Don't you wish you had a husband like that? Me too, but while I'm waiting I'll settle for my beloved dog, Frank. Unlike the machinations and effort that went into finding a husband, acquiring Frank was literally as easy as walking out my back door. He turned up in the neighborhood one day, already neutered and wearing a choke chain around his neck without tags. He was initially taken in by neighbors on the next street over whose kids had fallen in love with him. He was scanned for a microchip and calls were placed to police stations and animal shelters and the SPCA and an ad placed in the paper but nobody came to claim him. After a week it was obvious he'd been dumped. I already had a beagle who was more trouble than six other dogs put together and a cat that had turned up at my door the previous Halloween. I was eight months pregnant with child #2 and the last thing I needed was a dog, particularly one who followed me around and barked if left outside alone. Somehow, as with the cat, he made his way in the front door and, like the cat, never managed to find his way back out.
In the intervening years we lost the beagle to cancer but gained another cat who turned up in the driveway. I also run a taxi service for Buddy, the golden lab who lives on the south end of the subdivision a mile away and comes to my house after roaming backyard mud puddles. He gets a treat and a bowl of water and runs the yard with Frank before I pile him in the van and drive him home.
I've never known what it's like to not have a dog in my face. There are literally home movies of me as a newborn, lounging on a blanket on the living room floor with our dog, Penny, hanging over me and probably slobbering into my mouth. I think dog slobber is the cure for any ailment and the gallons I've ingested over the decades probably contributes to my relative good health today (and perhaps my overwhelming desire to hang my head out the window when riding in a car). Naturally I know of no other way to raise children, so Josh spent many of his early days on a blanket with a beagle nearby, periodically licking formula off his face and/or trying to run off with his baby bottle. Sydney came into the world with two dogs staring down at her, as well as one cat. My children know no fear of animals and, like their mother, want to take in any creature with four legs who looks in need of a meal.
For Valentine's Day I decided to combine The Inmates' love of animals with my desire to cut back on the gifts they receive, especially after my son's Christmas declaration that his $250 iPod was going to be a "snoozefest." Although he soon changed his mind on the merits of the iPod, I kept seeing my children as miniature Paris Hiltons -- overindulged, ungrateful, and self-centered. I informed them last month that this Valentine's Day they'd receive only candy. I took the amount of money I would have spent on red and pink gifts and instead drove them to PetSmart where they picked out items to take to The League for Animal Welfare in Amelia. The Professor was very thoughtful and took care to pick out just the right cans of dog food and cat food and kitty litter. Foghorn found a stuffed dog squeaky toy which she wanted for herself and only grudgingly agreed to give to the shelter. After picking out two bags of soft dog treats, she disappeared into the store with her grandmother. I filled in the gaps on the League's wish list with a 6' nylon leash, a box of dog biscuits, and a large Nylabone.
The Inmates love going to the League's no-kill shelter. It's like the Buckingham Palace of animal shelters. It's clean and bright. Each dog has his or her own kennel with a flap door that leads to an outside fenced area. The cats are housed 6 to 8 to a room, with plenty of climbing apparatuses and beds and toys. Each cat room also has a flap door that leads to a fenced-in area outside with a bird feeder in the grass, giving the cats plenty of visual stimulation. For liability reasons we aren't allowed to handle the dogs unless one happens by on a leash, so we content ourselves with waving through the glass and reading their stories. The cat rooms, though, are open to visitors and The Inmates get to pet, cuddle, and play with as many cats as they can possibly stand.
The Professor always feels slightly sad when we leave, wishing each dog and cat had a home. He's comforted to know that the worst that could happen is that they'll spend their lives at the shelter and the conditions are so nice there are worse fates. I know pets who have families who don't live in conditions nearly as nice. I know some kids who don't either.
The Vulcan doesn't come on our shelter outings. The Vulcan also didn't authorize me to bring in any of the pets we now have. If I remember correctly each time I brought a new critter into the house he said something along the lines of, "Don't get used to that dog/cat. We're not keeping it." The fact is after nearly 17 years together he knows there's no point in trying to get rid of an animal I decide to take in. He might as well try to get rid of one of my children. (Depending on the day and their behavior I might let him.) So, The Vulcan grumbles about the cost of the vet and laments the cat hair on his black sweat pants and complains about the dog sleeping on the sofa. He whines about the muddy foot prints on the van seats and the nose prints on the front window and the fact that I let the dog ride with me when picking up creamy whip. (The occasional hair in a chocolate shake never killed anyone.) The Vulcan also pays for the vet bills, pays for the food, pays for the charitable donations, and still funds his wife's Dooney and Bourke addiction. He ain't no Frank, but as men go I guess he's a keeper.
You might also be interested in:
* ST. JIMMI'S BREAD MACHINE RAISIN BREAD