Metro-East Living

If you love something, you have to jump into it with both feet

Columnist Michelle Schrader with her beloved Shih Tzu, Captain Jack
Columnist Michelle Schrader with her beloved Shih Tzu, Captain Jack Michelle Schrader

I woke up at 3 a.m. with my arm thrown over a sneezing, one-eyed Shih Tzu. It’s allergy season and Captain Jack is susceptible. Something to do with his tiny nose. Thank God, my other dog, Lenny, has a longer snoot. No sneezing for him. Just growling every time I move my legs.

Did I mention the three of us were sleeping on the couch? We moved there because my husband, Mark, isn’t a fan of sneezing and growling. He also isn’t a fan of pets in the bed. But a squirming kid in the bed? Now that’s a different story.

When our only child, Sam, was a toddler, Mark was happy to let him snuggle right in. Back in those days, Sam slept sideways. He’d kick us in our ribs and flail his tiny arms in our faces. Gosh, I miss those days.

No, seriously, I really miss them. I am a woman of many passions: animals, chocolate and “Dateline” among them. But if I had to list my No. 1 favorite thing, it was cuddling my baby. That baby is 21 now and I have to beg him for signs of affection.

“Hug me, Sam,” I asked him, recently.

“Mom, I hugged you two weeks ago. Don’t be so greedy.”

A good psychologist might say this is why I dote on my pets — transference and all that jazz. Well, I don’t have a good psychologist, but I do have my best friend, Lydia Kachigian. She has served as my amateur analyst since we were both 14. And let me tell you, she is honest to a fault.

“You’ve always taken things to an extreme, Shelly,” she says. “Do you remember when we were in high school and you’d drink shake cups filled with hot fudge?”

“It’s no secret I’m a chocoholic,” I say.

“And an animal-holic. And a baby-holic. Let’s face it, when you love something, you REALLY love it.”

“Lucky for you,” I tell her.

She doesn’t disagree.

The fact is, I am addicted to Lydia, just like I’m addicted to Mark and to Sam. I think most folks are addicted to the people they love. They just don’t pet them as much as I do.

“Why are you scratching me behind my ears?” my husband asked me, the last time we were on vacation. We had left the pets at home but old habits die hard. As usual, Mark read my mind.

“You can’t be away from them for a minute, can you?”

“Oh, I can be away from them. I just need something to cuddle.”

He raised an eyebrow and broke into a smile.

The vacation got better from there.

Michelle Schrader: