Fifth Baby

"Look at mommy. C'mon, look at me! Just look at the camera. No - stay still. Come back! There, stay there. Look at the camera." Click! "Why did you turn your head, goofball? Let's try again. Sit still now. No, don't jump down! Just look at mommy - please stay!"

I was following my blond-haired, black-eyed baby around to get a good picture. He doesn't understand the camera. He's not a ham. He just wants to lie about like a good-for-nothing and take naps on my couch pillows or lick people's knees. But I really wanted a picture bad, because my boy had just been to the groomer's, and he looked so darn handsome with his new cut.

Yeah, I think you know who I mean.

I never knew I wanted a fifth baby. I mean, I was always looking around for one when I was out, because four kids seems like so many children that even when my four were standing in front of me at the mall or park, responding to their names impatiently, I was still turning my head this way and that to look for their imaginary sibling who had no doubt run off somewhere.

Then we found him about a year ago. Taz was a little scruffy, a little too hyper, and I was afraid he would bite my kids' toes or fingers off in the night for the first couple weeks. For a whole month I wondered why we decided to take him when our sleep had just begun to resemble that of well-rested human beings. I even debated whether we could give him back. He used to pee on the floor or table without so much as an, "Excuse me, if you don't mind..." He threw up on my beautiful red couch right before Thanksgiving - not a pile but a river. When we left him home alone, he redesigned our front window curtains with his claws, leaving them in tatters, and several weeks later he pulled the back curtains out the doggy door and ripped them plum in half. He attacked my son's stuffed Elmo and put the death bite on a poor howler monkey toy on numerous occasions. He nipped a real Rottweiler in the face when I took him out for a bit of air and sunshine.

He just can't play nice with other kids. He's a permanent toddler.

But Taz has the most gorgeous blond/gray/tan/red hair and a sweet, if insecure, disposition. I'm not sure whether he looks more like me or Matthew. (But I suspect me; we both have big noses and shaggy hair.) Sure we have to take him out to use the potty every night late, but he'll let me play with his soft ears and rub his narrow little nose to my heart's content without an, "Awww, Mom!". He loves to play with the bigger kids and only bites when they try to steal his toys. He's our fifth baby....but, sadly, when I tell him to go to Papa, Matthew objects, "I am not that dog's papa!"

I used to make fun of people who said their dog was their baby. Oh, brother, was my thought as I smiled haughtily at their benign insanity. It's only because the poor dears have never had real kids that they can be so delusional!

Now, I'm the one in the funny farm with my furry friend, because I often call Tazzy to me with, "Come to Mama!", or when I'm sitting squeezing his little face in my hands, I pronounce warmly, "Mommy wuves her wittle buddy. Yes, I do!" Maybe I'm experiencing post-baby-years depression, because our youngest, Danny Sam, is over 4 and closer to kindergarten than to first steps.

This fifth-child-is-the-family-dog complex wouldn't be so bad, I guess, if I didn't sometimes call him by our kids' names, or - worse yet - call one of them Tazzy.

Still, I suppose it's a kind of release. I can parent this dog any way I wish. There is no Dr. Sears to make me feel guilty - ha! I can practice bad parenting monologues of frustration with Taz and never feel one bit bad or guilty. I can say something like, "Nobody loves poor Tazzy. I've asked them; I've asked around. I've asked everybody - not one of them! But that's okay, that's okay. You'll survive, huh?" And I can say it with a calm smile, and he just looks back at me appreciatively...or ignores me completely while he strategizes how to get his next slice of cheese.

Anyhow, this reflection on my love of animals, of this Yorkie dog in particular, began on Thursday when I picked him up at the groomer and saw how gorgeous my little fellar was with his little Yorkie beard and stubby tail and soft fur. Who knew I loved this dog so much when he was a greasy, bushy mess with hair falling in his eyes and grass stuck to his belly? Now that he's all chic I want to proudly parade him round the neighborhood in a pair of cheap sunglasses, responding to any smiles with, "That's my boy!" And I just can't wait to introduce him to my folks when they come visit in a week; I know they're going to love him! (Right, Dad?)

Another advantage to having this baby dog in my life? My need to share pictures of my absolutely beautiful children with indifferent strangers has long been unfulfilled, because my husband refuses to allow me to do so here - and I can't say I blame him.

But he never said nothin' 'bout the dog.


  1. Great post, Hillary! I love the pictures too. ; ) One of my sisters claims that our mom once called her by every other child's name and the dog's too before remembering "Cindy". You know that's a lot of names in my family!(Camille)

    1. Well, I think I'll just have to substitute pics of Taz anytime I want to brag about the kids or talk about their perpetual silliness. I remember that story about your sister; that's a heck of alot of names. Ah, families!


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