My dad has two new females in his life.
And he's fallen in love.
Neither female is my mom ...
Here's what happened.
It all began with a rescue mission.
My brother Salvatore, whom I call Tore, had made plans to adopt a rescued dog from the Popcorn Park Zoo in Forked River.
He hadn't met this dog yet, but he'd already formed a bond with him.
The morning he was supposed to add to his family, the people at the zoo informed him that the dog had been adopted by someone else.
How could they?
Even though he hadn't known the dog, he'd gotten attached and felt a sense of loss.
I told Tore it was probably better this way, because he doesn't have a lifestyle that's amenable to raising a family as a single dad, human or otherwise.
He runs a restaurant and, as anyone in this business knows, it consumes a large part of your life.
Of course, Tore didn't consider my advice at all and got himself Fifi and Nina.
Fifi's a pug, French bulldog mix; Nina's a teeny, tiny chihuahua.
He'd had visions of hiring dog sitters to walk them while he was at work and checking on them as often as possible, but he soon realized this was no life for them. They needed to be able to run and play and be happy all day.
So, off to my parents' house Fifi and Nina went.
Where Georgie and Luca, my parents' shih tzus, live.
If anyone knows anything about shih tzus, you know that Georgie and Luca were not pleased with this development.
They'd had dad all to themselves, and this, they felt, was as it should be.
Then came Fifi and Nina who thought they'd be the ones running the show.
After Georgie and Luca let them know that would not be the case, Nina was prepared to negotiate for friendship.
Fifi held fast to her running the show idea.
It was tense.
Everyone was worried.
We tried to calm down, so the boys and girls would be calm, but we're not calm people in general, and we didn't know how to calm down.
Eventually I suggested to my dad, as he sat with Fifi snuggled in his arms, that maybe we should consider finding a happy new home for the girls.
I'd say the look he gave me were as though I'd asked him to give up one of his human kids, but now that we're all older and he's had a lifetime to know us, he'd probably be OK with sending anyone of us packing if it meant keeping Fifi.
The look was basically, that suggestion will not be considered. Next?
So, my parents are trying to make it work.
A few weekends ago I went for a walk with all four babies and my dad in the park where it seemed like they were beginning to form a pack.
Fifi's attitude is, I ain't scared a'nothin or nobody. All 11 pounds of her. Luca is a little nervous. So when Fifi stood by Luca's side and stared them down as he barked at some random people, he stopped walking, looked at her as though he were considering her in a whole new way and said, you got my back.
That's right. I got your back, Fifi said. You're family.
Maybe it would be OK.
They get along, then not, then get along, then not. Just like humans.
The girls are puppies and the boys are a little older than puppies, so they're not amused by the never-ending energy.
The other day my parents brought the girls to see Tore, and when they returned, the boys looked into the carrier to check that the girls were inside.
Missing them, perhaps?
Fifi believes there are cameras on her at all times and she needs to be entertaining while filming. She runs around and gets in everyone's face, which is kind of annoying to another dog.
She knows when you're about to reprimand her because she'll stop just before you say her name and look at you with her cute face and bulging eyes and then you can't be mad.
Nina bats her long eyelashes because she thinks it'll make Georgie and Luca love her.
Georgie's not impressed by this maneuver. He sees right through her flirty ways.
But it's starting to work on Luca a little.
This morning's report was that Nina was running around and Luca was giving her kisses.