Speaking of Dogs

by Steve

Take diabetes, for instance. In many ways, raising a dog is a lot like controlling blood sugars, minus of course the extreme health risk. You study the science. You learn the technique. You get up every day determined to do your best and when things go the way you had planned you celebrate. You applaud and pat yourself on the back. Maybe you even dance and talk silly. Whatever shape it takes, you know in that very moment you’ve done something right. And if it goes the other way and not as you’d intended? Well, you might wonder perhaps, as I’d done with the dog: What on earth did I do wrong.

I find myself doing that more than I should and I hope that my feelings of underachievement go by Lia unnoticed. It is something that comes with parenting, I think. Wanting the best for your children, disappointed when you fall short. Even when something like blood sugar can’t always be explained. Trying to understand why it goes up or down is like asking Jake to account for his running off and then, because knowing why is only half the battle — it still doesn’t fix it, you have him describe what he saw. He just looks at you.

The alternative to that is easier, but frankly no less productive. Such was the case when Jake finally returned and I saw him out front in the yard, tearing through the trash bag containing the shells of moules à la marinière we’d had the night before. I stomped and got blistering mad and banished him for good to the outdoors. By dusk I was over my anger and went out to clean him up, only to find him gone once more.

Oh, were yelling to work with diabetes. I could curse and threaten and abandon all thought of ever showing it kindness again, but it would not listen and before the day would turn over, I’d have shed myself of the disillusion and disappointment and let it back into my heart because so much of who we are is not chosen but given or comes to us freely. In learning to accept that about diabetes, I have also learned to love it.

That is a strange thing to say. I love my daughter’s diabetes. I don’t, of course, love it. I hate it. I despise every moment that I or my wife or Lia, or anyone else, has to spend trying to understand and outwit it. I wish it were different for all of us, and especially for Lia, but wishing won’t change anything and if it could there is one thing I would not want for and that is that she were any other child or I any other parent. I love her and so love all that comes with her.

As for the dog?

Commitment. Loyalty. Obedience.

Two out of three isn’t bad.