Last night Richard came home with some Thai take-out. Here's a snippet of the ensuing conversation:
Richard: Where's the salt?
Prunella: In the office.
R: Red pepper flakes?
P: With the rest of the spices in the Jacuzzi.
R: I can't find a serving spoon.
P: Try that box under the wing chair in the living room.
R: Are we out of paper towels?
P: There's a roll in the kids' old bathroom next to the iced tea maker.
R: Now I need a bowl.
P: I saw some disposable ones by the fireplace. Be careful you don't step on the wine glasses.
R: I just saw Phoebe. She has masking tape stuck to her hind leg.
P: That's the third time today.
R: I need a knife.
P: The knife block is under the kitchen table in the living room, and the cutting boards are shoved under the chair cushion.
When our neighbors gave their house a top-to-bottom renovation last year, they did the smart thing and moved out for four months. We are doing the cheap thing and staying put.
The first order of business is the kitchen. To prepare for this, every last cup, pot, spoon and can of soup were hauled out of their hidey holes and into other parts of the house, mainly the living room. Neither Richard nor I gave a thought to some kind of organization. This oversight means we spend precious minutes scrounging through boxes and under heaps of plastic dropcloths to find a drinking glass or a trash bag. We put the microwave in the office but we can’t operate it when the computer is on or the fuse will blow. With no dishwasher and no kitchen sink, dishes have to be washed in the bathroom. Until the new fridge is hooked up, we have to purchase ice in bags.
I know. First world problems. I keep telling myself it’s an adventure.
Even our menagerie can’t escape. The dog doesn’t know where his food and water bowls will be on any given day. Phoebe has developed a weird affinity for masking tape. Penny, who is homeless since her sofa was bought at the garage sale -- sorry -- estate sale, is having a hard time finding a new place to call home. First, she tried living under the plastic dropcloths next to the Crock Pot. When she got mistaken for the large white bowl we use for popcorn, she tried to shove her bulk under the den sofa, but the space underneath is too narrow. Then there was the closet in the front bedroom. That worked until the painter, or perhaps the paint fumes, scared her away. She was last seen lurking behind a guest room toilet, not the most hygienic place to set up housekeeping, but when your food bowl is next to the litter box, I suppose it’s just a matter of degree.
We spent three-and-a-half months picking out all the new doo-dads for the most important room in the house. Remember playing Crack the Whip when you were a kid? Poor Richard was (and still is) the hapless kid at the end of the line getting yanked hither and yon every time the leader (read moi) changed direction. I changed my mind so much, it's like I had no mind at all, just a sieve with giant holes incapable of holding onto a decision for more than a day or two. Richard learned very quickly that "I love it! That's what I want!" didn't mean squat. You wouldn't believe the hand-wringing that went into deciding between two different shades of grey. Once the grey we had so agitated over went up on the walls, we discovered it was more blue than grey, necessitating another round of needless drama. Thankfully, our second choice turned out to be perfect.
There is so much out there it is overwhelming. Couple that with no color or design sense and we were on a collision course with bad taste. Making it worse was the fact that we wanted to go in an entirely different direction. Our old kitchen could pass for country French in dim light with eyes crossed. We wanted something modern and minimalist. Modern in the hopes it won't look too dated before we are called to Glory (or the kids stick us in a home, whichever comes first). Minimalist because we are both "getting up there" and the less stuff to bother with, the better. Paige swears she had a dream that when it was all over but the shouting, our new kitchen looked exactly like the old one.
Whoever said the devil is in the details was probably three weeks into a reno. You get so wrapped up in the big stuff that no thought is given to the little things until the contractor asks a question that you are totally and awkwardly unprepared for. For example, our fridge is moving several feet west. It never occurred to us that the new placement would block the light switch until the electrician pointed it out. It’s amazing how quickly I can make a decision — and stick to it — when a contractor is standing there frowning at me. We never knew how yellowed-with-age our electrical sockets and light switches were until the bright white subway tile for the backsplash went in. There were forty different grout colors to choose from. Forty! My mother’s generation has no idea how easy they had it.
Another tick mark in the column labeled “Stuff We Didn’t Think of and Should’ve” was the impact four-plus weeks of dining out and take-out were going to have on our waistlines. I never need an excuse to eat out; as I tell everyone who asks, my favorite food is anything I don’t have to cook or prepare, but this is getting ridiculous. Richard and I have sworn that as soon as the kitchen is functional again, we are both going on diets.
