Back in the day, and I am talking even before my time and the pill, women often gave birth to a menopause baby. My Uncle Yale, Nana’s youngest brother, was one such baby. He was only nine years older than my mother.
For those not understanding this term, a menopause baby is exactly what it sounds like. A woman in her mid- to late-forties gets pregnant one last time, gives birth and never has a visit from Aunt Flo again. Remember the episode of The Golden Girls when Blanche thought she was pregnant but discovered she was actually going through menopause? My favorite line from that episode was when Sophia talked about growing a beard and said, “One morning, I woke up, and I was Yassir Arafat.”
Menopause babies also bring on something else: confident parenting. How’s that? Well, with your first child you are over-protective and watch your every move. You won’t even let your baby play in the dirt or crawl on the floor. With your second child, you let your child play in the dirt and crawl on the floor. By the time you have a menopause baby, if your child is still alive and in one piece at the end of the day, you’ve done your job.
For me, Rose Marie is like my menopause puppy. The last time I had a puppy, I was thirty-three. I held Serena when she was two days old, and I held her fourteen years later, when she took her last breath. Did I make mistakes as a new daddy with her? Of course, I did. Was I over-protective? Have we met?
Here are some examples.
I wouldn’t let children touch her. I was like Lucy Ricardo. All those other children have germs. Kids have dirty hands filled with jelly and other stuff I don’t like. Unfortunately, I ended up with a dog who hated children – and many adults.
My dog was clean. Serena had a skin condition requiring her to be bathed every week in special shampoo. Yes, for fourteen years, she got a bath every weekend – 728 baths. She was brushed every night. She was always coifed and perfectly groomed. That is why I wouldn’t let children – and many adults – touch her. They would mess up her do. She also was prissy and wouldn’t play in the dirt or walk in mud. Seriously! I never once saw her step into a puddle or roll in the grass.
People always wanted to pick her up, but she had back and knee problems, so I was constantly pulling her out of people’s arms. Once I was walking her in Mount Pleasant (which was neither a mount nor pleasant, discuss), and this stranger walked right up to her and picked her up. Who does that? I immediately demanded she let go of my dog, and I was made out to be the bad guy. Sorry, weirdo, but to me, this is my child. How would you like it if I walked up to your child and picked her up without permission?
Training Serena was both easy and difficult. I often joked we were Joan Crawford and Christina. I would demand the respect that a star deserves, and she would declare she was not one of my fans.
As a side note. Joan Crawford did that ungrateful child of hers a favor. Had she been all Donna Reed-like, Christina’s book would have been a flop, and she wouldn’t have made millions on it. I read Mommie Dearest and thought, “So what?” You should have grown up in my house. At least you had money.
Where was I? Oh yes, training. I read every stupid dog training book there was. And I learned something about dog training books. They are ALL full of dog shit!
For example: To teach your dog to come to you, tie a fishing line to her collar, then pull on it when you say come here. I did that. I pulled then Serena pulled. Guess who won? The alpha bitch, that’s who.
Use a code word to get your dog to pee. Mine was “go pee pee for me.” Really, it was. Did it work? Hell no. Serena would hold it for hours out of spite. What I did learn was that yelling, “I am in a hurry; take a goddam piss already!” doesn’t work either.
What does work? Just walking along and not saying anything and then saying “good girl” when she goes, and it only took me eleven years to learn that.
I also wouldn’t let Serena play with other dogs unless I had a complete dossier and medical records to review. As a result, her only playmate was an elderly Great Dane. For those who don’t know, Serena was a toy parti-poodle, weighing nine pounds.
As a result, she learned that all other dogs were a menace. Any other dogs who came near me, she would growl at and scare away, regardless of size. She was the best bodyguard I ever had. Too bad she didn’t do that with the jerks I dated.
I also let Serena sleep in the bed. The bad thing about that was when she was old, went blind and deaf, and fell off the bed one night I had to train her not to sleep in the bed. I spent four nights with a dog crying all night long to get into the bed. She finally got it, but she was never the same after that. Neither was I.
I may have made mistakes with Serena, but she lived a good long life and ironically, she died two weeks to the day after her twin brother, who was raised by my friend John, who rescued her mother from an abuser. He soon discovered Venus was pregnant, and that is how I got Serena (their names were only a coincidence and before the Venus/Serena tennis twins).
John was way more relaxed in raising Moochy than I was with Serena, and both lived to be fourteen.
With Rose Marie, have I changed my methods. Yes. I let children play with her. So what if their hands are dirty. I can always give her a bath if she gets sticky. I let her play with other dogs, provided they appear friendly, and what a surprise, most dogs are.
I even took her to a huge car show with hundreds of people and dogs, so she would get used to crowds.
I also don’t yell, “Take a piss already! How f-----g hard is it to piss? Just squat and go!” We just walk, and she goes. I say, “Good girl,” then we continue on our way.
However, she does sleep in the bed. Talk to me in fourteen years about how that is working out for us.
There is one thing that I don’t know if I will ever understand. Every day, someone walks up to me and says, “What happened to your dog’s leg?” If I were walking a child, and she were missing a leg, would you ask me that? Weren’t we taught how to be sensitive to disabilities? I now know how my mother felt.
When I was born, I was huge. I never wore infant clothes and went directly to toddler size. When I was six months old, my mother said she couldn’t count how many people walked up to her and said, “Oh poor dear, is your child retarded? He is two years old and can’t walk or talk.” Can you imagine walking up to someone today and saying something like that?
I never got how big I was until I was with my father in a Petco one day, and this woman had a huge baby in her cart. I asked how old he was. She said six months, and as my father walked by, he said without hesitation or surprise, “You were that size at six months.”
The woman looked me up and down, and I know she thought, “How much does one of those eat?”
I told my brother that from now on when someone asks me what happened to my dog’s leg, I am going to say, “Oh my God! When we left the house, she had four legs! It must have fallen off!” I got so used to people asking that when my friend Paul wanted to ask me a question about her, I automatically gave him the three leg story, when all he wanted to know is if she had Jack Russell in her. I felt bad for making an assumption.
Not all people are rude. One of my neighbors babysits her grandchildren, and when they saw Rose Marie, they just wanted to play with her. The only question they asked was what kind of dog she was. No one mentioned her three leggedness. Her grandchildren, and obviously children, too, were raised right.
My friend, Danny, said for Halloween I should carry Rose Marie while munching on a turkey leg and go, “Mmmmmm, only three more legs to go.”
All I know is that at the end of the day, she is fed, watered, brushed, uninjured, and still alive, so I must be doing my job.
If you want to come back as a gay man’s dog, get on my email list or better yet, buy my books: www.miltonstern.com.