I'm an animal lover. Growing up, we always had a dog or cat in the house. My sister and I jokingly called my mom "Saint Francis," the patron saint of animals, because it seemed like every stray or injured animal somehow wound up on our doorstep. Mom would never turn them away. And I enjoyed having the animals around - they were entertaining, loving and a part of the family.
One thing I noticed, though, after moving out of mom and dad's house and into another home with pets (Justin came with a dog and a cat), was that my mom was not there to be the "Saint Francis" of these animals. Of course when I was at home I did a small part in caring for the animals - basic things like feeding, watering, walking, playing. But in a nutshell, my mom was the ultimate caregiver - the buyer of the food, the dispenser of the medicine, etc. In my new home, it was just me. And Justin. And two animals starving for attention.
As it turns out, I'm always the first one up in the morning. Guess who has to feed, water and let out our dog, Nyabinghi (Nya or Binghi for short)? Guess who has to clean out our cat Ziggy's litter box? This girl. And since I'm the first one home from work, guess who gets to repeat that cycle again? Add in the occasional escape outside by Ziggy (who runs from the front of the house to the back of the house, then back to the front again, only to ultimately wind up rolling all over the dirty concrete on the back porch before I catch him) and that's a pretty nice summation of my daily animal care routine.
Justin comes home to content animals, and when Nya bugs him for something, he insists that she go "ask mommy." Never mind that I'm in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove (OK, not really, but I'm usually making supper at some point). "Why would I ever want to have kids?" I asked him one day. "I already have three!"
He grinned with a terribly ornery expression on his face. "But don't you want little Binghi puppies?"
Nya is not fixed, and that's always been a gripe of mine because we let her outside off chain. "Are you kidding?!" I gasped. "And who do you think is going to be the one taking care of a litter of puppies?"
"It's only for about eight weeks," Justin offered, as if this was a major selling point.
"Yes, until you say, 'Aw, they're so cute! I don't want to get rid of them!'," I told him. "This place is barely big enough for the four of us. If we add any new pet, it's got to be a cat. Another dog is out of the question."
"Well how about a smooshy-faced cat?" Justin suggested. He was referring to those Persian, Himalayan types of cats that sort of look like they got whacked in the face with a skillet, thus pushing all their facial features inward.
I frowned. Why did he have to pick the ugliest kind of cat? I have no doubt they might make for great pets, but that's a face only a mother could love. "I don't like those cats. They're ugly."
"Awww! They're so cuuuuute!" he replied in this gravelly, babyish voice that is almost impossible to describe in words.
"Ugly," I answered.
I've noticed that we've been having discussions of adding a smooshy-faced cat or a dog more often lately. Justin informed me last night that his parents considered breeding their Chihuahua, Lola.
"Little Lola puppies would be sooo cuuuuute," Justin said in that weird voice.
I rolled my eyes. If there was anything worse than a smooshy-faced cat to me, it was an "ankle-biter" yappy dog. The dogs I grew up with were large and in charge (Irish Setter, black lab mix...and even Nya is a Springer Spaniel mixed breed). Any little dogs I came across were always yippy and snappy and just plain mean. By rule, a dog should be large enough that I won't step on it in the middle of the night or mistaken it for an over-grown rodent.
"Absolutely not," I answered vehemently.
"But it's a cute little Chihuahua puppy!" Justin protested. "You like Lola."
"Little dogs are mean. And they bark all the time," I said.
"Lola's not mean," Justin informed me.
"But that's Lola. Who knows what this other dog will be like," I grumbled. My mind flashed to the situation with my aunt and uncle, who took over caring for my cousin's miniature Pinscher when he didn't get along with her other larger dogs. The dog formed an immediate bond to my uncle, but for some reason, he greatly dislikes my aunt. My uncle seems to think it's funny when he's in the bedroom and the dog barks and snaps and won't let her come in the same room.
I shared that story with Justin. "I know what's going to happen," I concluded. "That dumb dog is going to attach itself to you and growl and snap at me any time I try to come near you."
Justin seemed to think that was funny. Apparently he has a sense of humor similar to that of my uncle.
"No little dogs," I said.
His eyes lit up as if he were suddenly moved with a brilliant idea. "I can buy you a little purse, and you can carry the little Chihuahua around in it. We'll buy it a spiked collar and call it 'Killer'. Come on, please?" Again with the weird voice.
"No," I replied flatly. The thought of me carrying around a dog in a purse is laughable.
Justin seems to find my refusal to care for another animal hilarious. I, on the other hand, find his persistence about it annoying, although sometimes his attempts at reasoning are quite comical.
One night as he rubbed Nya on her head, he asked her, "Do you want another furry brother or sister?"
"She told me no," I interjected. "She's happy with her brother, Ziggy, and that's it."
Justin merely smiled, as if he knew he'd eventually break me down into agreeing with him. But no matter how many animals we have in the house, he should remember that there is only ONE top dog - and she's writing this column.