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King again

Amy Palumbo-LeClaire

The return home from college, for most parents, comes with a sense of peace, not to mention gratitude. He survived dorm life. She returned in one piece. He’s clean-shaven.  And though we must readjust to life with more wet towels, dishes, and grocery bills, we somehow manage to find the middle ground between old rules and those concurrent with adolescent birds flown from the nest—but not completely.

Lincoln’s response to his brother’s return is ambiguous. On one hand, he longs to chase after the speedball and play the game of tug-o-war that he can’t have with his mother. I lack the mental (or physical) energy to pull from a set of clenched teeth the tattered rope toy.  Lincoln takes the game too seriously. He backs up, roars, and shakes his lion head to secure the rope in a lockjaw hold. He’s studied too many ball games to abide by an “every player gets a trophy” mentality. Deep down, in his canine heart, he longs to win fairly. A lukewarm competitor, I’m out of his league.

Athletics aside, our largest male of the litter has struggled to the return of his brother. He’s become king of the castle amongst a doting, empty-nesting family of three, an only-dog. He’s repeatedly told how handsome he is, shares popcorn and movies with his parents and, above all, partakes in daily journalist/zumba instructor car rides. If I forget one of numerous workbags, he’ll point it out with his effective nose. “Aren’t you missing something here?”

“Oh gosh - yes! I need to go to the gym following my interview. Thank you, Lincoln!” We dash like frantic children down the basement stairs and out to the garage, our harried energy the result of life spent in a car packed with all that’s needed to wear multiple hats: Writer. Teacher. Dancer. Dog Mom. We’ve become quite a team. Lincoln assumes his trusty window seat, and breaks into smile for the simple sake that the current moment has found him a new scene and, hopefully, the opportunity to greet a new human being. In the day and life of a dog, car rides are epic.

Understandably, when my son came home for a short Easter break and offered to drive to the chosen restaurant for a dine-out, Lincoln wanted to be included. He trotted by my side with a big, sloppy smile upon hearing the sound of jingling keys. Where we headed?

The situation took a sour turn. Lincoln is not allowed in the Nissan Altima. The rules have changed now that his brother’s home. Noting his panic, I paused in the driveway. “What about Lincoln? Think we should take him along?”

His mouth closed, the dog focused keenly on the conversation, aware of a maternal voice tone that reeked of support. What about Lincoln? I surveyed the vehicle—the black, shiny exterior, and upholstered (hair inviting) interior. My eyes settled painfully on Lincoln, who sat patiently awaiting the verdict, head lifted, handsome as a lion.  

“C’mon Lincoln. Let’s go back inside.” Based on the fact that I would likely be the ridiculous soul to feel bad about the maddening dog hair and be the same sorry soul who’d end up cleaning it from the car’s interior, I made the decision.

Lincoln, however, was not about to sip my rational, think-ahead Kool-Aid. He collapsed like a receding wave and lay on his side in the heaviest, most obscure position so that I could not possibly draw him away from the car, let alone a pending car ride.

“C’mon, Lincoln. We’ll be right back,” I tried.

The sideway glance. Refusal.

“Fine. We’ll take my car.”

Sometimes Dog Moms love too much. We reward bad behavior, and make these concessions while our dogs break into grateful, wet smiles and remind us of exactly why we seal such deals. While his brother made his way to the passenger seat, Lincoln hopped up to his own by the window and reclaimed the throne.

King again.