Sharing a home with two dogs (Bella and Chewie) has inspired many a teaching moment in the Howe house: We’ve learned about body language, being gentle with animals, how it’s not okay for human children to pee in the backyard, about the five senses and how animals use their intuition. On most days I’d say having dogs has been an asset when it comes to parenting, that is, until the day Chewie’s behavior led to a discussion for which I wasn’t quite prepared.

We’re putting Hailey to bed one night, and we’re all in her room — parents, child and dogs — the light is low, it’s quiet and everyone is sleepy. Apparently the ambiance puts Chewie in the mood for romance. At first we ignore the slurping and licking and chewing (yes, chewing) sounds coming from the hot pink throw rug in the middle of the room. We fix our eyes on the Pete the Cat book we’re reading Hailey…shoes. Pete loves his white shoes. But soon the sheer enthusiasm with which Chewie is romancing himself has gotten everyone’s attention, Parents, Hailey, Bella…hell, even Pete the Cat couldn’t focus on his jazzy white shoes anymore. Chewie starts rolling around on the floor…. Is that moaning we hear? “What’s he doing?” Hailey asks. And then Chewie, sensing he has an audience now, decides to display his crotch to the viewing public. Hailey screams. I scream. Josh exclaims, “What the hell??!!!” What we see is a dog penis so engorged, it is truly terrifying. And then the questions start:

“What is that?”

“Is that a bone?”

“Why is it pink?”

“Does it hurt him?”

“What’s he doing to it?”

“Why won’t it go away? I want it to go away.”


“For the love of God, get him out of the room!” I say to Josh. Josh shoos him out, and the poor dog is so handicapped by his current state that he kind of hobble/rolls out of the room. Bella looks scared. I look at Hailey, hoping she might have a temporary glitch in her short term memory and forget all about what she just saw. “What was thaaaaaaat?!” she asks. So I launch into the most generic/non-frightening/hopefully-3-year-old-appropriate talk about dog boners I could muster. She listens. I don’t know if any of it computes. I keep checking in with her to see if she understands. She just nods. I think she might still be trying to erase the visual from her mind.

“OK,” I say when I’m finished. “Do you have any questions?”

“No,” she says. “Let’s do shadow puppets.” All right, I think. This went pretty well. I handled it. How awesome am I? Spontaneously having a boner discussion with my daughter and not scaring the crap out of her. Mother. Of. The. Year. So I switch off the lamp, turn on her nightlight and lie down next to her.

“What shadow puppets are we going to make tonight?” I ask.

“Let’s make Chewie’s bone!” she says, arching her index finger and wiggling it toward the wall.

Lord help me if they ever do shadow puppets in her preschool class.