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Senior Correspondent

They wake up happy every single morning. A little bit of stretching, a sneeze or two and they are full-throttle energy, eager to see whatever the day brings. And no caffeine! How do they do that?

They greet me at the door, deliriously happy that I’m home, even if I’ve just taken out the garbage. Any move toward the couch is an open invitation to sit and cuddle. Every move I make they stare at with utmost curiosity. To them, I’m the most interesting woman on the planet, even if I’m just ironing.

“They” are Dixie and Scooter, my two adorable rescue pups. Now that my children have grown and flown out of the nest, I’ve come to appreciate the toddler spirit that lives in the canine world. They completely live in the moment where life is happening. They have mastered the present just as young children do.

When my children were small, they were up for any adventure, especially if it included the outdoors. And so it is with Dixie and Scooter. They never turn down an opportunity to sit outside on the porch and watch the world from their perch, or take a walk in the neighborhood or nearby park. And just as with toddlers, those walks can be incredibly slow because there’s just too much to see and smell along the way.

My young children often were frightened by the big world when they were in unfamiliar situations. And so too, my pups are brave at home, but often tentative outside of it. “Stranger danger” is not just a word for small children; my dogs can also be wary of anyone they don’t immediately recognize as a friend. 

Dogs, like children, hold no grudges and will forgive minor mishaps. There have been times when I’ve stepped on a paw or unknowingly caught an ear in the snap of a collar. Whenever I’ve unintentionally hurt one of them, they cry out, but then immediately begin vigorously licking me to show that all is forgiven. 

Dogs, like toddlers, fall into the deepest, sweetest sleep, with only occasional twitches and whimpers that resemble a dream or nightmare. They never wake up in the night with a to-do list on their mind. They enjoy every meal, even if they had it yesterday, and the day before that. They love to play and be included in family gatherings. 

My dogs thrive on love and discipline, just as my young children did. They crave routines and knowing the rules of the house. They have their favorite hide outs, their favorite toys, and their favorite snacks. They love to give kisses, but just like my young children, only to a certain point. 

My dogs follow me throughout the house, needing to keep me in view at all times. There’s more than one parent and dog owner in this world who has had a pair of eyes, or two, staring at them in the bathroom. And that’s the other thing: dogs, like toddlers, don’t understand personal boundaries or privacy. 

Every summer brings about thunderstorms and firecrackers, both of which terrify my dogs, just as they did my toddlers. Every Fourth of July, there are two frightened, shaking pups, using my body to drown out the booms in the neighborhood. 

Of course, dogs aren’t toddlers, and there are significant ways that they can differ. My small dogs have a life expectancy of 15 to 18 years, which means they will never leave the nest, and it’s very likely I’ll be burying them. Dixie and Scooter won’t graduate from college, get married or move to Atlanta.    

I want to be a grandmother someday and have the pleasure of loving and spoiling my grandbabies. If you’ve raised kids, you know there’s nothing like having a child in the house. 

But until that day comes, I’m practicing my grandmotherly skills on my four-legged kids. They don’t seem to mind the attention, and I’ll be well prepared when I add the word “grand” to my current title of mother. 

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