Dog Mom Fights Aging Stereotypes

My mom Cathy never identified as a mom till she got a dog. But when she adopted me, she had to find a way to introduce herself when she called the dog lounge, the groomer and all the other handlers we Canine Urban Princesses (CUPPIES) require.

She tried saying, “I’m Gracie’s owner,” but she felt that didn’t do justice to our relationship. Besides, she has a tendency to call the Day Care and Boarding staff to ask, “How’s Gracie doing?” Even Cathy had to admit she was sounding more like a mom than an owner.

So she gave in and began identifying herself as Gracie’s mom. I knew it.

To be fair, Cathy is one of the least maternal people on the planet, male or female. She never adopts kittens or puppies. She never talks baby talk. She expects me to hold up my share of responsibilities, which are always under negotiation.

Cathy can’t even talk intelligently to anyone under 18. “How’s school” is not a great way to bond with a teen-ager.

So she gets irritated with all those books, articles and TV shows featuring white-haired women who become nurturing grandparent types in their later years. She’s not into volunteer work. She wants to keep earning money till the day she dies and she’ll donate to charities so those who are truly maternal can care for others — properly.

“You never see a 70-something woman pecking a keyboard and muttering about her affiliate programs,” she says. “They’re never reading sales reports or testimonials from satisfied clients. They’re always holding children or doing something for others.”

If you want to see my mom in a major freak-out, tell her about the retired people who go on to become greeters at Wal-Mart. She hates those stories.

“So after a life of growth, a graduate education and tons of experience, I’m supposed to look forward to serving burgers at McDonalds or opening doors for people who live my former life? Hah. I’d rather be rewarded for my work and I’d rather do real work. Where are those role models?”

Well, as the canine in residence, my job is to get her as close to a maternal experience as she’ll have in this lifetime. Alas, due to my extensive fan club, I’m often more of a fashion accessory.

“Like living with Paris Hilton,” Cathy sighs. “She has her adoring fans. I just make sure she’s there to greet them.”

At least I keep her feeling young, as she chases me around the dog park and makes sure I get all my walks. As her friend Bill reminds her via phone, “If you didn’t have a dog, you’d be just another stereotype: a single woman with a couple of cats.”

Bill knows how to push her buttons. Cathy pushes hers on the cell phone, initiating a major disconnect.

I think it’s time for another mega-nap. As a midlife dog — I’ll be 6 in October — I embrace the stereotypes. Let sleeping dogs lie. And around this house, I’m usually happy to be seen as a sleeping dog.

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