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By Sally Torbey

The favored child

Uploaded: Jan 22, 2014

I became aware that my family thinks I love the dog best when I received a Mother's Day card which read, "Happy Mother's Day from your favorite child?you know, the short hairy kid with a tail."

I am not sure how my family came to the conclusion that the dog is my favorite, but it is probably a result of the two-mile rule I subjected them to as children. With five children under the age of 12, I limited their activities to within a two-mile radius of our home, giving preference to those activities to which we could walk or bike. This eliminated horseback riding in Portola Valley, gymnastics in Mountain View, and travel teams, but since there are three community centers, a museum and zoo, an art center, an outdoor ice rink, a little league ball park, a children's theater, a library, and Stanford University within that radius, I didn't think anyone would suffer permanent damage by this geographical restriction for their after-school activities, lessons and camps.

When I brought the dog home, I assumed I would meet all his needs within this geographical zone as well. Much to my dismay, I tried class after class, but nothing was working for my puppy who, unlike my children, did not have a compliant, easy-going temperament. These classes were great for puppies who thrive in an off-leash class where they are free to run around and socialize with other puppies and owners, but my puppy was completely overwhelmed and behaved inappropriately. In desperation, I called a highly recommended trainer in Redwood City and within hours found my way to one of her classes, which had a more gradual, controlled method of socializing puppies, and I could immediately see this was the appropriate place to train my reactive puppy (and me).

For a few months I was able to hide from my family that I was driving the dog twice a week to puppy training classes in Redwood City. Eventually, however, they discovered that I had broken my unbreakable two-mile rule for the dog. Although this happened four years ago, my children have never let me forget this obvious sign of favoritism.

There are some things, however, that are probably more appropriately attributed to my imminent senility than to my preference for the dog. Although I never call my children by each other's names, I repeatedly call all my children, and particularly my younger son, by the dog's name, and vice versa, to the point where I wrote on the calendar to take my son to the vet.

On the other hand, my family may have some reasons to believe I prefer the dog. The dog is a pleasure to have around. He is always ecstatic to see me, enthusiastic about doing whatever I want, whether it be a walk or a nap, happily goes to bed on time, generates no laundry or cereal bowls in the sink, and he never complains about what I make him for dinner.

Maybe my kids should pay closer attention to the dog's behavior if they hope to gain most favored kid status!