Chacos column: The dog wins, despite the odds |

Chacos column: The dog wins, despite the odds

Coming home feels like a high stakes game of roulette. I can be greeted by a wagging, furry, four-legged pup, or face my children who need me to be a judge, a ringmaster or a hostage negotiator. I take my chances every time I open the door.

Depending on the day, the moon, the barometric pressure or hormone levels, I shapeshift into whatever my angst-ridden, adolescent children demand of me.

Sometimes, I quickly run to the grocery store only to return to an all-out savage battle between siblings. I do low-level reconnaissance and then referee the situation hearing each child clamor to defend their position.

Seriously, I try to hold my tongue and navigate like a priest as my kids repent and backpedal through all the gaping holes in their stories. I have no choice but to unleash my gospel.

Each time I roll the wheel and land on “arbiter-of-petty-problems,” the outcome is the same. I bark orders for my children to knock it off. Then, in an act of futility, I ask them to try and work through their disagreements together. Typically, this is an epic fail and I have to intervene. Afterward, I send them outside to play and beg for a few minutes of peace and quiet.

Other times I can step over the threshold into my home and receive a welcome fit for a queen. I open the front door and the family dog Jenny is usually there to shower me with abundant love. I could be gone for three minutes, three hours, or three days and she always sidles-up to me with an immense amount of gratitude for simply gracing her with my presence.

Jenny may be the biggest prize payout in my family’s history. I found our beloved pooch on a bike ride a few years ago, and she stealthily followed me home. She was straggly, sunburned, skinny and most likely dumped on someone’s way out of town. After posts and calls to all the lost pet outlets that confirmed her abandonment, my husband finally caved and let Jenny become an official part of our household a week later.

Our dog Jenny is always thankful for food, water and a roof over her head. Jenny will always go on a hike and is eager to be the copilot when I’m running errands. Jenny always lets me choose the radio station and the Friday night movie while we lounge on the couch. Jenny tolerates all her silly nicknames and the sweater vest I make her wear during the holiday season.

When I need comforting, Jenny is by my side, and when I need some space, Jenny leaves me alone. I never hear Jenny complain about my bad breath or tell me when I’m embarrassing her. Come to think of it, Jenny never complains about anything. She is a geyser of happy vibes.

My children can learn a lot from the dog, and I hope they’re taking fastidious notes.

Every now and then I come home and know the dog has been tutoring my children in gratitude while I’ve been gone. I wonder the ulterior motives of my tween when I hear him say, “Mom, how was your day?” because it sounds foreign on his lips. Surely the dog is responsible.

“Can I bring the groceries in for you?” sounds equally puzzling when I hear it coming from one of my increasingly lethargic teenagers, because they have energy only for eye-rolling these days. I know my beloved Jenny must be giving my kids some pointers in how to win over mom and get a treat after dinner.

I easily accept the dog’s limitations, because without opposable thumbs or command of the English language, some chores and conversation are just beyond Jenny’s capabilities. I have a harder time accepting my children’s limitations, though.

When my kids get sick, I feel awful but still wish they’d take the dog’s cue by making their mess on the tile near the front door and not in my bed. When I want to smother my children with kisses in public, I long for lessons from the dog, who is eager for a cuddle whenever I fancy one.

More often than not, I’m still willing to gamble at the end of every day. I want to hear my children clamor to tell me all about their problems, and I savor the infrequent hugs.

I knowingly take my chances coming home to a kitchen sink filled with heaps of dirty dishes, and I’ll talk them off any ledge, any day. Lucky for my kids, they were simply born into unconditional love.

As for the dog Jenny, we all won big the day she decided to follow me home and become part of our family.

Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair. Andrea can be reached at

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