Dog Tags: An Astrological Take on Our Dog and Daughters

by Van Smith

These three, about five years ago.

Early on in the pandemic, we made flash cards using a business-card app and our newly obtained printer. Our home having suddenly become a school/office, cafeteria included, an occasional practice after lunch for our daughters, then 8 and 10, was to zoom an astrology class with my Renaissance-mama sister, an artist up in Philly.

This home-schooling activity produced a set of self-descriptors that quickly proved useful as a vocabulary builder, when together we made a set of cards with definitions and sentence uses on the back. Collectively, it produced a wonderfully devastating portrait, a hybrid Hydra of all our celebrations and challenges as parents. “Aspiring,” “acquisitive,” “rapturous,” “enterprising,” “overzealous,” “foolhardy,” “egocentric,” and “pragmatic” combine quite artfully among them.

Zeroing in on the six words in the flashcard set that have as the sentence subject our dog, a 14-pound rat terrier on Prozac named Elphie (whose eternal existential battle is over territory dubbed “The Couch” by her owners), produces a mash-up of our daughters and dog, a montage to inspire both fear and adoration. Let’s take it in alphabetical order. 

Assertive: Having or showing a confident and forceful personality. “If someone pats Elphie’s chest and stops, she assertively scratches at the person’s arm to get them to resume.”

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions and institutions, limit change, and restore traditions thought to be on the wane. “When it came to the couch, Elphie was a staunch conservative.” 
Demonstrative: Tending to show feelings openly, especially affection. “Elphie was demonstrative whenever Mom walked into the room, positively brimming over with pure love.” 

Fervent: Having or displaying a passionate intensity. “It was Elphie’s fervent belief that danger forever was knocking on our front door.” 

Impetuous: Prone to rash action or emotion. “Elphie, always the impetuous dog, suddenly bit Olive in the face.”

Substantial: Of considerable importance, size, or worth. “Though small and nearly given away to us, Elphie holds substantial value in our hearts.”

So there we have it: an assertive, conservative, demonstrative, fervent, impetuous, substantial lot, they are. We wouldn’t – indeed, we couldn’t – have it any other way.

2 thoughts on “Dog Tags: An Astrological Take on Our Dog and Daughters

  1. I don’t agree with the def of conservative but okay. Maybe for some. Others want change that’s preserves human decency because indecency is everywhere. Parents these days should be protesting the stuff I’m seeing. Things that used to be between 4 walls are not being pushed like a drug in elementary schools. In the country where I am from home schooling is against the law (imagine that!) so all you American parents rejoice and keep homeschooling please!


    1. Pulled the definition from the dictionary. I think what’s now changed is the Right is no longer conservative; its agenda seems to be for radical change to re-establish an imagined past.


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