Yesterday was Pet Day in Kindergarten, so goldfish Dorothy and Stevie joined Bud at school for the afternoon. Most of the other kids in class chose to bring their dogs to the school playground for the last 20 minutes of the day. I also decided to show up for the canine finale, anticipating that it might not be Bud's favorite activity and that he might need some extra support.
I wasn't sure what to expect, honestly. Bud's negative reaction to dogs barking in the neighborhood has been as strong as ever. But he did have a breakthrough recently with Sophie's dog. Sophie is Bud's favorite child at school; when given a choice to pick a partner for an activity, he always chooses Sophie. Sophie seems to be a fan of Bud as well. At pick up time, she always has a flurry of questions for me: When is Bud's birthday? Does Bud have anything purple (their mutual favorite color) in his room at home? What is Bud's favorite tv show? Does he like to watch High School Musical? Does Bud have any pets? Does he have brothers or sisters? What is Bud doing this weekend? I refer Sophie directly to Bud when 1) she's asking a question he can answer and 2) he seems to be in a frame of mind in which he is receptive to questions. Otherwise, I answer her and point out the things that she and Bud have in common.
Sophie has a new puppy, Teddy, a sweet and quiet Lhasa Apso she can carry in her arms. Teddy has come into the classroom with Sophie at pick-up time twice before. The first time she sought me out and asked, "Do you think Bud would like to pat Teddy?" I told her I wasn't sure, but that we could ask him. Sophie approached Bud, holding the dog tightly, and asked if he'd like to meet Teddy. Bud approached slowly and stood calmly right beside Sophie and me, as Sophie held the dog and I patted him. Bud reached out his hand and touched Teddy gently with one finger. I was astounded, until the following week when Sophie brought Teddy in again. This time, Bud stood by Sophie and patted Teddy, saying "He's very soft!"
As we left the classroom, Bud crowed, "Mama, what did I did?"
"You patted Teddy, Bud. Teddy likes you."
"I talk it to Gracie and Coco and my dog guys," he said, letting me know that he'd be informing my sister's dogs of this remarkable achievement - interesting, since he won't let them into our house, but apparently sees them as members of his posse. I told him I was sure they'd be happy to hear it.
So, as Pet Day approached Bud and I talked about the dogs that might be on the playground, and the fact that he didn't have to go near them unless he wanted to. And we talked about Teddy, who would surely be there.
When the moment arrived, Bud and I sat across the road from the playground and watched the kids and moms and teachers and dogs mix and mingle. Bud was not interested in joining them, but wanted very much to get past them to the playground area that was beyond the fence. We circled the edge of the group, staying away from the animals, so that Bud could play on the slide. After a few minutes I looked up and saw Sophie approaching us. She spoke to me first.
"Is Bud afraid of dogs?"
"Yes, he is a little afraid of dogs. But, you know, Teddy is his very favorite dog."
"Do you think he'd like to come see Teddy? He's back in our car now."
"Well, I'm not sure. You could ask him, but he might not want to."
Sophie walked over to Bud and said "Bud, do you want to go see Teddy? He's in the car." Bud blinked at her, clearly conflicted about what to do next.
Sophie took his hand and said, "Come on, it will be okay." And hand in hand they walked to Sophie's car to greet Teddy while I followed along behind them, very obviously an extraneous third wheel.
I don't know whether or not Bud will ever become a dog-lover. But one things is certain: I know already that he has excellent taste in friends.