ERIN DONOVAN

We can’t get the dog, or the kids, to calm down

Posted Nov. 28, 2012, at 6:06 p.m.

When I was a teenager, my mom got a dog. She was a Brittany with a compact and sturdy body covered with feathered wisps of white and amber hair.

Emma was an elegant thing, reminiscent of the famous Disney spaniel, Lady. Just like that cartoon pooch, she had eyelashes of an enviable length, which she batted in a hypnotizing rhythm in the direction of any individual holding something edible. When she laid upon the ground, she crossed her front paws and held her snout in regal repose. If visitors turned up to the house, Emma would regard them at the door silently before turning on her heel to alert my mother to their arrival, like a four-legged butler.

In fact, Emma even collected the newspaper deposited at the mouth of the driveway each morning, so she really was like a domestic servant, albeit with a limited set of capabilities and some questionable personal grooming. And these days canines make for great household staff if you’re looking to have someone get a few things around the house without producing a child with half the same DNA as your own kids.

While contentedly refraining from most vulgar acts found on the canine behavioral spectrum, Emma had one distasteful peccadillo.

She was a pillow humper.

My brother, infamous for agitating lesser species, discovered Emma’s penchant for square-shaped textiles after luring her into a rabid pillow fight one night.

It started innocently enough, a swing of a throw pillow inspired chase and a playful snarl. Move the pillow to the right and Emma seized upon it. Jerk it to the left and she would double-back over herself to capture it, this time with teeth and claws boring into fabric. The whole family — in retrospect clearly starved of more productive hobbies — gathered to take in the spectacle.

In short order, Emma’s breathing became a pant and her eyes glazed in focused rapture. She mounted the pillow, gathered it between her paws and frantically gyrated her hips against it.

We wanted to turn away, to make it end, but Emma wouldn’t be deterred. If one of us tried to nab the pillow, she snapped her teeth dangerously close to the approaching hand, all the while never stopping her pelvic thrusts. We looked on in silence, questions floating into our collective consciousness about unpedigreed mutts of Emma’s dark fantasies, and her obvious lust for plaids.

By the time the pillow had become like Jodi Foster in “The Accused” and it was obvious it never again could be an emblem of decor, my brother — who years later would become a Navy Seal — seized the pillow through some sleight of hand. He tossed the pillow into a closet, slammed the door and commanded, “Emma! Calm. Calm. No more. Calm.”

It was too late, though.

As my brother sauntered out of the room, unfazed by the psychotic atmosphere of his own construction, Emma paced in front of the closet, snarling and swallowing her own drool, hoping to get one more chance to strike at that slow gazelle.

When Emma died, shortly after I had the first of my children, I thought so had the days of dog-on-pillow action. Little did I know I would continue to behold a similarly twisted interplay for years to come on account of my husband.

He regards children and dogs in a similar light, both court jesters there to bemuse him. Command each to sit and do tricks that impress no one. Marvel at the way neither eats with utensils or has knowledge of napkins. Sneer at both species for their inability to poop in a toilet. Fling a Frisbee to one and Duplos to the other. Blindside each with pillows until they are twitching, growling and wild-eyed with equal parts delight and fury.

He stokes the flames as the kids revert to early hominids stalking the last woolly mammoth. Once bored of their antics, he resumes reading his book or watching a game with a dismissive wave of his arm and the declaration of “Calm!”

My efforts to call a cease-fire are futile since the kids have become like Celine Dion during an encore. The show’s over, but they can’t stop hitting themselves and saying things no one understands.

The tranquility usually begins hours later after the painkillers from the emergency room kick in.

At least my kids are still young. I hear the teenage years are when they start actually humping pillows.

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