, and offers her more.
A life with dogs is good for kids, but most especially for my sweet Everly.