At the end of August, my sister packed her bags and moved to Chicago to study art, leaving my parents as empty nesters. My parents had spent, just as they had done for me, roughly 18 years holding my sister’s hand, wiping her mouth, and making sure she got up every time she fell. Now they’d have to just trust that she’d survive in Chicago by herself. They suddenly had twice, or even thrice, as much time on their hands.
To fill the void their children left, some couples start going to the theatre or develop hobbies. My parents bought a dog. Our one-year-old puppy, Eddie, has slowly but surely replaced my sister and me. Over the past weekend, I realized the full extent of the problem: my parents worship the ground this dog poops on.
My parents have become those “dog people” that I used to mock, the ones who treat their dog like a human being. Who in their right minds would leave a dog an inheritance? Now I’m starting to question the future of my financial comfort. I can already see my dad using patrilineal inheritance as a justification: “Eddie is after all our only male offspring.”
They do the most embarrassing things, like call Eddie my brother and put him on the phone. They buy umbrellas with golden retrievers on them and attend the Dog Whisperer’s show in Ottawa. Eddie somehow got a needle embedded under his jaw, and my parents spent the equivalent of two iPads to remove it. No matter what Eddie does, my parents will always love him.
If I were to rate how my parents see my dog through an arbitrary point system, this is roughly how it would go:
Eddie eats my shoe:
Alison: -20 points
Parents: +5, because I should have put my shoes away.
Eddie wakes me up at 8 a.m.:
Alison: -5 points. If he had given me an extra hour it would have been cute.
Parents: +20 points, because they told him to do it. “Good boy!”
Eddie tries to roll over but gets stuck halfway:
Alison: +10, he looks like a turtle, that’s hilarious. He’s so stupid.
Parents: +20, he looks so cute.
On a recent weekend visit back home, I took the dog for a walk. In my everyday outdoor attire, a beige pea coat and jeans, we headed towards the park. I didn’t realize I should have suited up for World War Three.
By the time I got home both Eddie and I were completely covered in mud, despite every other dog and owner at the dog park remaining sparkly clean. As I walked through the door, Eddie had about -543 points in my books. The sly grin on my parents’ faces killed me. I could tell Eddie had just gained at least another 20 points.
What they see in this dog puzzles me. All I know is that I have to forget about my inheritance because there are more pressing concerns. Next time I come home, Eddie will have my room and I’ll be sleeping in the kitchen.