This is Cricket.
She's part chihuahua, part wiener dog, part beagle and god knows what else. She's got a round body like sausage, a small chihuahua head and the stance and chest of a hound dog. She looks different from other dogs. Her mix of breeds makes her look like she could lose a few pounds and you'd assume she's lazy. You'd assume it's my fault.
Cricket doesn't roll over. She doesn't bring back the ball or stick when we play fetch. She doesn't balance treats on her nose. She's always allowed on the furniture. She gives the best dog kisses. And I've taught her to jump up on me to give me those sloppy licks of love. Cricket barks at people she doesn't know. She growls at people she doesn't like. She walks me not the other way around. She won't eat kibble and she hates dog treats. She bites her toenails. She sleeps next to me in bed and snores.
Bad dog, right?
Stop with the dog-shaming. I've had it.
I'm a 36-year-old woman. I have no children. But I have a dog. And whether you like me saying it or not, this dog is my child. She's all I've got. She isn't a pet. I am not her master.
Cricket is my family.
Cricket came to me at a very difficult stage in my life. I had endured divorce, foreclosure, job loss, bankruptcy and repossession. I was drinking to drown my sorrows. My therapist told me I was depressed. That I had ADHD and social anxiety. I was spiraling and looking for the one thing I knew could fulfill all the emptiness in my heart. LOVE.
And the day I met Cricket, was the day I discovered that love existed.
I was fulfilling that void at the Humane Society, volunteering once or twice a week in the cat room. And it was through my work there that I decided I'd try my hand at fostering. I had no intention of keeping her. But the moment they handed that little tea-cup sized puppy to me my heart filled with a joy I'd never felt before. One I'd like to say compares to that of a new mother. But I don't have that to compare it to. So who's to say I can't love a dog just as deeply?
My first year with Cricket was difficult. I'd never had a dog before. I felt like a single parent with no experience in child care. I didn't want to change my lifestyle. I was a bad mom.
But through all my tears and mishaps and through all the long nights she waited for me to come home, that little four-legged angel loved me just the same. And I realized it was time for that lifestyle change. I owed it to my new best friend.
I made her a promise to be the best mom I could be. And I don't care what you say. I am.
I am not a vet. Nor am I a nutritionist. My weight fluctuates like a damn roller coaster. My dog's weight does too. But I'm learning. Just a like a new mom. But while you're over there pointing at my "fat dog" and assuming she's eating nothing but table scraps, I'll tell you this. Yes, she eats what you refer to as "human food." Because I'm not going to allow my little dog to eat the processed, overpriced crap they sell in the pet food aisle. She eats LOCAL Angus beef. Fresh chicken. And YES, I give her natural peanut butter when she's biting her toenails and needs something to calm her oral fixation with. If that makes me a bad dog mom. Fine. Her vet and I are working on what portions work best for her and in the meantime...
My dog is in far better shape than you.
I live in an apartment. So no, she doesn't have a yard or siblings to play with. But she get's three walkies a day. And we hike four times a week. She plays with her friends at the park whenever we can.
Cricket has climbed Scotchman Peak. In fact, she's scaled more mountains than 90% of the other dogs we know. She's faster than a Doberman. She's put more miles on those short little legs than you can imagine. She is an adventure dog. She kayaks, she camps, she hikes, she rides in the car in her booster seat with her seatbelt like the most obedient dog you've ever met. Tongue out, ears flopping in the wind as she raises her nose to the fresh air flowing through that rolled down back window.
She's happy. And her happiness makes me happy. And when I wake up with her next to me, tongue attacking my nostrils and cleaning the sleep out of my eyes, I tickle her front paws and belly and debate staying under those sheets with her all day.
She's been loyal to me from the moment our eyes met. She's protected me when nobody else has.
Cricket and I are a package deal. And if you can't accept that she is my family, then you aren't accepting me. I won't tell you how to take care of your kids - whether they be human or of the four-legged family. Don't tell me how to take care of mine.
'The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.'
~ Mark Twain