top of page

Good Girl, Olive

By Vibha Akkaraju

PROMPT — If only ...

“Good girl,” I coo to Olive in that tone that Maya, my first born, finds unbearably saccharine.

But it’s not saccharine at all, I protest. This is pure sugar, baby. And doesn’t my fur baby deserve it? Yes, she does, of course she does.

Olive had just passed by another dog on our morning walk, a fearsome husky with one brown eye and one green. The Husky lives on the next street over. He has the strut and demeanor of the godfather. You know he could crack your jaw on the sidewalk if he was in the mood. But he chooses to take pity on you. And you really ought to choose to be grateful.

Most days, Olive chooses otherwise. She tenses up the minute she sees him. As we approach one another, either I or the other owner cross the street to give our dogs a wide berth. No reason to let two alphas get into a tangle. The security of the leash and distance make Olive—all 37 pounds of her, enhanced by a misleading layer of hair—go berserk. She stands up on her hind feet, she growls, she throws herself against her end of the leash, relying on the knowledge that I will hold her back from picking a very inadvisable fight.

But today, maybe she was distracted, maybe she had suddenly matured—but she just barked one uninspired, uncommitted little, “ruff” and kept walking.

“Good girl, Olive.”

I think what annoys Maya is that I am kinder to Olive than I am to my human children. I applaud her micro-improvements. When she comes when called—albeit through bribery, a piece of sourdough, a bite of a chicken nugget—or when she gets off my yoga mat when I ask, or when she braves the water at the beach, allowing an inch of her paws to get wet—I dissolve into a puddle of adoration for the generally ill-trained dog. I don’t dwell on her past failures. I don’t get sarcastic with her. I celebrate her baby steps.

Maya is right, of course, even if her observations and allegations sting a bit. And they get me thinking: What if I treated my kids as kindly as I do my dog? What if I treated myself that kindly?


Vibha Akkaraju writes personal narratives that touch on, among other things, her bi-cultural heritage and her family life. Her work has been published in Big Apple Parent, India Currents, HerStry, and The Dillydoun Review. She is working on a memoir about her search for identity as she moved from India to America as a young girl. One chapter of this memoir won first prize at the San Mateo County Fair Literary Contest. Some of her current pieces can be found at: Vibha writes from Palo Alto, CA.

bottom of page