Regular readers of this column (otherwise known as shut-ins) will know that for years, we had a scruffy, disgruntled West Highland terrier. Harry and I did not get along, mostly because Harry loved my wife, and I loved my wife, and both of us wanted to spend time with her. Harry saw it as his mission to get there first, and because he was often faster than I was, he'd be snuggled up with her on the couch or bed when I came in the room, growling at me if I got too close. My wife thought this was hilarious, and spent many evenings curled up with the dog saying things like "Who's my favorite little guy in the world!" while I sat on the loveseat wanting to raise my hand but knowing I'd be wrong. I used to call Harry my wife's evil shadow because he was never more than a foot behind her.
Harry passed on last fall, and this summer we took possession of another Westie, 6-year-old Sophie. Sophie came to us as one of those highly groomed, snow white female dogs that look like they spend a lot of time sitting getting groomed and riding around in purses. After a few months at Chez McKay, though, Sophie has taken on the same scruffy look Harry had (and frankly all the McKays seem to have), so much so that every once in a while, people will walk by our house, take one look at the unkempt hairy (but not Harry) dog, and say, a little nervously, "I thought he was ... you know ... gone!"
While they may look almost identical, Sophie is, as I said, a girl dog and spends a lot of time crawling up to us, making her eyes look big as saucers, and then rolling over to have her chest rubbed, something that has to be done until either your hand gives out or her chest hair falls out. Then you have to do it a little more. Harry only paid attention to me when it was time to eat.
Going outside to go potty is also very different. Harry would shuffle out into the yard, do his business, and then sometimes come back to the front door, bark once, and wait patiently for someone to let him back in. Other times, Harry would do his business and then keep walking, seemingly not caring whether he every came back. Our daughters once passed the local barbershop and found Harry in the window, looking out at the passing pedestrians. Sophie must be accompanied out into the yard, as she won't go alone, but then you have to turn your back and pretend not to look, or she can't go at all. Then, she'll run back to the house as if she's afraid one of the neighbors will see what she did.
Harry slept on the hard floor basically wherever he got tired. Sophie sleeps in a crate surrounded by stuffed toys and sometimes cries if we forget to include her favorite, a small dog.
One of the biggest differences, though, is that Sophie has taken a definite preference for me over my wife. She will follow me around the house, so close that I have to be careful before turning a corner or risk tripping over her. When my wife calls her over to sit with us, Sophie will look at her, take a running leap, stepping over her, climbing onto the back of the couch, licking the back of my head. (If that sounds creepy, it is.) When she jumps into our bed in the mornings, she'll sidle up to me, using her back legs to try to push my wife out of the bed.
Last Sunday morning, my wife and I stayed in bed late to have a cup of coffee and watch a movie on TV while Sophie jumped up to the foot of the bed. At some point, my wife got up to get a refill on her coffee, and the minute she was gone, Sophie leaped up, ran to the head of the bed, and snuggled on my wife's pillow, flipping over so I could rub her chest.
When my wife came back in the room, Sophie glared at her and refused to move. I probably should have pushed the dog out of the way to make room for my wife. I didn't, though. I just kept rubbing Sophie's chest while she wiggled, sticking her tongue out in joy, and I repeated, "Who's my favorite little girl in the world! Who's my favorite little girl in the world!"
Hot coffee in bed is pretty good, but revenge is best served cold.
Homemaking is a column about the people, projects and pride that make a house a home. Peter McKay, a Ben Avon resident, is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. To see past columns, go to www.post-gazette.com. Contact him at www.peter-mckay.com.