My Sister Has A Tail
While Elly is well aware that Betty is a dog, at some level she still thinks of her as a human. This is a change from when Elly was a baby and first became aware of Betty. Then to Elly, Betty was this Muppet-like character who would swoon on by and give the wide-eyed baby a sniff or a kiss. This would make Elly giggle, coo and bounce with delight. Her first word was actually "Betty." While some dads would feel slighted by playing second fiddle to the dog, it made me happy and proud that she loved Betty as much as Greg and I do.
At nearly three, she now understands that Betty is a dog, in a fundamental way, but deep down inside, Betty seems human to her. And again, I don’t blame her because in some ways, she seems that way to Greg and me, too. And if it wouldn’t confuse the child, I would explain to her that Betty is in ways more human than some people or that she behaves like a better person than some people. But instead, I try to highlight the key biological differences and will leave the nuances for when she is older. This has made for some pretty funny moments along the way.
Take for instance, when we were potty training Elly. One of the most effective rewards was applause. Hmmm, do you think we may have a budding diva on our hands? We were happy that candy and chocolate rewards took a back seat to simple clapping and cheering, making us even more generous with our lauds. There we would be, waiting in the wings, when Elly would shout out "Me peeeeeed! Now CLAP!" And applaud we would.
One day, Betty was nearby during one of Elly’s proclamations and our little diva was not satisfied with my applause alone, so she demanded that "Betty clap, too!" And she was both disappointed and puzzled when I explained that she couldn’t. I explained that Betty has paws and not hands but Elly was still not impressed. "Me waaaant her to clap for me." This reminded me of the day she asked when Betty was going to learn to walk instead of crawling on all four legs. Oh, how I had to bite my tongue from saying "Betty will walk on two legs when Mitt Romney pays his fair share of taxes." Instead I opted to teach her about the difference between bipeds and quadrupeds.