Who doesn’t like animals? Those faces, look up at you like you are their god, who provides manna from heaven (more like crust from pizza). Personally, I don’t have any pets, but my ex-wife does. Somehow, we have shared custody.
“Stop barking, that’s your step-daddy,” Arlene would announce to the pets as they rushed the front door, barking like I was a masked intruder.
As a kid, my family always had pets; usually a couple of cats, a couple of dogs. I’m used to the bum-rush as I enter her house. Unfortunately, Arlene’s dogs have short term memory loss; if I go out to get something from my car, the dance begins anew on my return.
Arlene had two dogs (Lucy and Pepper) and two cats (Blackie and Tucker). Don’t ask what breed any of them are, I couldn’t tell you. Lucy is a giant ball of black fur who could send me flying when attacked at full gallop. Pepper could hurt you only if you tripped over her as she sat under your feet while you ate.
Blackie, at that time, was a shadow of himself; so frail that if you shaved his fur he’d disappear in a puff of dust. Tucker is the angriest cat on the planet. Rescued from the side of the road somewhere, you’d think he be grateful. No, he’d walk with a swagger, tail going back and forth, a windshield wiper swatting flies. I pet him with my shoe, his teeth and claws sink deep into the leather.
Danny had a friend from high school, also named Tucker, so that was fun.
“We got Tucker neutered yesterday.”
“Wow, his mom must be pissed – oh, you mean the cat…”
“Want to earn some scotch?”
That periodic call from Arlene means, ‘I need you to watch the animals’.
Stumbling Dog-Walkers, LTD. at your service.
‘Watch the animals’ normally meant go over, let the dogs out, do their business (hey, they have a business, too!), back inside for food and treats.
Although, it’s not always as clean cut as it sounds.
Blackie was not well, and would stroll into the kitchen and stare at the cabinet. Strange. Before I could feed him, however, I needed to grind up a pill into his food. Then he needed to be given a shot. I had to squeeze what little skin he had on his neck between my thumb and forefinger, then inject the medication. It literally was ‘hit or miss’ because I was never exactly sure if the needle connected with actual cat.
After I filled two white bowls for the dogs, I’d place them at different ends of the kitchen; separating fighters before a match so they wouldn’t kill each other over their food.
For Tucker, the ungrateful, healthy cat, I would place his dish on the countertop so he’d have to work for it (yeah, bite my shoe).
By the time I placed Blackie’s dish on the floor, the dogs were done, and eyed his dinner like desert. I stood over Blackie while he ate, the Colossus of Rhodes fending off all takers. Blackie pushed his food out of the dish with his nose. Not on purpose, though. As he ate, I continually scooped it off the floor, and returned it to his dish so this poor cat didn’t starve to death.
After they finished, I gave each one a biscuit, or cat treat (even Tucker).
Apparently, I do have room for expansion. One hot August day, Arlene asked if I didn’t mind watering the flowers. I should remark, Arlene has a lot of flowers all around the outside of her house. With water jug in hand, which I refilled several times, I proceeded to refresh each of the thirsty plants.
Five minutes later, it rained.
So much for that franchise.
Now, for the not-so-happy-ending.
Blackie and Pepper are no longer with us. I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say it was all for the best.
Last weekend, I went over to feed and walk Lucy. I found her on my son’s bed. She had the saddest look I’ve ever seen on a dog. It took me a while to get her up and out of the house. When I gave her food, she took a few bites, then left the rest, and went back into my son’s room.
Sunday morning, I went back to repeat the process. Lucy was in the room, laying down in the corner by the closet. Tucker was sitting by her side.
Maybe he’s not so bad after all.
“Lucy” – in happier times
Photo by Amanda DeLuise
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