I defend my dissertation tomorrow.
I took Friday off to prepare. I re-read my dissertation in the morning, brushed up on the details, and attempted to practice the PowerPoint presentation I'll be delivering to a crowd of students, professors, friends, and family in a mere two days. This turned out to be a fool's errand. I never quite made it through the entire talk without an interruption.
I set my timer and attempted to deliver my talk. Five minutes into my presentation, Watson needed something to drink and his bowl was empty. I filled his water bowl and began again. I made it through the introduction slides when Watson decided it was time to play. I took him for a walk in an effort to tire him out.
Watson did indeed become fatigued, and he crashed at the foot of the bed, so I felt it was safe to try once more.
"Beep beep beep," the Instant Messenger chimed, announcing incoming messages. Time for a chat break.
Chat chat chat.
Finally, I mustered the willpower to terminate the texting. "gtg," I concluded.
I closed my chat window and recommenced the rehearsal.
"Beep beep beep," repeated the Instant Messenger not many minutes later. A few more lines of chatting were required for closure before I could in good conscience terminate the application.
Time was slipping through my fingers. The wife would be home in three hours and I had not made it through the entire PowerPoint one time. My anxiety intensified. Convinced, though, that I had seen the last of the interruptions, I took it one more time from the top. I would surely be able to complete the 45-minute presentation at least once, if not twice, before the little lady returned home from work. Soon after that, her parents would arrive, and the weekend festivities would begin.
I made it through the first several slides without a hitch. I had been talking for 25 minutes and was on slide 29 of 47 when my cell phone rang. My wife's name flashed on the screen. I was a little surprised, because I thought she was in a meeting and wouldn't be leaving for home for at least another hour. I paused my presentation to answer the phone.
"Hello," I greeted her.
"Um, yajeev, I did something really bad," she replied. I could hear that she was in her car already. I wondered what thing she could have possibly done that she would have categorized as really bad. The wife is practically incapable of doing really bad things. Did she say something to accidentally offend someone at her meeting? Could she have made a parent of one of her students angry? Might she have gotten a traffic violation?
"What is it?" I asked, emoting preemptive supportiveness.
"I'm bringing home a puppy."
I laughed aloud. She was joking. "You're joking."
"I'm not joking." She wasn't joking.
I paused. For a long time. I opened my mouth to speak, but only silence escaped. It was if my vocal cords had been snipped. The pause continued.
"Are you mad?" she asked.
"You're bringing a puppy home?"
"You really are joking."
She really wasn't joking. She arrived at home about thirty minutes later with a 5-week old black lab/beagle mix. Apparently one teacher had given this puppy to another teacher, but the recipient's husband had informed her that he would not allow that puppy in their house. By the time the conversation between the recipient and her husband had transpired, the puppy donor had already left for the weekend. And somewhere in the time between the husband's refusal to welcome the puppy into their home and the phone call I had just received from my wife, the puppy recipient had talked my wife into taking the puppy for the weekend. The coercion, I understand, took the form of the puppy recipient placing the puppy in my wife's lap, where the puppy quickly fell asleep.
That was all it took. And now, we had a five-week-old puppy in our home for the next few days. A puppy was exactly the last thing I thought we needed at this particular junction in our lives. I knew that a puppy would mean being awakened every few hours during the nights that we had it (which is what happened). I knew that a puppy would mean strong emotional attachment and delusional fantasies of keeping the puppy far into the future even though finding a reasonably priced apartment which would accommodate two dogs in the city we were moving to would be next to impossible (which is what happened). I knew a puppy would mean a distraction from preparing for my dissertation defense (which is what happened).
"I'm so sorry. It was really stupid. I should have asked you."
I was truly speechless. Shortly after we hung up the phone, the wife and little canine arrived at our front door.
"See, look how cute she is."
She was really cute. "Huh," I grunted.
"Don't you just love how soft she is."
I pet her head. She was really soft. "Huh," I grunted again.
Watson, on the other hand, could not hide his enthusiasm for the potential of a strange, new, wonderful little playmate. The two were fast friends. Watson led the puppy to our backyard, where he showed her all the cool places to go potty and good spots for eating grass. He was enamored by his new pint-sized pal, and they began to size each other up, jumping on top of each other. Watson, for the most part, and to his credit, was careful not to crush the tiny, tipsy pooch. He stood up on his hind legs, extended his front legs as if to pounce hard on the little girl, but descended ever so gently.
"What's her name?" I asked my wife as the two played.
"She doesn't have one yet."
"What do we call her?"
"I don't know."
Just call her dog. Just call her dog. Just call her dog, I kept telling myself. To give her a name would be to create a point of attachment, and I most certainly did not want to become in any way attached to this thing. "How about Cricket?" I volunteered, involuntarily. "Cricket is a great dog name," I added, not believing the words that were coming out of my mouth. I said their names aloud: "Watson and Cricket."
"That's a great name," my wife replied.
Throughout most of the evening, the dogs alternated between incessant (borderline annoying) playfulness and sudden bouts of sleep. The narcolepticness was almost endearing. Almost. Watching that teeny tiny little puppy curl into a little ball on a velvety blue blanket on the living room floor. The only major scuffle occurred when we attempted to feed Cricket some special gourmet puppy food (provided to us by the original puppy recipient). Watson has never had to share food before, and this wet dog food smelled much, much better than his daily dry doggy kibble. Watson bared his teeth and growled at Cricket, attempting to create a barrier between Cricket and her puppy food. Ultimately, Cricket, with a little help from the wife and me, was victorious: I carted Watson up to the bedroom, where he pouted and sulked, while the wife served Cricket her fancy dinner.
I deliberately made no effort to initiate contact with Cricket. Which apparently made me pretty attractive to her. My wife had picked her up to sleep in her lap, but Cricket would not settle until she had wriggled into my arms. I pushed her away, but she kept returning. Later, as we lay in bed (and as I attempted to blog), my wife pulled Cricket to her chest to snuggle, but Cricket would lift her little head, point it in the direction of mine, and forage her way around pillows, over sheets, until her head was resting on mine. Her head on my head. That was how she wanted it. The cycle repeated several times: I brushed her off of me, she returned with greater resolve, each time more determined to burrow herself into some nook or cranny on or around my body. It seems that the less interested in an animal I am, the more they want to be near me.
(I have a way with animals I have no desire to have anything to do with. When we house sat for a favorite professor (one of edutainment's finest) several years ago, he assured us that we would never even see his cat, Smokey. That was good news to me, because I didn't particularly care for cats. And, I was allergic. As you can probably guess, then, Smokey did not leave my side for the duration of our house sitting.)
Cricket struggled to be close to me, as, the wife looked on in pleased satisfaction. Her eyes sparkled with the ecstasy of having a puppy, if even just for a weekend, even as it clamored to snuggle with me.
"I figured you out," I told the wife.
"What do you mean?"
"You want me to decide to give this puppy to you as a congratulations present for bearing with me until I graduate."
Silence. She began, "I had no ulterior motive-- I just thought having a puppy for a few days would be nice." There was a long pause. "That would be a nice present." Another pause. "but, no, that's not what I'm trying to do." Not consciously, anyway.
Yesterday afternoon, the wife returned Cricket to the teacher who had yesterday given Cricket to the wife. Parting was such sweet sorrow.