I was in the office yesterday, dusting, when I came upon Emmett and Mulan.
They aren’t doing much in their pine boxes, just sitting around waiting for something interesting to happen. Much like they were in life, in fact. I don’t want to scatter their ashes yet because we’re debating moving in a year or two and I’m still feeling terrible guilt over abandoning Nuke’s ashes, buried under a willow tree at my last house. So they wait.
I run my finger over Mulan’s name, and sigh.
Even in death, they can’t escape my husband’s blatant favoritism. Whenever a diaper got dragged out of the trashcan and demolished, poor Mulan took the blame (which stopped only when I actually CAUGHT Emmett in the act, at which point my husband declared it was only because Mulan taught him bad habits, despite never having seen her do it.)
He tried training Mu for the treat on the nose trick a few times, but gave up when he came 3 millimeters away from losing a finger. He blamed it on her being too dumb to get the trick. I maintained she was too smart to waste time making him happy when he was just going to call her dopey anyway so might as well get the cookie and get it over with.
Now don’t get me wrong. I agree she wasn’t a super smart dog, and that is OK. Her gifts in life lay elsewhere. But I never told her that. I can only be grateful the dogs didn’t understand what we were saying, since it would certainly have driven poor Mu to Prozac, drowning her sorrows in Frosty Paws, or at least looking sadly at us with her big brown eyes.
To a certain extent, playing favorites with your dogs is kind of something they expect. Unlike with kids, where the unending pressure of splitting every gift, cookie, and treat into perfectly equal and symmetric segments is enough to drive anyone to drink, dogs kind of expect you to designate the head guy and place everyone neatly into their place in the hierarchy. Practically speaking, you are kind of supposed to show a little bit of favoritism to reinforce pack order or whatever the heck Cesar Milan calls it, which I don’t really know since I don’t watch the show.
But I don’t know, maybe I’m anthropomorphizing too much here, but there was a group of girls who were always mean to me in junior high. They would laugh and point behind my acid-washed denim-wearing back* and say stuff, and even though I didn’t know what they were saying I knew the tone, and that tone was very obviously saying “LAME!” and I don’t mean “la-may” though that did coincide with the pair of gold lamé Hammerpants I had in ’89 which explains a lot, but the point is it still hurt a little, even if what they were saying was true.
My greatest fear when I had human kids was that my husband would treat them the same way. I pictured my little boy sobbing in the corner while my daughter gloated over him saying, “I’M THE SMART ONE! HAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!” Fortunately for me they are both brilliant, but even if they weren’t my husband is much more egalitarian in his treatment of the primates in the house.
I know I’m more sensitive to these slights than I have any right to be (trust me, Mulan couldn’t have cared less). With only one dog and one cat in the house (for now! ha ha!) I have no way to evaluate if fatherhood has in any way softened my husband’s approach to the animals’ emotional well being and self esteen.
So fess up. Do you play favorites? Do you think your pets notice or even care?
*It was a cropped acid washed denim jacket, and then I took puffy paint and painted a white tiger on the back by hand. It was very Napoelon Dynamite of me, in retrospect.