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Furry Children as Second Fiddles

Everybody I know had cats or dogs or both before they married and started a family.  These furry children were coddled, cuddled, vetted, fed premium foods, given clothing and toys as gifts, over photographed, under disciplined, and loved.  Pets, whether they come from the pound or a designer cost stupid amounts of money whether by choice or consequence.  If I had nickel for every piece of Ethan Allen that has been, peed on , pooped on, chewed or sprayed, I would be able to buy all of it all over again at regular price—from rugs to cabinets to sofas!  Add that to the cost of the annual vet bills, the emergency vet bills, the food, and all the other things we think these critters need—now that is major devotion and sacrifice!  Shoot, I have even painted and drawn my pets in their roles of muse. 

Since the human children arrived in the household, I have been witness to two things:  men are the big softies about the pets no matter what nuisances they become now that they are relegated to second fiddle, but women would kill their pets for sport!  I have heard various versions of this story, which make me laugh, because I too feel the same way.  Read on and be witness to my theory.


Our babies before and after we had babies…

I had a beautiful Persian cat when I married Greg.  Winston was a stoic feline with a penchant for lying around like a decorative pillow.  He didn’t partake in the antics of regular cats– like play—for instance, unless he was under the influence of catnip.  Then he was fiercely paranoid!

He was my gorgeous, fluffy boy—he was so beautiful that I never tired of looking at him.  Winston lived to be 17 years old, but he was ancient by 15.  It got so that I didn’t even want to pet him; he had become so frail that touching him was a reminder of his body failing and this weighed heavily on my heart.  Unfortunately, by the time he was this age our family had started, and I fear that I abandoned him affectionately in the last two years of his life.  And, typically, with his decline came the constant urinating and defecating outside the litter box, which further accelerated my impatience for him to move on to become God’s kitty.  I came home one day to discover he had had a stroke and had been lying the whole day in his own urine—I was forced to do the humane thing and have him put to sleep.  I know he was just a cat, but it was a very visceral feeling to watch the essence leave my dear friend—the light was literally snuffed out of his beautiful golden eyes.  God bless Winston—one of the first oil paintings I ever did was of him, and I had to call my mom to come and see it.  There was this moment when a single brush stroke had him looking back at me—it was euphoric!  I painted his portrait while he was alive, but that didn’t reduce the divinity of the moment.  The painting still hangs in our home.

Ned Flanders is a tabby cat that climbed up Greg’s leg all the way to his shoulder in his company’s parking lot.  Apparently the one-and-a-half pound nuisance had been sneaking in one of the open doors at the office all day.  Nobody could be suckered into taking this little mite home—except Greg!  At this time my husband worked about 35 minutes away, and it’s a wonder that he and Flanders weren’t killed on the drive home what with Greg trying to control this four legged tornado and drive during rush hour traffic. 
I was greeted with a “don’t kill me, Jennifer” when they arrived home.  I thought Greg had dented my car or something—then he opens the front door, and in walks the scrawniest little pistol I’ve ever seen!  After a vet bill or two, we decided we had too much invested to get rid of him.  Winston had the patience of a grandfather with this crazy kitten, and Puppy was indifferent.  Flanders became known at “Doodlely” and turned into a wonderful pet aside from spraying the sides of some of my furniture for God knows what reason.  We finally forced him to be an indoor/outdoor cat which we thought would cut down on the territory marking.  Unfortunately, I still find evidence occasionally…  Anyhoo, he is true to his namesake, as he is friendly with all the neighbors, and seems to maintain a good rep around the hood.

Puppy the Pups…  The fawn colored pug came to live with us in a 600 square foot condo,  and three months into our first year of marriage.  I didn’t want this boisterous little toot. She compromised my sanity, as I am sure I also compromised Greg’s sanity what with all my bitching about this new bitch!  This dog was so stubborn; I felt like nothing was getting through to her.  My mother actually had to remind me that she wouldn’t be like this forever.  Certainly she would outgrow puppyhood.  I mean, my god, all you had to do was stare at her longer than 10 seconds and she would get this crazy look in her eyes and launch herself right at your face.  Truthfully, she was pretty amusing when she wasn’t pooping on the floor.  And true to my mother’s word, at about 18 months old she absorbed everything I had beaten into her, and became quite a nice dog.  She had a good sense-of-humor although not for other dogs.  She became known as the monkey dog, since she was unlike any other of the canine species. 
Oh… and she kind of looked like a monkey.

Once when Greg was walking her and some little boys came up and asked “what kind of dog is that?” My sweet and sinister husband’s response was “She is a Japanese fighting dog, so don’t look her in the eye or she’ll attack!” 

There were all sorts of crazy incidents with Puppy.  She would eat the cotton fringe out of my toss pillows and then poop out a nice length of sausage links joined by it. We were rendered powerless numerous times in 2004 when Florida was hit with four hurricanes in six weeks.  During one of these humid moments, we noticed Puppy was particularly rank smelling around her face.  Thinking it was just her breath, we stayed away from her.  Later we realized that she had this disgusting wound in her facial fold that was likely exacerbated with the heat and humidity.  Poor thing… we nursed her back to relative good smellingness and health.

