Driving down the highway, she passes an eighteen wheeler. It has a large yellow sign plastered to the back side: Come join our team! Customers report that they are 96% satisfied with us!
“Did you just read that sign?” She asks her daughter. “They think 96% is something to brag about? They are OKAY with 96%? I don’t think I would want to work for a company where the customers aren’t 100% satisfied.”
“Mom, you’re joking, right?” her daughter turns the radio back up to ear deafening, thus ending the conversation.
“I’m not kidding, kiddo, what do you mean?” she shouts over Billie Eilish.
“None of your ‘customers’ are satisfied. You have horror stories. How many times have you had your bulletin board ripped down? Just the other day you said all of the books were thrown off your bookshelves and had to be reshelved...again.”
Mom turns the radio off. “No, this isn’t a matter of satisfaction. Right or wrong. This is a child. That child who threw the books? She is hurting. She is getting out her anger and frustration in the only way she knows how. She is little and doesn’t have the words to use right now. Every behavior is a communication. We just need to listen. I don’t care about the books. Those are just things. Let her throw, toss, push, pull all she wants or needs. She isn’t hurting anything by going into the book room and emptying those shelves. It’s a safe space for her to work out some feelings. I am sorry that I didn’t make this distinction to you; I just told you the story of her emptying the shelves. I didn’t share her background of abuse because I was protecting her privacy, and sheltering you from the evils of the world. I was wrong. I should have been more clear. Furthermore, once the shelves were completely empty, she slowly and methodically reshelved each and every book neatly and hugged me tightly. She told me she was sorry and that she loved me. I echoed the same words right back at her. It may look like my ‘customers’ aren’t satisfied, but, in some small way, I like to think they are.”
“You done now? You spend more time thinking about the kids you have than the kids you made, mom. Maybe I’m not satisfied either,” her daughter said as she turned the radio back up and turned to look out the passenger side window.
I sighed from the back seat where I dozed in the warmth of the car. That last comment hit a nerve. I could see how mom’s knuckles turned white on the steering wheel. She slumped a bit lower in her seat. Her cheeks turned pink and her eyes got real wet. The radio stayed loud for a long time. What is this “satisfied” anyway? Am I satisfied?
My days are pretty much the same. The routine is always the same. I wake mom up with a very enthusiastic good morning greeting. Some days are more loud than others, I agree, but I am always just so eager to see mom and to make sure we are all ready to start our days together. We need to be on time or the “Mean Mom Voice” will start barking orders at everyone.
Breakfast is served, typically by mom. She knows I can’t do it, as they keep everything out of reach. And, I never complain about what is being given to me. I eat every last bite without uttering a single whine or asking for something different. I've heard the others ask and seen the result. It isn't pretty. We eat what mom serves or we get that withering stare. And then the girls have to get their own bowl of cereal and cut up their own fruit slices. It must be difficult because the girls make such faces and fusses about having to make their own breakfasts! Mom makes it all look so easy; but it must be hard with all that cabinet door slamming and pouting. The girls don't complain very often.
I spend some time running around getting under foot while everyone else is getting ready, being told to go play while they get ready for work and school. I try to hide their shoes behind the sofa and car key in my dog dish, but they are on to me. It’s a long time to be away from mom and my sisters when they go off to work and school. I miss them when they are gone. The music is gone. The laughter is gone. Their voices are missing. The house is so quiet.
I have to protect the house from invaders. Do you even know how many people try to come into the house every day while they are away? There are chipmunks, rabbits, mailmen, delivery men, other dogs, and cats. One time some lady with some books tried to get in the front door. I barked and barked like I had rabies, foam and all until she left the front porch, papers and bookmarks flying in every direction.
But when they are home, I am told to “stop barking” and “go lay down” each time I try to protect our house. I don’t get it. Am I a dog or am I not? Where do I fit into this family? To bark or not to bark?
And don’t even get me started on the sofa issue. I’m allowed to lay on this chair, but not on that sofa? Why? I like all of the sofas. They are all so comfortable. I don’t care about fur and furniture (it is called “fur”niture for a reason, am I right or am I right?). And this thing you call a vacuum cleaner, that thing is loud and scary anyway. My fur is just adding an extra layer of fluff to the sofa when I shed it. Don’t worry about it. There’s no use trying to keep up with cleaning. Face facts. I shed 365 days a year. It happens.
Speaking of “it happening”...yep, at least I am house trained. I'll let you know when I need to go outside. I know you get frustrated when I need to go outside a dozen times in an hour. Hey, sometimes ya gotta go when ya gotta go. Sometimes I eat something that I shouldn’t have eaten, like that cat food that you left out. You know it gives me diarrhea. You shouldn’t leave that dish out where I can reach it. Up on that shelf. In the upstairs bathroom. Behind the closed door. You know my nose can sniff it out.
I’ve given you so many reasons to thank me: protection, not pooping in your house, adding an extra layer of warmth to your furniture - and an excuse to not clean as I am just going to keep shedding anyway, a morning alarm clock to make certain you are never late for work, even on weekends and holidays.
There you are, I am 100% satisfied. You didn’t make me, but I am satisfied in my job of providing you with my love and protection and affection. No need to thank me. It’s all in my line of work. I was born to serve.
Speaking of love and affection, I feel the need to hop up in the front seat right now and lick some faces.
"Hey you, you silly dog, what are you doing up here?" her daughter giggles at the wiggling fur ball on her lap. "Thank you for the kisses."
When mom reaches over to pet me, their hands come together for a brief moment. I feel three tight squeezes. I know what these mean; and the thankless become thanked.