When I moved back home upon completing my masters degree, I began to worry that I was turning into my mother. We look alike, we dress alike (thanks to her seemingly endless supply of clothes-I-like-better-than-mine) and people mistake us for sisters all the time. It's not that I don't like my mom- she and my dad are both the youngest in their families so I usually tell people they're "52 going on 25"--but still, distancing oneself from one's parents is a rite of passage.
Lately, however, I realized it's not my mom that I should be worried about. It's my dad. My dad is obsessed with dogs and enjoys few things more than striking up random conversations with complete strangers. This can make for rather awkward evenings out with my parents.
We'll be walking along Front Street when my dad will suddenly announce, "Hey, there's Chase Utley!"
At this point, I will invariably demand, "Seriously? Where?" Chase Utley is the one baseball player I can actually name and my feelings towards him are about the same as those of every other hot blooded female in Philadelphia.
But there's nary a baseball player in site. Just a dog, whose name is Chase Utley, and seeing as my dad knows the name of every dog within an eight-block radius of our home in South Philly, announcements of this sort are a regular occurrence.
At 6'4", he comes off as a bit intimidating but don't let this fool you: he talks to dogs, he talks about dogs, and sometimes he even sings to them. He also gives our resident mutts ice cream every night--not human ice cream, mind you, but special dog ice cream that he spoons into recycled plastic yogurt containers for their dining pleasure.
Don't get me wrong--I love dogs, especially pugs and my ex-boyfriend's boxer-- but I don't want to end up like my dad. There's something abnormal about a grown man trying to train the family dogs to wear his sunglasses. If I was a better daughter, I'd just get pregnant already so that he'd have an actual grandchild to dote on but seeing as I have yet to experience anything even resembling baby lust, it's going to be a while.
Unfortunately, this is a case where the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I knew things were getting out of hand when I found myself waving to one of my dad's dog walker friends across the street. Worse still was the time when I ran into this friend a few days later and actually invited him to join me for coffee. Random acts of friendliness aren't exactly my thing--especially when I have some time off from work and find myself in "serious writing mode"-- but we spent the next half hour in deep discussion until it was time for him to go walk his next client.
A few days ago, I was on my way home from Center City when I saw the most adorable little Weimaraner puppy. Now, being the sane individual that I am, I did not strike up a random conversation with the dog, nor did I attempt to establish contact with its owner. I simply smiled, kept walking and upon arriving home told my dad, "I saw the cutest Weimaraner today. He was walking on a gray leash. It matched his fur!"
See? I'm not crazy, not like my dad. I do not stop random dog walkers on the street and ask them questions about their dogs. Nor do I refer to people as "Chase Utley's owner." I simply take a moment to appreciate the aesthetic attributes of cute dogs with color-coordinated leashes and continue merrily on my way.
But last night I saw the Weimaraner puppy again. He was holding his leash in his mouth and trotting along beside his owner looking so darn proud of himself that I couldn't help it: I had to say something.
"He's so cute!" I blurted out. "What's his name?"
Half an hour later, I found myself sitting in the kitchen telling my dad all about Winston the Weimaraner Puppy from Center City. I knew his name, his age and the make and model of his leash. If dogs were granted Social Security numbers, I'd have known that too.
It's a slippery slope. Before long, I'll be telling my friends, "Look, there's Winston! Winston is a six-month old Weimaraner, not to be confused with the pug also named Winston who used to live on this block before his family had to move away..."
Then again, I suppose there are worse things than becoming the neighborhood dog lover--at least until I find myself taking part in my dad's nightly ice cream ritual.
Kat Richter is a writer who also has a blog called After I Quit My Day Job.