Mistress of the House – and the Heart

By Lynn Ingram

My new roommate has reddish-blond curly hair, and she moved in last Sunday.

This is a rather unexpected development, as I hadn’t really planned on sharing my living quarters. I tend to enjoy peace and quiet at home and not having to attend to some other soul. However, she came with the promise of being pretty pleasant company and not an unreasonable amount of trouble, so I figured there was at least some small chance that our living together might work out.

It never occurred to me that she’d immediately replace me as mistress of the house.

The overthrow was effortless. All she had to do was look at me once with those limpid, saucer-sized, well-deep brown eyes, and I knew I was done for.

Missy is her name, and her identification papers say she’s a cocker spaniel, but nobody’s ever bothered to tell her that. What she thinks is that she’s a people: Never mind that she has four legs, a lovely (and permanent) furry coat as well as an endlessly wagging tail, and other people lack those characteristics. Missy has just figured that all those poor two-legged creatures have had unfortunate amputations and are somewhat sadly underdressed.

Generally speaking, Missy’s primary occupation is lying down. Periodically, she does arise and amble about a little bit, but only for the express purpose of going to lie down somewhere else. I think there’s a lesson in stress reduction in there somewhere.

One of Missy’s other fine talents is pouting.

Small children could take lessons from Missy in unfailingly getting precisely what they want. So far, she has managed to 1) pout me into letting her sleep in the bed with me, 2) make me content to assume only the space left over on the couch after Her Furriness has gotten comfortable, 3) woo me into taking her to work with me, and 4) allow her to ride in my lap in the car (a neat – although not recommended – way to learn a whole new method of shifting gears).

Pouting is an art form with Missy, and she employs several tactics, probably to be sure I’m always paying attention. Perhaps her most favorite ploy is drooping her eyelids over those bottomless brown pools and fixing me with a look that makes it unmistakably clear that she will never again pay me any attention if we don’t do it her way.

The second half of the message that she delivers demonstrates just how highly refined are her talents: Not only will she not pay me any attention, she will not respond to the attention I pay to her, and furthermore, she doesn’t care whether I ever do so again in this lifetime.

I know, at this moment, that none of the above is actually true – but you’d never convince me that she doesn’t mean every word she looks while she’s looking them at me – and I do mean precisely what I said; that dog looks words at me. And I hear them, every single one, loud and clear.

As effective as “the look” is, I think I like her “becoming one with the floor (or the ground)” performance best. This is how Missy decides for me that she is either not going out or not coming in.

It works like this: I call her, and she sits. I call her again, and she lies down. With the third call, she stretches out her front legs. Next, it’s her head that hugs whatever surface she’s occupying. With each subsequent call, the rest of Missy gets increasingly flatter until she resembles nothing so much as a reddish-blond bear rug that not only will not move, but is absolutely incapable of moving.

And I fall for it, and she wins again.

Losing has never felt so good — for in addition to having lost any right whatsoever to make decisions unsuitable to Missy, I’ve also lost my heart.

It tumbled, flip-flop, neatly at her fluffy feet, with the first wag of her stubby tail.

I can’t imagine a happier place for it to have landed.

About this writer

  • Lynn Ingram Lynn Ingram would rather dance than eat three times a day – unless it’s steamed oysters that are being served. Lynn works as a clinical psychologist and part-time instructor in the psychology department at UNCW. Either or both of those jobs might account for why she recently tried to change the TV channel with her cell phone instead of the remote.

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One Response to “Mistress of the House – and the Heart”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Oh Lynn, you won my heart by writing how you lost your heart to your fur baby.

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