Before Heather and I gave my parents a granddaughter we gave them a “grand-dogger” in the form of an adorable Maltese puppy we adopted around Valentine’s Day of 2005. We dubbed our new baby “Rigby” in honor of that cheery Beatles’ song, Eleanor Rigby, and I was certain that my parents would soon shower me with a bounty of gifts on Father’s Day. Unfortunately, perhaps because my sister had the gumption to upstage us by giving birth to a human baby on the exact same day that Rigby was born, my parents were not at all impressed. In fact, the only interest my mother ever showed in Rigby was when she scolded me for bringing something into the home that might have an adverse effect on our carpets.
In hindsight I realize that the lack of awe my family expressed about my “dogger” might have something to do with the fact that, before Maddie, I really didn’t see the difference between a dog and a baby. I was quite vocal about this, in fact, and when my sister would brag in public that she had birthed a child on December 4th, I would step in front of her with even more gusto and pronounce, “My dog was born on December 4th as well! It’s amazing really. My sister and I each had our little bundle of joy on the same day!” This kind of talk, as you can imagine, didn’t endear Rigby to anyone. And, yeah, okay, maybe I lost even more love when, after my sister bragged that her son could walk, I scoffed, “Rigby has been doing that since she was two weeks old!” This lead to my sister snapping, “Can you not compare your dog’s developmental skills to my baby’s?”
I may have acted like an idiot about Rigby before I had a baby of my own, but you know what? I still consider Rigby my “dogger” and a huge part of my family because, without her, I don’t know if I’d have been able to endure all the trials I have with Maddie. Before Rigby came into my life I’d never had to care for anything that was dependant on me for their survival, and it was a huge, difficult adjustment. I may have learned the hard way that when Rigby scratched at the door it meant that she had to go out RIGHT THEN regardless of how close I was to setting my all-time record at Grand Theft Auto.
Rigby is also responsible for my never forgetting to feed Maddie thanks to the time she growled at me with bared teeth as I gorged on a burger. I threw her off the couch and screamed “EAT YOUR OWN FOOD!” before noticing that her bowl was empty and had been licked clean many times over. I jumped up and poured a copious amount of food into her bowl, and as she ate ravenously I promised myself that I would never do anything like that again. I am proud to say that it only happened twice more.
Eventually I got the hang of caring for a little being, and when Maddie came home, complete with breathing treatments every four hours, nearly daily doctor’s appointments, and multiple medications to be administered, I did it, for the most part, flawlessly. I have Rigby to thank for this. So please forgive me on Sunday if, when my parents call to congratulate me on my first father’s day, I consider it my fourth and hug both my daughter and dogger while saying I’m the luckiest guy in the world.