Susan Emerson is the lucky winner of a copy of C. L. Pauwels FORTY & OUT! Susan, please contact Cyndi with your maiing address. Cyndi is at cynpauw “at” gmail dot com.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm going to be perfectly upfront with you, dear readers - this post exists solely for the purpose of showing off pictures of my pets. If you don't care for dogs and cats, I suggest you head over to Wikipedia and delve into their article on Hegelian dialectics. Because honestly, if you don't like dogs and cats, what are you doing on the internet? Isn't it like 99% comprised of cute pet pics and videos?(1)
Our story starts with Marvin, our beloved Big Dog. (2) We adopted Marvin from the Kennebec Humane Society back in 2008, after a lengthy on-line search and a terrifying two-hour car ride wherein we discovered our learning-to-drive Smithie was not ready for the Maine Turnpike Experience. (3) Marvin was and is a sweet, placid beast who was probably abandoned in the early months of the Great Recession by owners who could no longer afford his Lyme Disease treatment. (4)
Marvin was our sole pet for a couple years, until our family got hit with a one-two punch in August of '10. We packed The Smithie off to college for the first time, and Ross was diagnosed with melanoma. (5) Youngest and I, feeling a bit overwhelmed, did the most cliche thing imaginable: we got a half-grown kitten. Neko was on display at our local hardware store as part of the loan-out program of the Maine Animal Refuge League. We went in to buy energy-efficient light bulbs and some potting soil and came out with an adoption application. (6)
We always intended to have a companion for Neko, but as kids came and went from college and high school, life seemed too busy to actually invest the time into finding another cat. Until this summer. With the whole family home, my two daughters, drunk with power, began concerted lobbying campaign my 20-year-old son dubbed "Operation Get Pussy." (7)
When Youngest found out the Coastal Humane Society was having a Christmas in July event - with free cat adoptions - I weakened enough to agree we could "go take a look." (8) Those of you who are parents can see where this is going. We came home with a scraggly, forlorn looking young cat who had been found knocking about the mean streets of Brunswick, ME. The joke was on us - once out of the constraints of the shelter, Juno spent approximately two days creeping about out house before declaring herself Queen Goddess of the Home: stealing Neko and Marvin's food (9), jumping on the counter to eat half a stick of butter, demanding affection and then biting the hand that scritches her. (10)
Neko, a year older and much wider, would still be giving Juno the stink-eye, if we hadn't done something to unite them in mutual disapproval. Yes, dear readers, last Sunday we adopted a second dog. (11) Not just a second dog, but a small dog, after decades of exclusively large dogs. Not a young dog to contrast with Marvin's aged dignity, but dog that was nine years old. Louis (12) is a pure-bred shih tzu who was obviously well-loved by his owners until some trouble - losing jobs? medical bills? - left them homeless and unable to care for the little guy. It was a pleasure to be able to pick up the responsibility, despite what will be extra food costs; Louis' mouth was in such bad shape he needed dental surgery, and he comes to us with a happy heart but only three teeth. (13)
The upshot of our animal kingdom? For now, the girls are taking equal responsibility for feeding, walking and brushing (although guess who shovels out the litter box? Go ahead, guess!) (14) Now that everyone is back at school or work, I can write at home again, and do so surrounded by up to four animals at a time. (15) We have a nice balance of personalities and roles; the calm, remote cat and the lawless, slutty cat (16), the giant economy-sized dog and the single-serving dog.
And I urge you all, dear readers, to consider adoption from a shelter or rescue organization when it's time for you to expand your family. There are so many great cats and dogs out there - many of whom will not eat your butter and who have teeth! - who need homes. If you can't adopt, consider supporting your local shelter as a donor or volunteer. I'm sure I'll be back to one of our wonderful no-kill shelters in Maine in four years... after all, we'll need to replace Youngest when she heads off to college!
(1) The other 1% consists of pr*n, theories about chemtrails, and authors shilling their books.
(2) Marvin is part yellow lab, part Husky, and part cow.
(3) She felt uncomfortable driving faster than the posted on-ramp speed, so she merged into busy 70mph traffic going 35 mph. That was the reason my hair turned silver.
(4) He's doing fine now. Sometimes he needs aspirin for his joints, but then again, so do I.
(5) He's doing fine, now, too. Ask him to show you his "shark bite" at Bouchercon!
(6) That's some fiendishly clever marketing right there. What else beside a kitten is interesting at a hardware store?
(7) I know. You don't have to say it. I know.
(8) Let's face it, free is a good price for a cat.
(9) and then barfing it up. Which is no deterrent to Marvin, who will take another shot at it if I don't get it cleaned up asap.
(10) The squirt bottle is getting a workout.
(11) Coastal Humane Society was still having the adoption special, so it was a steal at $50. What right-thinking penny-pincher could resist?
(12) My grandfather Greuling was also called Louis. Mom, if you're reading this, his former owners gave him the name. Sorry.
(13) All this happened after The Boy had gone back to Trinity, leading to the following telephone conversation:
The Boy: Why did you get another dog?
Me: Well, honey, we missed you. We had to fill the void somehow.
The Boy: Is it true he only has three teeth?
Me: Yes. We've replaced you with tiny, fluffy toothless old dog. It just seemed right somehow.
(15) It feels kind of like that scene in the dwarves' kitchen in SNOW WHITE, except instead of cleaning the room, my pets demand affection and fart.
(16) I'm using that word in an ironic, third-wave feminist way, of course.