Friday, January 13, 2012

Absolutely No Pets Allowed

After Kellie and I got married, I laid down the law: no pets.  It’s not that I don’t like animals – I do – I just don’t like taking care of them.  Dogs are particularly needy, much more so than cats.  Cats are independent and don’t require much attention. Owning a dog, on the other hand, is like having a perpetual two year-old child that refuses to wear diapers.
I often wonder just how many pets we might have taken in had I not instituted the no pet rule.  During our 15 years of marital bliss, we have owned three dogs, 17 cats (not including the two litters we gave away), numerous fish, a few frogs, and a pair of turtles.  Admittedly, I was the first one to break the no pet rule.  One morning, while we were living in Hawaii, I found my seven year-old daughter, Jordin, sitting on the family room floor with a giant, mutant cockroach scurrying up her arm.  “Jordin, what’s that?” I inquired, as she played with the bug, moving it from one part of her body to another and allowing it to crawl across her skin.
“Oh, that’s my pet cockroach, Wormy.”  That afternoon, I gave my daughter a cat.  Sixteen other cats would eventually follow.  That many cats may seem excessive, but they have a very short shelf life, especially since we move to California.  We never could manage to keep the cats confined to the house.  They somehow always found a way to get outside, usually by gnawing their way through a window screen.  Once they tasted freedom, the coyotes tasted them.  After the first four or five cats disappeared, Kellie thought it would be funny if we started naming the cats after lunch meats, but that just sent our youngest daughter running up the stairs crying.
Today, our menagerie consists of two dogs, Marley and Maddy, both females, and a male cat we call Motley.  Marley, Kellie’s favorite (and that includes her children), is some sort of Cocker Spaniel mix.  The breeder claimed she was a Cockapoo, a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle, but we don’t see any Poodle in Marley.  She looks more like a Cocker Spaniel - Schnauzer hybrid, which would make her a Schnocker.  When Kellie first brought Marley home, she thought the dog was a male.  Our friend, Dave, after examining Marley, disagreed; he insisted Marley was a female.  Kellie was indignant, claiming that Marley just had a small weenie, and asked Dave to stop referring to Marley as "he," afraid that Dave would give Marley a complex.  It wasn’t until Marley’s first checkup that we resolved the gender confusion.
Maddy is a Cocker Spaniel that we rescued from the local animal shelter.  The staff at the shelter thought she was about two years-old, but she was probably much older.  Shortly after we took her home, she developed cataracts and is now almost totally blind.  Still, my wife and daughters love her, and Maddy provides us all with endless hours of joy every time we rearrange the furniture.

Motley, our cat, is just plain cool.  All we have to do is feed him.  We don’t even need a litter box; he just takes his business outside.  Unlike all our previous cats, Motley is the hunter instead of the hunted.  We regularly find the carcasses of disemboweled birds, mice, and squirrels on our living room floor.  Motley’s hunting prowess, combined with the our dogs’ occasional inability to control their bladders and bowels, persuaded us to replace all our carpeting with tile.

I’m not sure why I ever resisted owning pets.  Since I am now stuck with them anyway, it probably would have served me well to not have been such an ass about getting them in the first place.  In many respects, pets, especially dogs – despite their neediness – are easier to care for and better behaved than wives. 
Take Marley for example; she does not insist on three extended vacations every year, an occasional walk in the park is sufficient.  Marley does not encroach on my side of the bed or pull the blankets off me in the middle of the night.  Marley does not demand that I cuddle her or get mad if I push her to the foot of the bed.  Marley always listens to me; she comes to me when call her, and she behaves on a leash.  Whenever I sit down, Marley runs over to me, throws herself on my lap, flips over, and gazes longingly into my eyes, just begging for my love and affection.  Kellie just smirks and delivers the same line every time Marley flings herself at me: “I bet you wish I did that.”  It’s not that I haven’t tried to train Kellie to perform that trick, but the only place I can consistently get her to display that behavior is on a cruise ship.  
I routinely tell Kellie that she should act more like Marley.  “That’s fine,” she replied.  “You do realize, however, that dogs are in heat only twice a year.”  
“Twice a year,” I repeated with glee. “That would double my current activity.”  As often happens, it was too late before I realized that those words were meant to be thoughts and not speech.  I don’t think Kellie will be heating up for me anytime soon, unless, of course, it’s a menopausal hot flash.
Kellie keeps mentioning that she would like Marley to accompany us when we travel.  Last night I instituted a new rule: absolutely no pets allowed on vacation.  I plan to rigorously enforce the new rule to the fullest extent.  Time will tell.

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