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Op-ed

Settling for a granddog. Maybe. | COMMENTARY

My cholesterol pill, white and about half the size of a pea, slipped through my fingers and landed on the beige-and-white shag throw rug that ran down the center of our bathroom floor. I thought, I need to find it before Walter gets here.

Walter is the 2-year-old shaggy, black and white Bernedoodle belonging to my daughter, Jackie, and son-in-law, Lorin. His tongue is almost as big as his bread-loaf-sized paws. He reminds me of a feisty toddler on a sugar high.

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Jackie and Lorin were leaving for a summer vacation and had asked me and my husband, Charles, to “babysit” for their beloved pooch while they were gone.

I was not about to risk anything happening to Walter under my watch.

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I scanned the room and shook the carpet looking for the tablet. Then I got down on all fours and, starting at the bathroom door, ran my hands inch by inch over the rug and the surrounding marble tile.

Still no sign of the statin.

I began to sweat.

I knew that dogs have a keen sense of smell. What if the pill elicits an odor, undetectable to me, but attractive to Walter? I imagined him lumbering into the bathroom, ingesting my medicine, and going into some kind of shock or seizure.

I Googled “effects of dogs eating statins.”

It turned out that if he ate it, he could have diarrhea, vomiting or gas.

I would keep the bathroom door closed for the 10 days of his stay.

As Walter’s grandparents we take our responsibilities seriously — too seriously. Charles inspects his poop to make sure that the consistency is solid. He sleeps in our bed along with Einstein, our 5-year-old Cavachon; it’s cramped. And while I’d have given the bathroom floor a good once-over for Einstein, there is no way I’d have scoured it from end to end on my hands and knees.

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What was our problem?

When we babysit for our son Danny and daughter-in-law Laura’s three kids, our human grandchildren, we are also a bit overprotective and overindulgent. I grab my twin grandsons’ hands when we’re in a parking lot; they’re 11 years old. I warn my 14-year-old granddaughter, “be careful,” when she opens her microwaved mac and cheese with a knife. And we keep a large crystal bowl overflowing with individually wrapped miniature candy bars on our living room table — the kids like chocolate.

But Walter is a dog.

It was more than a missing pill.

We are hoping that their pandemic puppy is a prelude to more grandchildren, this time from our daughter.

And we hypothesized that if we lightened the burden of handling Walter, perhaps she and her husband would see that they have the capacity to handle a child (or three).

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To that end, Charles drove from our home in Baltimore to pick up Walter at Jackie and Lorin’s home in D.C. while they were busy packing and tying up loose ends. Jackie had offered to bring him to us, but I told her, “We’re happy to get him. You have enough on your plate.”

And they do. Like most 30-something couples today, they both are consumed with full-time-plus careers and other responsibilities.

Nevertheless, I brought it up with my daughter.

“So, now that you and Lorin have been married for three years, are you thinking about starting a family?” I gingerly posed with bated breath.

“Mom, we’re just not sure.”

“Why wouldn’t you?” I pushed.

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After a deep sigh, she rattled off a litany of concerns: global warming, mass shootings, rampant crime, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Jan. 6, political divisiveness, extremists, the pandemic, world hunger and the lack of affordable day care.

In short, my daughter was afraid to bring a child into this world.

Walter may be as close as I get to spoiling a mammal that Jackie loves.

She’s right, the world is a mess. But every generation has its demons. Is it worse today than when I gave birth to her and my two sons? When my mother gave birth to me? When my grandmother birthed my mother?

I’m not sure. I silently enumerate past atrocities: world wars, The Holocaust, the Great Depression, assassinations, Sept. 11th, as well as the ever-present suffering, inequalities and injustices.

I am sure, however, that nothing in my life means more to me than my children and grandchildren. They are what give me meaning, perspective, hope and love.

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I want the same for my daughter.

But am I also being selfish?

Maybe.

It’s Jackie and Lorin’s decision, and a tough one. I will support it — whatever it may be.

In the meantime, that Walter is awfully cute, and I don’t think he ate the pill. He had a great visit — we even took him and Einstein to the doggy toy store. Einstein got a snake, Walter a dragon.

When we brought him back to the kids in D.C., my daughter hugged him and said, “I missed you. Did you have a good time with Bubbie and Zadie?”

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Laura Black (www.laurablack.net) is an attorney, businessperson, author and speaker, who focuses on the challenges of midlife-plus women with humor and affirmation. Her latest book, “Climbing Down the Ladder: A Journey to a Different Kind of Happy,” is expected later this year.


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