It was bound to come to this, the dog, like royalty, ruling my life.

All she needs is a scepter, or a good oak stick.

But like serfs everywhere, I didn’t even realize she was my overlord until it was too late.

And by then, I was already cooking for her, letting her sleep with me, proffering dog cookies more expensive than the Pepperidge Farm I splurge on to relieve a dark mood.

The final indignity – or at least my recognition of it – arrived one evening when I found myself sitting in a wing chair in the living room, fork in one hand, Botanical Garden soup dish with dog food chunks in the other, coaxing her to take a taste.

“This is like the princess and the pea,” I thought. “And I am not the one who reigns.”

I can’t say when, exactly, the dog took over like an invading army, or why I let her do it. Maybe it was just the natural softening that comes when most anyone gazes upon an 8-week-old golden retriever puppy. They have the innate ability to melt the hardest heart, and I had not steeled myself from the effect. From the first day when I could hold her in the palm of my hand until she weighed in at more than 35 pounds, I was quite content to carry her like an infant in my arms or flopped over my shoulder like a 5-pound sack of potatoes.

Consequently, she has never learned – among other things – that there is actually a physical boundary at which she ends and I begin, or vice versa. She sticks to me like a burr on my jeans – sometimes prickling like it, too.

She follows me everywhere, all the time, even into what I used to consider private moments, like trips to the bathroom or emerging from the shower. She is genuinely puzzled when I am at the bathroom sink brushing my teeth and pick up the hair dryer as though it were a revolver, turn it on and blow cool gusts into her face, repeating the words, “Back; get back. Leave me alone.”

She turns it into a game, biting at the rush of wind coming at her muzzle, turning her head from side to side to avoid the blast. But it never occurs to her to retreat.

In the car, the entire back seat is devoted to her comfort, but the minute I disembark, she fills the empty niche, jumping into the driver’s seat and waiting like a chauffeur for my return.

I have no sacred, or even separate, space.

But with all that, she is not really satisfied unless she has my undivided attention. Complete and undivided attention.

The phone, in particular, drives her mad. As soon as she hears me chattering away or laughing with a friend, she finds a way to tangle herself in an electrical cord, tipping over a lamp, or wedges herself into some confined area from which she cannot escape – except with assistance from me.

If I take too long while she waits in the car, she goes through my notebooks and miscellaneous papers and shreds them with an efficiency and vengeance seldom witnessed beyond species of great white shark.

But it is this most recent demand – hand-feeding her dinner – that has communicated to me how truly cornered by her I am. She knows I worry if she does not eat; she is well aware that I become anxious if she does not consume enough water (more than a few tablespoons a day).

So, using my love for her against me, she now has me trapped morning and night for several minutes, hand-feeding her as though she were a child, rather than the throwback to a wolf that she has become, living in and patrolling the Maine woods. But her stubborn refusal to eat exceeds my ability to believe she will be all right, left to her own devices – despite the two antlers she has brought home, dangling like cigars from within her toothy grin.

I don’t know how to get out of this reversal in the power structure of our home; I anticipated – foolishly, I now see – being in charge. I’m sure if I ruminated long enough, I could come up with some plan of attack, but who has the time?

There’s a chuck roast here on the kitchen counter. I’m going to need the Betty Crocker cookbook to get it right, which is to say, to her taste.

I better get started.

Staff writer North Cairn can be reached at 791-6325 or at:

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