Ginger likes her sweater. I think. Now, I’ve never been one of those dog people whodressed up their dogs to look like little versions of themselves. No leather jackets. No sweatsuits emblazoned with a sportsteam logo. No doggy raincoats, with matching rain hat and rubber boots. Come to think of it, since the buttonsof the last one rusted off, I haven’t even owned a raincoat. So that’s not exactly an accurate comparison.
But last Christmas, Sofie asked about a present for our twoCardigan Welsh Corgis, Ginger and Colby. They are sister and brother, but from different litters, and have servednot only as surrogate siblings to Sofie, but as comedy team, always ready forher amusement. Used for herdingcattle and ponies in Wales, the breed are working dogs that get a little antsywhen they can’t keep an eye on us. When Sofie was just learning to use a real bed, Ginger slept on the bedwhile Colby slept underneath.
So when Sofie expressed a desire – no, the expectation –that she should give them a gift for Christmas, it only seemed right. Standing there, in PetSmart in Hyannis,faced by all sorts of dress-up gear for the latest fashionable toy breed.
Oh, sure, they have short legs, but they are otherwisemedium-sized dogs. Colby’s head isalmost as big as a German Shepherd and I’ve seen him turn things like femursand brake handles into tiny bits in the blink of an eye. So they clothing that caught Sofie’seye were on the disappointingly small size.
The only thing we could be certain of was a pink and purplestriped sweater. Fully aware ofGinger’s gender, Sofie agreed this was just the thing. Colby could have anextra cow hoof in his stocking, to make up for it. Nature provided him with a much heavier coat, anyway.
So on Christmas Day last year, Ibecame A Guy Who Dresses Up His Dog. It fit, which was a relief, I suppose -- not like there was any otherclothing we could exchange it for. Ginger didn’t try to get out of it, she didn’t carry in mud and leavesfrom outside (any more than on her feet), and it didn’t shrink. In fact, she seemed less agitated andmore restful, which I chalk up to drowsiness – always a good thing in the otheroccupants of a writer’s home.
And then a couple weeks ago, we took a walk down to theChatham Bakery, with Sofie handling Ginger’s leash like a pro. Because of thedog, we ate our Gingerbread cookies at the picnic table out front. With all eyes at the booths inside thebakery looking out at us, it was clear I had become THE Guy Who Dresses Up HisDog.
Oh, the shame of it all.
It is just a long, slow descent into a world of rhinestoneleash with matching collar and tiara, patent-leather Mary Janes, andfancifully-flowered sunhats. Iflash-forward to a day not too long from now, when I would be clipping Ginger’sclaws and wonder if it would ruin her French manicure.
Really, this anxiety is all after-the-fact, of course. As a father’s indulgence to his fiveyear-old, the cost to my male pride was fairly insignificant. You pretty much have to set aside all pretensewhen you have a child, more so with a daughter. Even more so as the single father of a little girl. I can’t tell you the number of timesI’ve left the house forgetting that just a little while earlier I’d had my hairdone up. Sofie’s insistence notwithstanding,pink barrettes apparently do NOT complement my eyes.
Still, I’m looking for Colby to redeem the male-ness aroundhere. Christmas may have come andgone, but the sales are just beginning. Big black leather collar with plenty of spikes should do it -- somethingcoyote-busting.
Yet, it is not that easy, when considering Sofie. Such an accessory would put an end toher near-hourly hugs that squeeze the pulse out of him. I’m more worried aboutthe underside of her mattress getting torn up. We might have to pull it back a little. Aviator sunglasses? Nah. A shoulder holster? Might work. A black LedZeppelin T-shirt? Not bad. But I draw the line at rhinestones.
Read this and Andy's other columns online at The Cape Cod Chronicle.