The moment the woman from Canada delivered the dog to their Connecticut home seven years ago, they began to discuss a name for the pup. One look at the 6 week old Manchester Terrier with the fine lines and noble face of a Doberman and they had opted for ‘Emma’. He’d just finished reading Jane Austen’s novel of the same name and had been impressed by Emma Woodlouse’s looks and general demeanor although he did feel some qualms over her intrusive manner when it came to the affairs of others.
His wife also liked the name because Emma Thompson was a favorite actress of hers . So she was promptly named Emma and has carried that proud name ever since. Little did the two owners realize how closely their newly adopted per would parallel the tempestuous character of Jane Austen’s Emma.
Like the fictional Emma, she was fine-boned and handsome to the eye. Beneath the finery was a stubborn, self centered, intolerant and at times—more often than not—mean creature. She allowed only her owners to touch her. She would snap at anyone who even thought of touching her. She frightened guests to the garden. She frightened the grandchildren who longed to be her friend. At dinner parties, she would lie under the table in a pose and manner so charming that guests felt privileged to be among those whom Emma would tolerate. And then someone would make the mistake of reaching down to pet her.
Shamefacedly, the guest would bring his or her hand back to the table. Emma
would be removed, jammed into her cage and told in no uncertain terms that the bone yard was next. The bone yard never happened and Emma remains, unabashed and unrepentant despite early pup training lessons from a dog behavior expert and enticements of all kinds to change her errant ways.
Then recently, young Harlan Otis Keller appeared on the world scene, the infant son of their middle son and his wife who lived on the property adjoining their own. He was a splendid youngster, blue-eyed and smiling. And fascinated by Emma. They took to each other like ducks to the pond. He smiles and coos as soon as he sees the dog and watches in fascination as Emma dutifully chases a ball around the room. Placed on the rug, he and Emma gaze soulfully into each other’s eyes. Emma reaches over and licks his face. It looks like a match conceived in some parallel universe.
His wife takes the infant for a walk in the stroller. She pauses to go to the mailbox to pick up the mail. Emma hunkers down next to the stroller, vigilant, watchful, a better-not-come-near look on her face. They look for theories to explain all this. She says that maybe this is Emma’s substitute for the baby she could never have; he believes that like Jane Austen’s Emma, she could not find true love until she resolved her own internal conflicts.