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Sunday, May 10, 2015

On Dogs and Mother’s Day

by Susan J. Kroupa

I don't need a national holiday in order to miss my mother, who passed away five years ago, or to miss my children and grandchildren, who live too far away. 
When my children were still at home, I had a love-hate relationship with Mother's Day. Sure, there was the chance for a dinner I didn't have to cook, but it often came packaged with depressingly exalted visions of mothers and motherhood that made me cringe. Or cry.
But now that my kids are out of the house, I'm less ambivalent and more hopeful about Mother's Day. Because it can mean phone calls. The kind where you hear your child's voice on the other end rather than see words from them in a text message box.
Doodle, the labradoodle narrator of the Doodlebugged mysteries, wouldn't understand.
In fact, in Bed-Bugged, the first book of the series, he's baffled by ten-year-old Molly's obsession with her mother, who disappeared when Molly was only three. Molly keeps a book of photographs of the important events from her life, hoping that one day she'll be able to give it to her mother. Hoping, really, that one day her mother will want the book, will want to be back in her life. 
In the scene below, Molly digs out some treasures she's hidden in a trunk and shows them to Doodle. explaining why she keeps them secret from her father, the man Doodle calls “the boss.”

"I can’t tell Dad, because he says she’s probably gone back to Mexico to be with her family and is never coming back and the sooner I accept that the happier I’ll be.”
Still lost here. What are we talking about?
“I don’t even know what part of Mexico her family is from.” Molly points to a bright paper that hangs on the wall near her computer. “She could be in any of the cities on that map. Or maybe in a town too small to even make it on the map.”
She sighs and shuts the book and buries it again deep in the chest, and I’m thinking maybe it’s time to resume my nap. But she brings out something else. Another paper, this one looking like what the boss calls mail, the source of many of the bills he complains about.
She pulls a smaller paper out from the covering one and carefully opens it. Inside is a photo of a woman and a lock of hair. “My mom,” Molly whispers. “She called me María. That’s what Dad told me. María Maureen Hunter. Spanish, Irish, English. A blend. Kind of like a labradoodle, I guess.”
Again, no clue what she means, but I thoroughly sniff the photo. Paper and Molly, of course, like before, but the hair holds the faintest scent of another human. I linger over it, letting it fix in my memory even though I’m not sure why this makes Molly sad. Some type of human thing, I guess. I haven’t given my mother a second thought since I left her as a pup.
Doodle doesn't worry about the future the way humans do. "Live for the now is my motto," he likes to say. Probably a healthy philosophy, but for humans, to be a parent is to live in the past, the present, and the future all at once. I can't help but remember, when I look at my grown children, how they once fit in the crook of my arm, how they wobbled with their first step. I can't help but imagine what evils might befall them if I, as their mother, failed to ward off dangers with preemptive worrying.
My mother used to joke about birds tossing the fledglings out of the nest. "Just you wait," she'd say, smiling.  "When it comes time to leave the nest, if you don't do it on your own, we'll help."  For all the smiles, she meant it, because she believed that good parenting meant raising children to be happy, independent adults. 
But it didn't mean that she quit caring or worrying over her children, just as I can't keep from doing the same with mine.  Independence, it seems, can be a one-way road.
I've often wondered if one of the things that charms us so much about dogs (and other pets) is that they are like children who never grow up. No good parent would ever wish that for a child. But no good pet owner hopes to see the family dog get a job and move to another state.
Still, pets or not, most mothers miss their children, and children, young and old, miss their mothers living and dead. Hallmark understands this.
Doodle wouldn't. But then he's a dog.

*Bed-Bugged is on sale May 10-12 for only $0.99!  Read the book bestselling author Virginia Smith calls, “A triumphant beginning to a series that I hope will have many, many stories to come.”  Amazon ◊ Barnes & Noble ◊ Kobo ◊  iTunes
**This originally ran on May 10, 2014 at www.susankroupa.com.

Susan J. Kroupa is a dog lover currently owned by a 70 pound labradoodle whose superpower is bringing home dead possums and raccoons and who happens to be the inspiration for her Doodlebugged books. She’s also an award-winning author whose fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, and in a variety of professional anthologies, including Bruce Coville's Shapeshifters. Her non-fiction publications include features about environmental issues and Hopi Indian culture for The Arizona Republic, High Country News, and American Forests.

She now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia, where she’s busy writing the next Doodlebugged mystery. You can find her books and read her blog at http://www.susankroupa.com and visit her Amazon Author page at http://amazon.com/author/susankroupa


  1. Sheila, thanks for posting this!

    1. Thank YOU for being here again, Susan!

  2. Excellent point, Susan! That's exactly what my dog is -- a perpetual child, who never talks back and doesn't move to another state. :D

  3. Kassandra, yes. There's a poignant and somewhat dark story by Kij Johnson about dogs developing the ability to talk called "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change." http://www.kijjohnson.com/evolution.html . In it, many families abandon dogs because they can't handle the conversation. It changes the dynamic.