I often arrive home from work and realize that I’ve spent a good half hour dealing with pet-related necessities before even I’ve even given anything else a thought. Or stayed up extra late because I hadn’t been home much that day and felt that it hadn’t been fair to the dogs if I went to bed early since they had been cooped up in their crates most of the day (although truth be told, they aren’t exactly doing much of anything more exciting when they aren’t in them most of the time). And I greet them far more pleasantly each morning than I’ve ever greeted any mammal of the human variety. If any of this sounds familiar to you, then you are most certainly a pet owner.
As I was getting ready to settle back down on the couch one night recently, after finally putting dinner in the oven, thinking I’d do a little writing – and maybe about the animals I live with and the shenanigans we encounter together – I walked across the living room and stepped in something wet. I was hoping it was cold wet, as in perhaps some snow came back in the house with one of the dogs, but quickly realized it was warm wet. Warm, never a good sign, and now my deliciously comfortable, fleeced-lined trouser sock was also warmer and yes, wet. With a sigh, I peeled it off, took a quick whiff to confirm what I already knew to be true and shook my head in disgust, for about the millionth time this past year while I broke out the floor cleaner and then the Wet-Jet.
Mind you, the dog in question had just been out, and had only had a minimum of water since I got home. Life with Gus, a 15-year-old dog, can be interesting. I’m just grateful he’s a dachshund and doesn’t have a bigger bladder. He’s also begun walking around much in the way one might see a horse do his business, apparently unaware that it’s even happening. It’s a thrill a minute around here some days, folks, but for those of you with older dogs, I’m not telling you anything you haven’t seen before.
Couple this with Sophie, an almost ten-year-old mini dachshund, who is spry as can be and generally likes to rule the roost and be social, as well as a fairly juvenile, gray tiger cat, Mr. Fitzgerald, who is convinced he’s also a dachshund and it’s like a three-ring circus most of the time.
I also have two other cats, tiny Ms. Bella, a longhaired white cat who looks like a kitten still, and is about twelve years old and Puffy cat, who came to us with his name from a litter of kittens that were all named after various renditions of P. Diddy’s name. In time, Puffy has lived up to his name and is now a massive, longhaired, orange tiger that must weigh 20 lbs. We got him back in 2003 or so, and he’s getting up there in age, too.
While Bella loves to be in the house, Puffy is quite suspicious of being invited in and each cold night, it’s a delicate dance to convince him he should come in. He waits expectantly at the front door for the opportunity and invitation, but needs conversation from me, the door open a certain width and the downstairs door open as well to assure him that no one is trapping him anywhere he doesn’t want to be. It’s fairly ridiculous given that he comes in eventually – but a six-week stint in the house quite a few years ago as he healed from an injury apparently traumatized him and he’s been a bit paranoid about being housebound since. Given his amazingly thick coat, I don’t think frigid temps bother him a bit. But still, I have those nightly, front-step debates with him on why he really should come in. Should I make a move to pick him up and bring him in myself, he is out of there far faster than any cat of his girth would be expected to move.
It’s generally about this time, when I’ve settled down to write or work on something, perhaps do some homework, that Gus feels the need to go in the kitchen and smack the water bowl with his muzzle to indicate he’d like a drink. I seldom jump up and attend to this immediately and he progressively becomes more belligerent, whacking the bowl around the kitchen. Mr. Fitzgerald, always the interested observer, thinks this is terrific behavior and replicates it as well. Fitz also comes for treats when the dogs do. If for some reason, I’m tied up and can’t get water for a bit, Gus’ new thing is to take his muzzle and start opening kitchen cabinet doors as if someone or something in there can assist him. It’s like a tiny poltergeist has been through the place.
When the dogs go outside, Fitz generally hops up on a shelf in the living room and keeps a close watch from his vantage point. He’s been known to do that when people come to the door or guests come in. He often takes the high spot and keeps an eye on what I’m up to, aptly earning the name, “Fitz the spy.” I’m not sure if he’s sharing information with anyone or not, but he clearly knows what everyone is up to at all times. He often takes his perch by the front living room window, especially if I’m outside with the dogs and the other two cats – looking on in displeasure, with a somewhat hurt look on his face, wondering no doubt why he’s never included. An indoor cat only, he’s not delighted with his lot in life.
While three cats and two dogs might seem like a lot, the household is pretty much at an all-time low for pets. Once upon a time, there were bunnies, lops, tropical fish, parakeets, zebra finches, more cats and kittens, a bigger dog, gerbils, a baby mole, a hamster and more. There were also four kids here, and a husband; far more people to handle the menagerie.
At times, it can be a bit overwhelming, but these five furry characters certainly bring a lot of life – and quite often, laughs – to this home. It’s certainly never dull.