I like to describe my current status with my family as being comparable to a working relationship. Much like two co-workers mutually grabbing for the box of pastries in the break room, we have a general idea of each others’ lives on a more or less casual basis. You wouldn’t spill your heart to Geoffrey in finance, you would put on a nice smile and keep him at an emotional arms length, offering him some quick-hit bullet points so he knows you’re not a social pariah. So it goes with my family. I am generally aware of the big points going on home, and vice versa. Do I share everything? Absolutely not. A quick chat every other week or so, some platitudes about class and friends, maybe an anecdote about fraternity life. That’s it.
While this strategy is all well and good during the semester, going home for an extended break suddenly becomes a challenge all its own. Now that you’re in their physical presence, your family is raising their expectations for sharing and conversation. You can only gloss over your bullet points for so long before the questions start coming, details are requested, and your well-being is gauged. This is your family’s job, and you love them for it. But let’s be honest; you also kind of dread it.
At this point, you consider skipping out on the family all together. Maybe staying on campus isn’t such a poor choice after all. How bad of a son would that really make you? But then you recall the one family member that never asks questions. The one family member that is so ridiculously enthused to see you that they physically shake and leap and roll, like a Haitian voodoo dance of the dead. The one family member that acts like nothing has changed the minute you walk back in the door. I am referring, of course, to your childhood family dog.
Man, you’ve missed that dog this semester. Especially if your chapter is houndless, going clean of any canines for months on end is like a heroin addict deciding to go cold turkey on the needles. Things just aren’t the same without a pooch around. And of course, every dog owner on this planet knows that their dog is irreplaceable, the best one out there. It’s not just that you miss having a dog around; you miss having your dog around. Indeed, the relationship that you have with your family dog is the kind of special, unique bond that you only cultivate a few times in your entire life. I firmly believe that if people were given a choice between saving the life of a complete stranger and saving the life of their childhood dog, more than a few would pick the dog. One of the few completely acceptable moments for a man to cry is the loss of a pup, and saying that you miss the family hound is less an admission of weakness and more a statement of being human.
So when your friends and acquaintances ask you if you’re excited to go home for the break, you can look them in the eyes and tell them the truth. You can’t wait to get home. You’re really looking to forward to seeing your family. You’re just way more excited about seeing your dog..