I miss my dog way more than I thought I would, which is both scary and comforting, considering my ''previous whereabouts unknown'' maternal instincts. Recently a friend compared me to ''one of those teenage mothers who can't take care of their kids'' because I sent my mini-me, Miles, to my mom in Atlanta for the summer. Pet sitting for the small fee of three phone calls a week is unbeatable, but the guilt is inescapable.
Getting a ''dawg'' had been a recurring dream of mine since sleeping in my first ''it's just me'' apartment — as in, Soooo, where are your roommates tonight? Nope, it's just me. Ma'am, if you get a second pound of tilapia, you save thirteen and a half cents. Nope, it's just me. You'll probably need two people to put this bed together, so … NOPE. It's. Just. Me. Still, when I told my mother my plan to wire a woman in Arkansas a small fortune for a bundle of fleas, she cooed, ''Awww, are you lonely, little girl?'' I was caught unawares. Lonely? I'm single, not psycho. But since loneliness is an early-warning sign of schizophrenia, I decided to go for the preventive medicine. And since cats, being the harbingers of a slow, friendless death, are out, my only options were dog or date.
I got Miles the next day, and after less than a month, he was already barking for his dinner. See, Miles' unwavering adoration is both unnerving and wholly necessary. He's never more than three doggy steps behind, tracking my every move like a midget voyeur. Making the tiny insignificances of my life momentous. He watches me pee with the intensity of a peeping Tom. If I ever kick him out, he waits outside the bathroom door until I'm done, putting his life on hold for my bodily functions. When I get out of the shower, Miles helps dry my calves with his tongue, then waits patiently to see what lotion I'll choose. Closing my door to go to bed is the apocalypse. My waking up is like the second coming. And I think I deserve all of it, therefore making any man's stubborn imperfection all the more unacceptable to me. More than a woman's best friend, this dog makes an excellent scapegoat.
Actually, it was one of my human best friends who convinced me to finally hit the submit payment button and ''get a puppy rather than a baby,'' as my mother put it. My girl Dawn had been working longer hours at the firm than the ancestors who preceded her would have thought humane. To maintain some form of non-legal contact with another living being, she brought home Merlin, so named because of his long hair and probably because of the abracadabra he did on her life. ''It's just so nice to open the door and there's someone waiting for you … excited to see you,'' she gushed later. And that was that. I needed some magic, too. Plus, with the possibility of pushing a baby out becoming more nonexistent by the career move, we needed to get our nurture on by any means necessary.
In truth, this was sort of the reason I got Miles in the first place. He is a story to tell that isn't all about me. It's kind of like how your once very interesting friends end up having nothing more to say at the happy hour it took three weeks to coordinate besides, ''So lil' Craps in Pants does the cutest thing when … '' It's nice to talk about somebody else for a change, even if you're really just talking about yourself in code. Miles would eventually become my furry Freud. Miles, unable to tell my ego from a chew toy, would never judge. So I miss his wide-eyed optimism because, despite all the sophisticated snark and grown-up jade, sometimes it's a relief to just get slobbered on.