Ode to Ursa


Despite her name, Ursa is not a bear but the pet of my youngest daughter, Gina, and her family. She was adopted from one of those animal rescue places and the name came with her. Gina and Bret were going to change it, Ursa being an illogical name for a dog, but in the end they just left it alone. Why confuse the poor animal anymore than she already was by suddenly calling her a name she’d never heard in her life.

Ursa joined the family shortly after Gina and Bret were married. She got lots of love and attention, put on some weight, and probably thought she’d been dropped into the bosom of Abraham. Then they had Cosette.

Cosette LOVES Ursa. She has from the get-go. By the time she could crawl, she was putting her little fingers in the dog’s ears and eyes and lifting up her lips to examine her teeth. When she was learning to walk, Ursa would stand patiently as the baby pulled herself up using handfuls of dog hair, and didn’t move until Cosette sat down again.

By 18 months, Cosette wanted very badly to feed Ursa, which she was not allowed to do. She would attempt to divert parental attention by giving the dog a few thumps with one hand (“pat, pat”) while sneaking her food with the other. Ursa, also keeping an eye on the folks, would close her mouth and turn her face to the wall. “Look,” she seemed to say. “I’m not eating it. I’m not!” One weekend I went over to babysit, and how was I supposed to know there was a ban on feeding the dog? When I got out the Chex mix and Cosette wanted to give Ursa some, it was okay with me, although the child did seem to get a little hysterical with happiness. I realized later, of course, that I’d failed yet again as a disciplinarian. Luckily, this is okay with me.

Cosette likes to organize things, which usually means me and the dog. When she was two, she would line us up (herself in front, then me, then Ursa) and off we’d go (“Walk, Gramma!”) from the living room to the kitchen to the dining room to the hall and back to the living room, round and round, stopping only when Ursa broke ranks and Cosette had to marshal her back into formation. Then it was circle, circle, walk, walk, until the dog, recognizing the utter futility of the thing, sat down and refused to budge. After that it was just Cosette and me, circling and walking, until I was able to distract her with animal crackers.

Cosette flops down on top of Ursa when she’s sleeping, chases her from room to room and issues commands which are largely ignored. The dog is a saint. Her only defense is crawling behind the dining room chairs where it’s harder for Cosette to reach her.


Now along comes Baby Bret. He seems less enthralled with Ursa than Cosette was at six months. He doesn’t laugh when the dog licks his face; he just scrunches up his nose. However, I imagine it’s only a matter of time before he’s tormenting her in the name of love.

Good luck, Ursa. We “intelligent” beings salute you.


One thought on “Ode to Ursa

  1. Good ol’ Ursa. Cosette spent two days this week calling Ursa in our room and shutting the doors. Just Cosette and Ursa with no supervision. Poor Ursa. Then I’d hear an attempt at a whistle to call Ursa over and Cosette say,”Jump in the boat Ursa”. Somehow or another she convinced Ursa to jump into the laundry basket with her multiple times to play “boat”. Good ol’ Ursa!


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