East Valley Tribune

Father Knows Less

March 27, 2001

My being single with my recent choice to adopt to become a parent for the first time took many unaware. I learned of an Australian male, exact date of birth unknown, from a family of ranchers. He had been rejected by one adoptive family. Concerns flowed. What of the racial differences? Australian raised by French-Irishman? I was glad he was white with a smattering of freckles.

Nubble LighthousePaperwork complete and all necessary fees paid, we entered my one-bedroom apartment where I had made a bed for him on the floor. He kept crawling under mine so I finally laid him up in my bed, which he still hogs. The fan and fax bewildered him as I sought to kid-proof my home. Already pretty mobile, he tasted everything – like my mobile phone. I made sure none of the plants that remained were poisonous, though I figured at worse they’d be good fiber and a source of chlorophyll. Soon my journal detailed his first pee, his first poop, his first walk, and his loss of baby teeth like any proud parent.

I deal with books a lot and thought I had them out of range but his reach grew daily. The first casualty was one of the reference books I was studying since I adopted him. Hidden message maybe. My neighbors Melanie and Justin became his surrogate aunt and uncle. I will only leave him alone when they are next door with a key. We were all relieved when he quit whining and crying after the first month.

He soon had his preferences to food. Pizza from Oregano’s is a favorite especially with hot peppers. I also freeze food in ice; it keeps him frustrated and entertained while I work. So does Polly, my cat of 18 years.She was leery of the new addition, youngsters being a thing of the past. Though she sliced his nose, she soon began to let him herd her to her food dish and the kitty box. I am glad I feed her a healthy brand, per Dr. Becker and Dr. Eads, as he eats her food if I am not paying attention.

He began latching onto people’s ankles to be picked up, making sounds as if about to speak. I used to ridicule folks who used leashes but here I was. And not swimming well, I did not want to just toss him in the water to learn – but happily found I had a water baby. Though Luna’s dogs nip at him when he gets too playful he loves them and followed them into the river. Maybe that explains his staring at me when I shower and his dropping toys into the bathtub . . . or the toilet if he wanders in when I am busy with the lid up.

I guess every parent has emergencies. One day, he had and on-and-off choking spat. I figured nature knows best and tried to feed him some grass. Then with what remained of my reference book, based upon his weight, I force-fed him a mixture of 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide per 1 cup of water but I had to use a long stick to keep his mouth open. And the barbed wire incident was just a puncture to his leg so I used cayenne pepper to slow the bleeding but the little imp kept licking it off. Little boys are supposed to have scars plus I could already tell his legs would be hairy.

I am aware that by 4 years of age, much of the personality has been established. I question if I am doing any better this time around, fearing what mistakes I may be repeating. I no longer have to safeguard our home as much but what works one day is no guarantee for the next. I once returned finding he used the toilet paper as a plaything and decorated my work area to dream of a white Christmas.

How the time is flying as I sit with him on the patio at Starbucks. He studies the cooling misters with his big brown eyes as I study him with my blue ones. A single parent of 46 to a being of almost five . . . if I compute it in dog years. Course if Nubble does that to me, then I am a fossil.

What a glorious education in witnessing unguarded love these past six months. My thanks to the Monks of Skete, Dr. Marty Becker, Dr. Roland Tripp, Dr. Alan Eads, Kaibab Animal Hospital, and Tammy Green of the Arizona Humane Society for my little Australian Cattle Herder. I hope Nubble thanks you too!

Pierre O’Rourke is a writer and specialized publicist, long-time resident of Scottsdale, Arizona, and first-time parent.

Reprinted with permission of East Valley Tribune

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