Monday, August 20, 2012

Besides the kids..what’s new?

Pets! We now have three. This is a solely Marlo-led endeavor, with kid backup. Back in November 2009, my beloved Conan disappeared shortly after my discovery of the Nocturnal Racoon Bandit. I have missed him terribly since, my sweet, fierce Sir Snugs-a-Lot that terrorized countless family members and guests, yet never so much as scratched a child. That next January, our affectionate Voodoo, who endeared herself even to non-catlovers, passed away at home, while we played a boardgame a few feet away. The loss of these elderly cats was deep and painful. For years, Fillip and I had said that once the cats were gone, we would get a dog. Fillip  took some convincing, but given how often Fillip works at night, I wanted the comfort of knowing a canine companion was watching over us while he was out.

Last January the boys and I headed over to the animal shelter to get them their very first dog. We chose to meet two dogs in the designated area. One was a Boston terrier type, super cute and friendly. The other one was Doris. The kids' overwhelming choice was Doris, and so begins the saga of my Least Favorite Pet Ever That Has Grown On Me Over Time. For the record, I want to make it clear that although I take full responsibility for bringing her home, I take NO responsibility for her name. I blame Fillip for that.

Doris had a tough transition into our household. Although Fillip fell in love the very first evening she convalesced from her spay surgery in his lap, within a few days she was overly rambunctious, digging holes, chewing anything she could and just driving me crazy. She would playfully nip the boys running around, and not so playfully nip our guests. She immediately took ownership of our property and family. Within a couple days she had hopped the back fence, yet stayed in the front yard eagerly awaiting our return, while defending the property from previously friendly neighbors out walking their own dogs. She is quite trainable when we spend the time.The official story from the shelter was that her owners surrendered her because they moved. Clearly, there is more to it than that. She is very sensitive to loud noises, and wouldn't even go out in the yard if the bug zapper was on. She would just cower. Someone hurt her, which is so sad.  Initially, her only saving grace was her gentleness with baby Sutton. He crawled over to take a toy she was playing with, making me very anxious. She simply let him have it, then gently grabbed the other end with her teeth, slowly pulling it back and forth in a nurturing version of Tug-O-War. The kids can take her food while she is eating, climb on her and play rough with her, without the slightest sign of aggression. Despite all the aggravation she had caused, I decided she could stay.

Now she is easy to have around, with few problems. Sometimes she barks too much or gets in the trash, but overall has melded into the family. We enjoy most of her antics, my favorite being her frequent groaning. I swear, she lies down on her bed like an 80 year old man, rather than a spry three year old dog. She loves going for walks, and especially loves going for a run when I skate with the Sutton in the stroller, and the older boys on bikes. Sometimes she plays with a dog down the street. They sound loud and aggressive, but have a great time! The boys love her and I enjoy snuggling up on the couch with her. When they are all grown up, this is the childhood dog they will remember, I hope fondly.

Although we had always said this would be the Decade of a Dog, it turns out I am really a cat person. I’ve missed those cats terribly, and find myself mesmerized by the friendly neighborhood cats. As I mentioned here, I decided it was time to add a feline to the family. This sweet cat that showed up didn’t work out for us. He is being fostered down the street and often comes to visit. I still find myself completely drawn to him, but just can’t handle his bad habits in our house. In February, we adopted a new cat from the animal shelter. There were two 6-month old kittens who had been found together. One looked like a snowshoe and the other a caramel black and grey tabby with white socks. The snowshoe seemed a bit reserved, so we adopted the tabby. Although he seemed like an average sized kitten at the time, he quickly bloomed into a gorgeous, fluffy beast of a cat. At about a year old, we suspect he has some Maine Coon in him, and know that he is one cool cat. We named him Perry, because when we got him he would make a funny sound like the character on Phineas and Ferb. Also, like those characters, we often find ourselves going “Where’s Perry?” Perry the Catypus is a very independent soul who will contentedly tolerate some cuddling, but isn’t a lap cat. Howevre, he does love to snuggle up with Hayden up on the top bunk bed. He spends a great deal of time outdoors, showing up in the late evening for bedtime. Our bedtime..not his. While we try to sleep, he plays energetically all night. Doris sleeps in our bedroom with the door closed because the sound of the two of them frolicking all night was just too much. Perry loves to stalk Doris in the backyard and spring out at us when we walk across the front yard. He’s very spunky and sweet.

Given the lengths I went to in convincing Fillip to get Doris and Perry, it was kind of understood that our pet populace was full up. Then, a friend of mine posted adorable pics of a tiny kitten she had found that needed a home. He was eating from a bottle and had leftover milk on those little chin cute! When Fillip came home that afternoon, I greeted him with “I’m off to get Sutton, and a friend is dropping of a kitten in 15 minutes. Bye!” In protest Fillip was quite sullen during the dropoff. However, he immediately took to this sweet, tiny grey and black tabby. For all his blustery, gruffness, Fillip can’t resist a baby anything. He said “Give him to me..I get to bond with this one!” So, we now have our adorable, Silly Billy. Hayden has nicknamed him Bilbo, like the hobbit. He is super energetic, and oh so sweet. He still has a strong need to nurse, and will kneed and suckle his stuffed raccoon for an hour or more every night. If he gets too wound up, we just give him his raccoon to calm him. Sometimes, I catch him doing the same to a very content Doris. He loves to snuggle and is very gentle.He will play with anything he can find, much to the delight of the boys. He also likes to sleep with the kids when they go to bed. When I go for one last tucking in before I hit the sack, I often find Baby Sutton and Baby Billy snoozing away together. Logan usually builds a little nest of pillows and stuffed animals on his bed, including Billy's raccoon. I think the sound of Billy's purring and sucking lulls my non-stop Logan to sleep.

All three pets romp and play together, much to our amusement. Doris seems very happy to have playmates and the cats don’t seem to care that she is a 60 lb dog. She is more gentle with tiny Billy than Perry is, but Billy holds his own. They are all very tolerant of well meaning, if not so careful children. The kids are pretty good about caring for all of them, from feeding and watering to cleaning up after them. We certainly didn’t need any more beings in our house, yet I am so glad our animal family is there as well.

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