My mother has always been a simple person; a middle of the road thinker prone to embracing the cliché.  For instance, my mother has never owned a white cat that wasn’t named Snowball.  To her if you have a white cat, then it should be named Snowball.  Her inability to think with any originality has always annoyed me, as much as my creative, dramatic side has always mystified her.  We are opposites, to say the least.   

Recently, my mother has embraced a new cliché; that of the retiree with the beloved pet.  The object of her infatuation, Freida, is an 8 lb mini-Schnauzer pup.  From the poorly lit photos I’ve seen of her, she looks to be the result of cross-breeding an Ewok with Gizmo.  Cute, if you’re into pets that look like demon spawn.

By my mother’s account, Freida is the most brilliant animal ever.  It’s mere happenstance that her extraordinary intelligence and positive attitude weren’t spotted by the dog talent scouts known to roam the Ohio countryside in search of the next “it” dog.  Beyond Freida’s obvious superiority to other canines, she’s come to provide my mother with constant companionship, an obliging ear and fierce protection.  I, on the other hand, am her inadequate daughter who lives too far away and only feels obliged to call occasionally.

Ever since Freida entered my mother’s life, our conversations are sprinkled with constant interruptions – mostly my mother’s annecdotes about all the cute (mundane) and (un)remarkable things Freida does.  During a recent conversation about a medical procedure I may need to undergo later this year, my mom repeatedly interrupted me to point out that Freida was chasing one of my stepfather’s tube socks around the iving room. 

“Oh, here comes my girl!  She’s such a frisky little thing – always playing.  You know, we just put her toy into an old sock and she’ll play with that for hours on end…”

“Yep.  That sounds like a puppy to me, mom.  So, like I was telling you about the test results…”

“Huh?  What was that, sweetie?  I’m sorry but Freida brought me her other toy that looks like a little mouse, and she’s swinging it around, and squeaking it and, oh my gosh it’s just the cutest thing.  You have never seen a dog as cute or clever as my Freida!”

“Mom.  Focus, please.  I’m trying to tell you about something important involving surgery, no less!”

“You know Freida’s gonna have to have surgery soon, too.  We want to get her all fixed up so no big, nasty boy dogs try to get their way with her.  You don’t want to be a ruined woman, do you girl – do ya?” 

I can only assume her rhetorical question was directed at the dog, since I was “ruined” a long time ago.


My mother has owned numerous dogs, most of whom were relegated to a dog house.  As a teenager, I appealed to her for a dog that could live inside with us.  Eventually, she caved and bought me Benjamin, a white Shitzu puppy.  Poor Benjamin never stood a chance in our household.  My mother, overworked as she was, begrudgingly became his trainer and caretaker when I did as all kids do and flaked out on my end of the dog-care bargain.   I think she was just charmed enough by him to tolerate his constant grooming needs, but not so much that she wanted to take him out for a walk or play with him.  When Benjamin died many years ago after a long and painful decline, I knew my mother would probably never own a dog again.  She even told me as much, saying “dogs are too much of a hassle.”

Because my mother had always distanced herself from her pets – both physically and emotionally, I was surprised to hear that she went out of her way to get a pet.  The stray animal who manages to turn into a pet is something she’s tolerated before, but she actually sought out Freida.  I knew things between her and Freida were really serious when she revealed that she takes her out for walks.  Walking a dog is NOT something my mother does.  Chaining a dog to a post in the yard is more her style.  So when she told me that she walks Freida AND buys her the expensive organic dog biscuits, I knew things had gone too far.  As she proudly described her painstaking attention to Frida’s health, I recalled the dollar store animal crackers my children were forced to eat during their last visit and remarked upon the irony of Freida munching on organic, whole grain dog biscuits while my mother’s only grandchildren are fed cheap generic cookies chock full of chemicals.  For the record, this line of conversation doesn’t lead to good a place…

So what I am to do?  I must admit to a certain amount of jealousy.  I guess I feel a bit hurt and confused about the fact that my mother’s dog has taken on such a prominent role in her life.  Sure, I love my dog, too, but you don’t hear me talking about him all the time.  Heck, I don’t even give my kids that much air time.  I guess I’d always thought that our shared experience as mothers would somehow bring us closer together and that her grandchildren would be the object of all her affections.  With Freida-the-wonder-pup around, my kids and I don’t stand a chance.  We are NOT cute, obedient, quiet, and blindly loyal.  Although, from time to time my kids do take on all the charm of demon spawn. 

Truth be told, I guess another part of me is relieved to have the burden of my mother’s neediness – her oppressive desire for friendship - removed from my shoulders.  If we were naturally best friends that would’ve been a great and wonderful arrangement, but we aren’t.  To me, her role as my mother is the most cherished relationship we could possibly have – richer and more complex than any friendship.  Besides, I have many friends but only one mom.  I guess I just need to remind myself that mom’s had many dogs, but only one daughter.

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