Like Owner Like Dog: LOLD

There once was a cantankerous little dog who would trot through our village, stand at the edge of our property and bark. The kids dubbed him “Yappy Poodle.”

In an attempt to stop the yapping, we decided to befriend the guy. Step-by-step, we coaxed him closer, and one day he got close enough to pee on my daughter’s shoe. After some mild stalking of the rogue canine, we discovered where he lived.

When I met Yappy’s owner, I realized how much her choice of pet reflected her. They had the same short, white hair, they were both active, older beings, and their promises couldn’t quite be trusted.

Yappy, whose real name turned out to be Flocke, came back. Despite the eminent danger of being pissed upon, the kids and I eventually earned the honor of patting his curly white head. We seized the opportunity and put a bow-tie on him. Subsequently, every time Yappy arrived for a visit, he departed wearing a new outfit. It started with a variety of bandanas or stone-encrusted collars, then we moved to costumes: a shiny blue raincoat with matching hat, a bright orange Jack-o’-lantern suit. My daughter sewed a cape and embroidered his name on it.

Eventually, Flocke stopped coming to us for costume changes, and we were a little saddened, but it made me wonder: does my dog reflect who I am?

I get a kick out of seeing dogs who resemble their owners: salt & pepper-bearded biker dudes with their matching mutts in a side-car; blonde-tressed high maintenance duos (usually power-walking); wiry, no-nonsense jogging pairs. The kids and I coined the term: LOLD *lawl-ed (rhymes with dolled), an acronym for Like Owner Like Dog.

It got me wondering: have I been LOLD?

I questioned this idea at first, me being blonde and Charlie brunette. Though we are both pretty strong, there’s more to being LOLD than looking similar. Sometimes dogs pick up on family dynamics and reflect them back to us.

When I brought that adorable puppy home, I could feel the heaviness in the familial atmosphere, but I didn’t believe a tornado of trauma would drop on our house. Thus, Charlie joined a family whose primary caregiver, instead of taking shelter, sat on the porch to watch the sky turn an eery shade of green.

Charlie had a hard time obeying authority but was also needy, crying if the person he loved most was somewhere else. He had an embarrassingly high libido but had no satisfactory outlet for it other than exercise — and even if he had been given the opportunity, he was too socially awkward to act.

During that time, I began to question my husband’s erratic “god-given” authority. I cried into the rug in my study, while the easy-going man I had married now obsessed over End Times prophecies. As for the libido, let’s just say I didn’t get into marathon running and Crossfit training entirely for the sports — all that energy had to go somewhere.

After my husband and I separated, Charlie made stupid choices, like eating the vacuum-cleaner or rolling around in anything that smelled bad. There was no middle ground with this dog: he was either racing around the countryside or refusing to get off the couch. He loved the family but was fearful of almost everything outside.

I had lived in a bubble that suddenly burst, and like Charlie, I was afraid and often acted without thinking. I blindly bolted towards things I’d convinced myself were prizes. I had either obsessive control of my health, my eating habits, my relationships, or none at all. I fluctuated between panic and lethargy.

But slowly, with a lot of work, we both began to heal.

Charlie turned eight in December, and it makes me happy to see the dog he’s become. He’s still socially awkward at times (growling at dogs who just want to be friendly), but he’s mellowed a lot. From a distance, I can tell which dogs will trigger him (loud, fearful ones) and which dogs he can romp around with (quiet, confident ones). He now listens when I call him, which means he has more freedom to explore the world. During times that require control, I work to keep him focused, so he doesn’t charge towards fruitless endeavors, such as lunging for squirrels. Now that he’s older, he often doesn’t see the wildlife, because he’s focused on walking next to me.

My husband died nearly three years ago, and I’ve experienced a coming-of-middle-age. Like my college-age kids, I’ve had to learn “adulting,” and I don’t know if I’ll ever quite get the hang of it. I went directly from dependency into fight-or-flight. I find it a constant battle to maintain balance — especially during a pandemic. It’s easy to forget the task at hand and chase after a bird.

Charlie’s overwhelming cheerfulness fills my heart. He loves affection and will wag his tail when he hears you talking about him, even when he pretends he’s not listening. He gets sad when our college kids pack their suitcases and mopes about after they leave. Charlie’s presence, mostly in the form of hair, embeds itself into everything. He eats with gusto. He snores. He is messy. A pain in the ass. Charlie is protective, loving and loyal.

I think I have been LOLD.

American expat in Germany, formerly conservative homeschool mom now navigating widowhood; runner, writer, Crossfitter, trying to figure **it out

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