Monday, September 14, 2009

Under One Roof

My parents met Sherlock for the first time in early 2007. My parents and I had just returned to San Francisco from a vacation in Hawaii. They were staying in San Francisco for a couple of more days before returning to New York.

Jeff and I had just started dating a few months ago, and my parents met Jeff for the first time before we left for Hawaii. Even though Jeff and I had been living together for the past month, I found it difficult to announce it to my parents, so while my parents were visiting, Jeff stayed at his house in San Jose.

Upon our return from Hawaii, Jeff offered to pick us up at the airport and then return at 10am the following morning to pick us up for our excursion to see the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo. Instead of having Jeff drive back and forth to San Jose, my mom asked him to stay with us overnight at my house. When she did, I alerted my mom.

"Mom, Jeff has a dog, you know."

"I know, you already told me."

"Well, he can't leave the dog alone for two days."

"He can bring the dog with him."

"Really, he should bring the dog with him?"

"Why not?"

So said my mother, who believes people and animals do not belong in the same abode. At least that was her refrain when I cajoled her for a puppy throughout my teens.

"Do you think Dad would be ok with that?"

"Oh, he'll be fine."

Neither she nor I mentioned his fear of dogs after he got bit in the leg about a decade earlier.

So my mom and I made our plans. Jeff would pick us up on our return from Hawaii, stay overnight with us with his dog, and then we would all drive down to Ano Nuevo together the next morning.

When Jeff picked us up from the airport, he said he had already dropped Sherlock off at my house. We drove 20 minutes from the airport to my home in Noe Valley. Jeff dropped us off with our luggage and went off to find a parking spot.

As we approached the door, I warned my parents again.

"Jeff's dog is in the house. You're ok with that, right?"

They just nodded and didn't betray any emotion.

As I turned the key in the lock, I heard Sherlock's toenails clickty-clack on the hard wood floors as he charged through the house, barking like the mad dog he always played whenever we entered or had guests. I pushed open the door, just as Sherlock -- with all of his 65 pounds -- tried to bounce into my lap, his blond fur and ears flopping up and down. When my parents followed, Sherlock rushed around me to get better access to the newcomers. As he tried to bounce onto them, my parents barricaded themselves behind their luggage, standing back to back.

"Tie him up! Tie him up! Can't you tie him up?" My dad yelled.

"Dad, just stay still. He just wants to sniff you, that's all. He doesn't bite. He'll calm down in a second."

Sherlock continued to bounce, trying to get closer.

"Tie him up! Tie him up!"

"Dad, he'll calm down in a second. Sherlock! Sherlock! Over here, big boy!"

"Tie him up! Tie him up!"

That's how Jeff found us when he entered the house. My parents still barricaded behind their luggage, and me holding Sherlock by his collar and trying to calm him down. By then, Sherlock had gotten most of his barks out of him.

"See Mom, see, Dad. I told you he'll calm down. He's a good dog."

Sherlock soon lost interest in my parents once he got a good sniff. He then went back to the living room to look for his toys.

Once my parents managed to pry their hands off of their luggage and step out from their protective circle, they settled down. When they sat on the couch, Sherlock sat at their feet. When they went to the dining table, Sherlock ambled to their side. He tried to nudge their hands with his nose.

"Dad, try petting him. He feels really soft, especially around the ears."

My dad hesitantly reached out but pulled back when Sherlock reached with his wet nose. Jeff held Sherlock's nose down as my dad safely petted Sherlock's back, far away from the nose.

"See, doesn't that feel good?"

"Yes, it's very soft. I've never pet a dog before."

Jeff and I stared at each other. "You never what?"

My mom chimed in. "I've never touched a dog either."

Jeff and I looked at each other again.

My mom hesitantly touched Sherlock with a couple of quick pats before pulling her hand back while Jeff held Sherlock's nose down.

When they returned to New York a couple of days later, my mom called.

"He's a very good dog as far as dogs go. I can tell he's very mild mannered and he listens well."

"Yeah, he's a good dog, right?"

"But he sheds an awful lot. Can't you do something about that," she said.

"Well, Mom, that's just how he is. He's a yellow labrador, and they shed."

"Well, can't you guys trade him in for a dog that doesn't shed?"

Such blasphemy. I begged her never to repeat that in front of Jeff.

In less than a month, my parents are coming out to stay with me, Jeff, our new baby -- and Sherlock.

We'll see how we all fare with one another.


  1. OMG! How did your parents get to be grownups without having ever pet a dog before that time?

    They will be fine - they've met him, they like him, they'll probably encourage you to tie him up lest he eat the baby, but whatever.

  2. This post made me laugh out loud (mostly your dad's reaction). My parents are the SAME way. I grew up in an animal-free house, but my husband did not. We've been thinking of getting a dog for ages but always worried that my parents would visit less if we did. We're going to go ahead and take the leap so it'll be interesting to see how we all fare during their visits out here. We figure, we have a baby on the way, so hopefully that's where most of their attention will be focused.

  3. I love this article! So funny and endearing. Animals are amazing and Sherlock is gorgeous!

    Charlie's owner

  4. Oh my this sounds just like my parents. We have a yellow lab as well and my parents are always asking when we're going to get rid of him. Granted our pooch is more Marley than Sherlock...

  5. I just hope that "animal lovers" would understand that there are plenty of people out there who are not like them - in a sense, who don't necessarily have a positive feeling towards dogs or cats. My grandparents apparently had always had dogs outside the house but after my mom was bitten by a neighbor's dog when she was pretty little, we never owned a dog or cat. The OCDness of my parents didn't help either. My dad gave up on the idea of having a dog in the house because of my mom.
    For me, I'm not afraid of a dog or a cat, but I really can't imagine having one in my house. Also, whenever I visit other people's house where they have dogs, I try to shed my clothes right after I get home. No offense to any dog lovers, but they do shed a lot of hair and those without dogs are not quite comfortable with seeing dog hairs on clothes.