At this very moment in time, Isabella Cosette Flora Wilhelmina von Matternhaus the Only and Ever is being unreasonably reasonable for a puppy of thirteen weeks of age.
I catch her in the act of being unreasonably reasonable all the time. Right now, she is relaxing reasonably on her little round bed in front of the electric faux-woodstove. She seems to enjoy the flickering electric flames (as do I, as did Sir James) and the warmish if anemic blast of air emanating from the unit.
Despite her unfortunate puppy-mill pedigree and likely less than pleasant babyhood, Lady Isabella is calm, happy and seemingly well-adjusted. I keep waiting for her to reveal that she is Satan's canine spawn, or to keel over from a terrible genetic shortcoming caused by one of the incestuous matings in her family tree.
Instead, she sits prettily (and sometimes lies down) on command. She uses her litter box and Wee Wee pads and has fewer accidents than Fanny. She sleeps through the night. She has a healthy appetite, bright eyes, and a satiny coat. She listens to "No" and "UH-UH" and "Wait" and "Go potty" and "Get it" and "Drop it" and "No bite" and "Okay."
She is learning to speak Cat (and thus avoid Cat Wrath). She is now fluent in Big Dog. She wiggles on her back in the patches of sunlight that sometimes sneak into the house. She plays boldly with Fanny, who seems to enjoy her new companion's wiggly energy. She gets random attacks of Puppy Zoomies and runs in circles at 30mph. She wags her tail madly. She snuggles in laps. She barks only once in a while. She hops like a kangaroo, happily dragging her toys here and there, making sure Little Raccoon and Tiny Mouse and Baby Dog and Blue Rubber Dog all get equal quality time. She wears her sweater without complaint. She is downright sensible. She is a textbook, predictable Puppy, which makes her as rare as a unicorn. She has no business being so sensible.
I am not bragging about my puppy; I am just confused by reasonable creatures. I never expect anyone or anything to be reasonable for very long, which certainly says more about me than about anyone or anything else. That was a reasonable disclaimer.
It has been a difficult 2013 so far. I am afraid to leave the house again. I can't find solace in sunshine or sleep. Joe Cocker is always singing a love song at the supermarket (totally unreasonable). The pharmacies have run out of doxycycline (completely unreasonable) so my face is breaking out terribly (unreasonable, at this age). My hair is a dry, stripey mix of ancient highlights and ashy, graying roots (unreasonable, unseasonable). I cannot speak about my breasts or thighs or checking account or kitchen floor or dubious future without losing my religion and my composure (reasonable, possibly).
Several people would like to talk to me. I have no idea what to say to them. I don't want to say anything until I know what I want to say (reasonable? unreasonable?).
There are exactly three people that I want to talk to. Two of them are dead, and one of them is pretending that I am dead. I think all three are being unreasonable. Especially the decomposing ones.
To save myself from taking one of the house's crawlspaces up on its name and praying for the end of the world to come around again, I spend my hours working, writing, pinning beautiful, unobtainable things on Pinterest, and meditating on this odd small being who has now claimed Sir James's place by the faux fire. I wonder when Lady Isabella will chew my face off, or maim my children, or call me terrible names on Facebook, or gossip savagely about me behind my back in the supermarket, while Joe Cocker croons to Jennifer Warnes overhead.
I no longer know if any of my thoughts are reasonable. This is not a good place to be. It seems reasonable to recognize this, but there you go.
You are ridiculously reasonable, I tell her. Knock it off. I can't get rid of you if you stay this reasonable.
She cocks her head to the side, studying my face, listening for her name.
Bella, I say. She sits up very straight, watching me intently.
See, this is exactly what I'm talking about. Knowing your name. Caring if I'm talking.
She yawns. Her yawn slays me, a massive stretch of a tiny mouth, sounding her utterly adorable YURP.
I love you, I say, realizing I have not told her this before.
I'm sorry, I add. I've been afraid to fall in love with you. But I think I love you.
She blinks, slowly and kindly. I blink back, my eyes brimming with pesky human tears. In case you didn't read every dog book in your local library as a child, like I did, I will let you in on a secret: blinking is a dog-calming signal. Dogs blink to let other dogs know that everything is okay, that everything will be okay.
Thank you, I say to her.
She is growing long and strong. Her snout is taking on that pointy greyhound look. Her button ears are morphing into sideways flags. About six pounds now, she will hit anywhere between eight and eighteen pounds when she's full grown. Bigger than a chihuahua or a pomeranian, but smaller than a big raccoon. Eleven to fourteen inches at the shoulders, if only I knew for sure where her shoulders were.
She loves to chew delicately on her "bully stick," which is apparently some part of a very unfortunate bull's penis. My daughters are particularly fascinated by the bully stick. They enjoy saying "bull penis." They are not allowed to say "sucks," "damn," "dang," or "freaking" in this household, but they get a pass on "bull penis." The bully stick has provided our family with a rare opportunity to discuss human vs. bull anatomy. I have explained that human males do not (to my knowledge) have rawhide chew bones in their wee-wees. But I am open-minded and admit that I have not seen everything. At least, I hope I have not seen everything, yet. I could use a few good surprises.
I took the Christmas tree down yesterday. I packed up all the ornaments. As I was packing the ornaments (carefully, carefully), I caught Isabella in yet another reasonable act: going potty in her litter box, then sitting outside her pen very primly, to make sure I had noticed her good deed.
Oh, good girl, I said. Such a good girl!
It was at that moment that I dropped my favorite Christmas tree ornament, a gorgeous hot-pink glass icicle far older than I am.
For 42 years, I had managed to keep this ornament whole. In one brief instant of perfectly timed, wholly reasonable puppy-praise, I somehow let it slip from my fingers. It broke roughly in half. I waited for my heart to do the same.
Instead, I laughed.
I suppose I had it coming, I told Isabella. Maybe 42 years of holding my breath was enough.
Thank you, I said again. Thank you very much.