Pugs always breathe like they are having a deadly asthma attack.  On top of this inherent characteristic, Puppy got very stressed when she was out of her element like at the vet or in someone else’s care.  We couldn’t even board her because we were sure she would stroke out, so for years all of our vacations were no more than three or four days, because we knew that my Mother-in-law would probably be forced to kill the dog if we were gone any longer.  Once the vet gave us tranquilizers to help Puppy relax when she was going to be outside of her normal setting.  When my sweet grandmother died in 1999 we flew to Minnesota for the funeral.  True to her generous form, my mother-in-law, Yvonne and her boyfriend Dave kept Puppy while we were gone.  We gave them the bottle of tranquilizers in case they needed to help the dog relax, otherwise she would pace and gasp constantly.  When we arrived home, the whole bottle was gone and miraculously the dog was still alive.  To this day we aren’t sure whether Yvonne and Dave gave them to Puppy or just gave up and took the pills themselves.


At about the age of 12 or 13, Puppy started showing serious signs of age.  She used to get ear infections frequently, so we would have to put drops in her ears to heal them.  After a while we noticed that she was going deaf for about three days after we put the drops in—then her hearing would return.  Finally at some point, the hearing left for good.  My suspicions are that she let it go intentionally right after we brought the first screaming baby home.

By 14 it was apparent that the sight was going too, as I would find her standing in a corner staring at the wall, or sitting patiently by the hinged side of a door waiting for it to open.  Once we even found her standing on the neighbor’s stoop waiting for them to let her in.  In her defense, our neighborhood is a bit stepford-y, but we still believe she thought she was at home. 

The continued decline was indicated by the constant piddling and pooping in the house, and pacing the hallway in the wee hours of the morning.  Tip tap, tip tap of frighteningly long toenails on ceramic tile at 4:00a.m.—very hypnotic—mmmm…not so much.  The dog is 16, I had been praying for God’s mercy for two years.  For heaven’s sake, her spine has slipped over to the side of her body; her nose is growing a crusty callous and looks like one of those warts that just keeps building on itself; she falls over easily because her hips are so arthritic; she gets outside to go potty and forgets why she’s there; she wanders off if she’s in the front yard and we find her standing in the street just looking around.  Greg still won’t put all of us out of our misery.  One day he went golfing, Michael was with Grammy and Papa, and Pierce and I were just sitting down for a snooze.  My door bell starts ringing frantically—I so want to ignore it and let my baby sleep, but I can’t.  I get up and my neighbors are all gathered around this beat down old pug who is laying in the gutter gasping for life in 100 degree heat.  Great…  As much as I would like her to become God’s Pug, it can’t happen this way or Greg may make me God’s Jennifer.  Everyone witnessing this thinks she is minutes from death, but I get out the hose to cool her down.  After a towel drying, 30 minutes in front of a fan, and a whole hot dog, the dog is back to better than normal!  I swear, I’m going to be packing my bags before she does!  I really think she does all these things to beg us to put her out of her misery, so I have informed the neighbors to give it a couple of hours before they come and get me next time she lays down in the gutter.  I believe I heard once that it is 100 dog years for every human year that dogs age—I guess that would put her at about 1600 years old, yep that sounds pretty accurate.

In April of this year, after many heated discussions about the state of Puppy’s health, I made the decision to take her to the vet and have her put to sleep.  It was very clear to me that Greg was not going to be able to do it in spite of the constant accidents (which Pierce found before I did a few times….arghhhh).  I kept threatening to make the decision myself, and Greg had even said on more than one occasion, that probably the only way it would happen was if I did it myself.  Finally, exhausted, after dealing with my Dad having cancer, the whole family being sick multiple times in a 6 week period, and the rebound from going off Lexapro—I needed to remove one of the stresses.  Stepping in poop was one of them.  I thought it would be humane for everyone—therefore easy.  Actually it was one of the toughest things I have ever done.  The vet examined Puppy , and determined that she had some sort of kidney disease that had caused her to get too thin and urinate copious amounts .  Treating the arthritis in her hips would harm the kidneys further, not to mention the fact that nothing would improve the sensory issues (hearing, vision, etc.).  He also indicated that dogs can carry parasites, so allowing my children to place in spaces where Puppy had had accidents could result in health issues.   I was so worried that I was “throwing her away” because she had become such a burden.  He assured me that there was no gray area, here—it was definitely the humane thing to do.  I called Greg to let him know, and then asked the Doctor to proceed.  Watching a 16 year chapter of our marriage conclude was so much more heart wrenching that would have expected—and doing it alone was harder.  Sweet little thing went so peacefully, it was as though she was grateful.  Unfortunately, Greg was not.  Things went on as normal, but I fear that he was shocked and a little disappointed that I could actually do it.  We all agree that our lives are cleaner and easier, though…  That, and my Dad is great!!!  Cancer free!—oh and Zoloft is a pretty damn good replacement for the very expensive Lexapro!  Tee…hee…