Are You My Mother?


My dog Cali recreates (sort of) the front cover image of P.D. Eastman’s children’s book “Are You My Mother?”

My maternal grandmother had a Yorkshire terrier named Kerry, and she’d give him a dollop of ice cream every night in her kitchen in Bayside, N.Y.

My mother joked about it, chuckling at her mom’s ritual. I’ll admit we were all a little surprised because she wasn’t the warm and fuzzy type. She was a good grandma, but strict and sometimes humorless. Kerry softened her, revealing a hidden tenderness and vulnerability.

It’s interesting to see how people treat their dogs (or other pets) because I think it reveals their true nature. You can’t always indulge your kids or you’ll end up with mouthy, ungrateful brats. You can’t always share your deepest thoughts with people because they’ll get bored or label you an egocentric energy sucker.

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Nine pounds of fury: Eli the Maltese.

But dogs? They’re different. They listen and don’t judge. They’re always up for a hike and don’t whine about the heat or hills. They don’t like it when you’re upset, but will hang out until you’re feeling better. They’ll make you feel like the best parent in the world when they look for reassurance in the vet’s waiting room.

My extended family’s got lots of dogs and everyone thinks each other’s dog is the most spoiled. One of my sisters has an Instagram account devoted to her dog Susie (or Susan) with #hashtags in her dog’s voice. Another sister has a Maltese who enjoys being cradled and rocked like a baby. I provided pet therapy for my sister J’s Portuguese water dog while she was in Paris.

But the winner is my mother’s 7-year-old yellow Lab Maggie. When I note that Maggie is slightly spoiled and neurotic, Mom replies, “Isn’t it nice to know that humans aren’t the only ones with problems? Even dogs have issues.”


Maggie by Mom’s side after a dip.

Maggie is a terrific animal, providing loyal and loving companionship to Mom since my father’s death eight years ago. But she’s got lots of quirks that only a mother could love.

+ She won’t leave the car unless Mom lays a blanket on the garage floor so her paws don’t touch the cement.

+ She will only enter the car from the rear door on the driver’s side.

+ She will not enter a car unless she’s the first dog in the vehicle. If my sister’s dog Lia hops into the car, Maggie will wait until Lia is removed before entering.

+ Maggie won’t enter any house or car except my mother’s. When Mom dropped by my house last month, Maggie refused to enter and panted in the car. My 19-year-old son coaxed her into the house through the back door, but not before she shattered a planter holding my favorite cactus.

+ Once in a strange house, Maggie remains on the kitchen area rug like she’s in a lifeboat surrounded by shark-infested waters.

+ Maggie does laps every day in Mom’s pool to shed her winter weight.

+ Maggie sleeps on Mom’s living room couch. No big deal, but Mom spent the past 20 years questioning why I let my dog on the furniture.

+ Maggie will only take her thyroid pills if Mom asks her if she wants a “La La.” When I ask her to explain, she says, “A lollipop. I put a little peanut butter on my finger with the pill and she licks it off. She thinks it’s a lollipop.”

+ She won’t go up the stairs inside a house, but has no problem using stairs outside.

+ She loves going to the vet.

+ She won’t eat her kibble unless Parmesan cheese is sprinkled on top.

+ She gets a Quarterpounder with cheese (no onions) every year for her June 28th birthday. I guess I’m not really surprised by my mother’s choice of fast-food restaurants. We had McDonald’s every Thursday night when she and my father would dine out with friends. (My parents were smart: they went out twice a week. My father insisted on it, saying it was the only way they could talk with seven girls under one roof.)

I could go on about Maggie’s foibles, but you get the idea. Besides, it’s time for Cali’s LaLa.


Maggie gets the “red carpet treatment” for car rides.









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