I didn’t realize just how strong my nine-year-old daughter’s sense of propriety is until just a few days ago. The discovery surprised me. It wasn’t that long ago that she was a devoted nudist who loved nothing better than to run through the house in the buff screaming at the top of her lungs, usually at some slight committed by her older brother.
It happened while we were killing time waiting for the school bus the other morning. The new addition to our house had rolled over on his back and was begging for a belly rub.
The newcomer is Rodney, a nine-month-old giant of a dog who has taken over our house and turned our cat into a paranoid fur ball. Skitty’s been in hiding since we got Rodney a few weeks ago. I’m afraid she’s hidden a bottle down in the basement somewhere and has been hitting it to calm her nerves. Rodney, however, fits right in. He’s just as big a goofy spaz as the rest of us. In his case, it’s because his legs are so long. He looks like he’s running around on stilts. He’ll be formidable when he’s grown into them but for now, he’s at that awkward, dorky stage.
Now, waiting for the school bus in the morning is one of my favorite things to do with my daughter. We started doing it together back when she entered kindergarten five years ago. It was an easy routine to slip into. All we have to do is step out our front door and walk down the driveway. The bus stops right in front of our house. You can’t beat that for convenience.
These days Rodney comes with us. I usually find a ball or something to toss for him and when he needs a break he mingles with my daughter’s friends and we all wait for the bus.
The other morning, though, the three of us emerged from the house early. Nobody was at the bus stop yet so we got down to playing with Rodney immediately. It wasn’t long before he was flat on his back with his tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth and those skinny legs pawing the air.
He was enjoying a good belly rub when I heard my daughter take in a sharp breath. I looked up as her eyes grew wider and wider.
“Dad, don’t pet him THEEERE,” she admonished me.
My hand must have strayed too far south (or would that be west on a dog? Or does it depend on which way they’re pointing? If it does, south only really works if they’re pointing north. I never really thought about that until now).
“It’s okay, honey,” I said. “Believe me, I don’t want to go there.”
She squatted down next to me and gave Rodney a little belly rub of her own.
“Rodney’s fixed, right Dad?” she said next.
“Yea, he’s fixed. We always get our dogs fixed.”
“Well, because there are plenty of dogs in this world already and too many are homeless. We don’t want to contribute to that problem now do we?”
“No, I suppose we don’t.” Then she said, “Can humans be fixed?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Yup. Girls, too.”
“Then who’s fixed? You or Mom?”
“Well … I … ummmm… maybe that’s a question best left for another time.” I finally told her. “Isn’t that your bus pulling up?”
Sure enough, there it was coming to a brake squealing stop at the foot of our driveway.
My daughter grabbed her backpack, ran down the driveway and as she climbed aboard the bus, I looked down at Rodney, who had scrambled to his feet and was standing next to me.
I patted him on the head and, as our eyes met, we quietly resolved to avoid the question of who’s fixed and who’s not. And to my great relief, my daughter hasn’t brought it up, again.
She’s a quick study. I think she’s figured out there are some things men just don’t like to talk about.