Relatively Speaking: Parenting a very hairy toddler

Let’s just imagine for a moment that you are in your 60s or 70s and in a weak moment, you decide to adopt a toddler.

I can see you cringing right through the newsprint. It’s a daunting thought, isn’t it?

There’s the constant begging for attention, the incessant need for snacks, there are accidents, demands, and “Play with me! Play with me! Play with me!” all the time.

Well folks, it’s pretty much exactly the same when you adopt a dog in your 60s and 70s. For the past two-and-a-half years the wife and I have been the parents to Charles Ralph, an Australian shepherd mix.

Charles Ralph.

“Honey,” I said to the wife, “I always thought that Australians were low-keyed, enjoyed relaxing, and chilling on Vegemite sandwiches. If that’s the case, why is Charles Ralph a neurotic mess?”

“Dear, Charlie is not a neurotic mess, he’s just an excitable puppy,” the wife defended.

“He’s 3 years old! That’s 21 in people years!”

“And how did you act when you were 21, dear? If I recall, you were crazy, always begging for something, eating snacks and generally an excitable mess. I’d say Charles Ralph is right on track.”

“But he’s Australian. He’s supposed to have a ‘no worries’ attitude, mate. He should be chilling on rawhide and napping in a hammock. Instead, he explodes with excitement whenever the doorbell rings. He vocally reports every passerby, every Amazon truck, and no dog walks by without a stern scolding.”

“Honey,” the wife said, “let’s talk about Charles Ralph’s attributes. There are so many.”

“Well, I love how he sticks his nose in every grocery bag when we come home from shopping. He knows I always bring him a treat. I love the adorable anticipation on his face as I crackle the wrapper on his chewy bone. And his ‘scratch my butt’ posture as he backs into me for a scratching session, is just irresistible. I love tucking him into his bed at night, all wrapped up in his blanket with those big brown eyes staring up at me … well, it’s just the best part of the day.”

“Just like our children, dear, Charles Ralph is a challenge,” the wife said. “But the experience, the love, the devotion, and the butt scratches are so worth a little excitability.”

“I guess you’re right. Who would have thought that at our age we’d be raising a 57-pound hairy toddler? Do you think he’ll ever settle down?”

“Do you remember what the vet said about Charlie our last visit? He said, ‘At some point you are going to have to accept that Charlie is who he is: a smart, energetic, healthy, happy pup, who can get a little too excited at times.”

“You’re right,” I said. “I guess that’s what we need to do with our little Aussie, accept that we will have a toddler living with us for the rest of our lives. Maybe we should look into those Vegemite sandwiches.”

Raul Ascunce is a freelance columnist for the Sentinel-Tribune. He may be contacted at [email protected].