I was thirteen when we got our first family dog. Before that, I got my initial lessons in dog ownership from my Grandfather and his dog, Prissy. Prissy was a teeny-tiny golden retriever, she earned her name by the way she carried herself. My grandfather took Prissy everywhere. She did not wear a collar or a leash. Her recall astounded me, she was always at my Grandfather’s heels. It is important to note here that whenever possible, I was also, always at my Grandfather’s side. I loved that he loved dogs and I did love Prissy, but in all honesty, I was terribly jealous of her as she was able to interrupt attention I was getting with the wag of a tail or a simple bark. Even though I was used to sharing the world with my little sister, this was the very first time I experienced a human putting a pet before a human, even if only for a brief moment here or there.
I was just a child when I learned one of my greatest of life’s lessons from my Grandfather. This memory is burned into the fabric of who I am, I recall it vividly. At first, it stuck with me because I felt emotionally scarred. But in reality, the memory clung to me because, well because it was supposed to.
My Grandfather took me to get ice cream and Prissy of course went with us. I was in the back seat with her. My grandfather handed me the ice-cream cone and I did what any child of this age would do, I waved the cone in front of Prissy’s face and said ‘ha, ha dogs can’t have ice cream!’. Before I even knew what had happened, Prissy ate my ice cream cone, whole. In the process, she scratched my finger with her teeth. I screamed. I mean I screamed so loudly that my grandfather had to pull over to fully assess the dramatica unfolding in the back seat. In a fit of tears I somehow communicated that 1. Prissy had STOLEN my ice cream cone and 2. she had attacked me (it seemed like a valid claim at the time).
My grandfather stared back at me for a long time (probably taking time to thank God he’d never had a daughter). And then …
Him: She ate your ice cream cone because you offered it to her.
me: (screaming) I did not!!! I was only showing it to her!!
Him: She’s a dog, you put out your hand with food in it, she took that as a sign to eat it.
me: (IN A FURY) She knew it was mine!! She did it because she knew you’d take her side!!
Him: She’s a dog. She doesn’t understand taking sides. (He was so calm, it almost made sense).
me: (still crying hysterically) You love her more than you love me. (There, I’d said it).
Him: (pausing to respect how utterly wounded I must have looked) I love you both. I could not love either of you any more or any less. You are my first born grandchild, I would give my life for you. She is my best friend, I would run into a burning building to save her. One day, you will understand.
One day indeed you wonderful, wise man. One day indeed.