Friday, January 2, 2015

Best of 2014: Pet Parade 2014

The winners of Mette Ivie Harrison's The Bishop's Wife are Deb Romano and Lynda. You can reach Mette via her Gmail, where she is Ironmom (with an extra m at the end of mom.)

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I decided to revisit this post because someone on the back blog was asking about my dogs, and of course, I felt obligated to answer with my pet pics! Since I posted this in September, Louis the Shih Tzu has been to the groomers and is no longer the scruffy mop you see here. Instead, he was shaved within an inch of his life and now resembles a sort of large, velvety rodent as painted by the Big-Eyes artist.

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.

(14) Me.

(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.


  1. Okay, the pet pictures really are just as adorable the second time around. Thanks for the update on Louis, too . . . I'm sure he's still the cutest Shih Tzu around!

  2. Julia, you are right. You found me out. I am here for the puppies and kitties. One kitty wrapped around my feet and a giant puppy licking my face. If nothing else is right in the world, it has this to redeem it.

  3. This terrified me the first time I read it. WAY back when, we used to have cats, great wonderful, opinionated cats, and at one point we had 5 of them (Flotsam, Soot, Eloise, Pea Soup, and Gompers... I think) in a 2-room apartment and were starting to scare ourselves. Now we have memories and photographs.

  4. Yup, we had cats, to..well, I did. Lola, and then Leon. They were great, and I still dream about them.

    Jonathan is very allergic, thank goodness, come to think of it, or we'd have cats ow, too. Which would not work for us. We DO have an invisible dog. Wheatie, and having an invisible dog is very easy, I must say!

  5. Utterly marvelous! A delight to read and see.

  6. I want a dog. Or a cat (my husband is allergic, too). Or anything warm and fluffy.

    I'm not allowed. Wah!

  7. We used to have cats but their nocturnal tendencies to find any bit of plastic in the bedroom and crinkle it and wake us up, led us to switch our allegiance to dogs. We currently have 3 dogs, all small, the most recent of which is a Chinese Crested hairy hairless (yes, that's a real thing) who's 11 years old. She's the second dog we've adopted sight unseen from with spectacular results.

  8. Mary,

    we found out (after we had adopted him, because of course we did zero research on Shih Tzus before we fell in love with Louis' temperment and took him home) that Shih Tzus are among the breeds of dogs who have hair rather than fur, and so are far less likely to rile allergies.

    The down side of hair-not-fur (also something we didn't contemplate) is that poor Louis gets COLD in our drafty 200-year-old house! We're keeping him in his nice, thick sweater during days, and at nights, he's taken to sleeping between Ross and me. Under the covers.

    And I was the woman who said "no dogs on the bed, ever!" Sigh.

  9. Oh, Julia, you are too, too kindhearted! And funny, you are very, very funny AND the master of the hysterical footnotes!

  10. Also, Hallie? Flotsam may be the BEST cat name ever. I can only hope there was at one time a Jetsam.

  11. Julia, you forgot the category of dogs/babies, cats/babies on the internet--all those way-too-irresistible photos!!

    I once took a series of photos of our adopted cat over the course of an afternoon, as he slept and shifted position in a chair. Youngest nephew: Is that all cats do, sleep all day? Me: I wish I was a cat. Murphy: Happy New Year's to all the Reds and readers!!

  12. I love the pictures and stories of your pets, Julia! I admire you for being able to handle two dogs and two cats. I have only the one dog, Abbie, who is fifteen and having a few old age issues. She is loyal and sweet, which helps when she has an old-age accident. She was a shelter dog, and I agree with you, Julia, that shelter dogs make wonderful pets. I love to see pictures of people's dogs and cats, as it indicates how loved the pets are.

  13. Of course I’m here for the pet pictures! We currently have three cats, all rescues, but in my life I’ve had and loved both dogs and cats. As for allergies, that’s why God invented allergy shots!

    Our oldest is our girl, Maren, 11, who after being hideously abused was abandoned outside our vet’s office.

    Our boys are Spenser, 9, whose littermate Dashiell had to be put down at age four due to lymphoma, and Keith, 3, whose littermate Mick succumbed to feline peritonitis before he was two.

    All three now live the life of Riley. Since we live in an area also populated by coyotes, hawks, bobcats, rattlesnakes, mountain lions, etc., our cats are indoor kitties. They have plenty of floor-to-ceiling windows from which to observe the outdoor wildlife.

    They fill our lives with joy and love we can only hope to repay.