As restrictive as life as been lately, it’s also been freeing. Messes that used to be cause for a meltdown don’t bother me anymore. Spill liquid on the floor? Nobody cares. The floor’s going to get ripped up eventually. Cat hacked up a hairball on the carpet? Ditto. Queso on the couch? The couch will soon be history; until then, turn the cushion over. (I wish I could blame my husband for that last bit.)
In the meantime, it's fun (and a little scary) watching what has only ever existed in my head take shape in reality.
As soon as we found out our daughter and her roommates were leasing a house, we said to Paige, "DO NOT GET A DOG!" "WE MEAN IT!" "SERIOUSLY!" "NO DOGS!"
You've heard of Murphy's Laws? Well, I have my own contribution: PRUNELLA'S LAW OF PARENTAL INFLUENCE. Prunella's Law states: the amount of parental influence one exerts is inversely proportional to the distance, in miles, between parent and child. In other words, parental clout diminishes with every tick of the odometer.
Unlike Tito, whose grandcat status is merely an honorary one (he's really Kelli's cat [see blog dated 10/11/2012] and, therefore, not related to me), Ranger is family. He is Paige's, bought and paid for with the money her dad sends for important stuff like make-up and hair products, Red Bull, ramen noodles, and the occasional text book.
If Paige thought she was going to surprise us with a dog when we rolled into Lubbock, she was wrong. In the days leading up to our trip earlier this month, the signs were there. Mysterious charges to PetSmart that she explained away by saying she was taking care of a friend's puppy and had to purchase some food for it. (Considering that there were several charges, that was one voracious puppy.) But the most telling of all was her reply, when her dad called and asked if she would like us to bring our old dog crate with us, the one that had been our bull terrier's, she said, "YES!"
So, when we drove up to the girls' apartment on Sunday, July 7, to help them move, there's Paige walking a shaggy mutt on a leash. Richard and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes, but we knew she had us over a barrel. And she knew she had us over a barrel. And we knew that she knew that we knew she had us over a barrel. The only one who didn't have a clue what was going on was the barrel itself, Ranger.
Ranger was adopted from a shelter. From the looks of him, he is part Australian cattle dog. His tail is bobbed, but whether that's because he was born that way (there's a breed of ACD that is stumpy tailed), or because the previous owner had it docked, I can't say. He's brown with long, grey guard hairs that give him an elderly look despite the fact that he's only four months old. He is, without a doubt, the the best behaved puppy I have ever been around. Most pups are bouncing off the walls, but Ranger never jumped on people, barked or had an accident. His only vice was chewing, and even that was minor league stuff compared to the things Grracie, who was part alligator, destroyed when she was a puppy.
There is no doubt that Ranger is one lucky dog. He went from spending his days in a shelter to a house with a backyard, a cat companion, an assortment of lovely designer neckwear, scads of sorority girls to dote on him, and free drugs (the vet prescribed Benadryl for his allergies). Definitely the canine version of hitting the lottery.
From the 2012 Resident Move-In Guide, I quote, "(We are) not a pet friendly community. If you are seen with a pet or are housing a pet, you will be fined appropriately." Never ones to back down from a challenge, my daughter and her three roommates went out and adopted a tiny black kitten. Before the girls even had a chance to name their new pet, it died. From the pictures I saw of it, the little thing looked sickly, so I wasn't surprised when it happened.
My husband and I counseled Paige against getting another cat, but our parental clout doesn't carry much, well, clout, from six hours away. Within a few days another kitten was installed, and the girls dubbed him Tito Paquito. From his pictures, Teets (their name, not mine) looks pretty healthy and appears to be thriving in that zoo called college life. But I'm not happy with the girls flaunting the rules, and I worry about what's going to happen to the little guy when (if) management gets wise to his presence.
When we expressed our dismay over the acquisition of a replacement cat, and the heartbreak that will likely ensue when management demands the girls get rid of it, we were told that Kelli, one of the roommates and Tito's rightful owner, was going to have the cat certified as a service animal, thereby getting around the pet ban. Honestly, we didn't know whether to laugh or cry over such chutzpah. Kelli, it seems, suffers from anxiety, and this will be the basis for getting Teets certified. Personally, I think the girls are certifiable, but that's another story.
Here's a true story: when my husband worked for Greyhound, they had a situation involving a service snake. Yes, you read that correctly. Snake. In a Greyhound version of Snakes on a Plane, a man boarded a bus carrying a snake in a duffel bag. At some point during the trip, the man took the reptile out of the bag. Naturally, all hell broke loose, forcing the driver to pull over and yell, "Enough is enough! I have had it with this $#&@! snake on this %#&!# bus!" Actually, I made up that last part. Anyway, when the man was told he could not have a snake aboard the bus, he showed papers stating that the critter was a service animal; its owner had emotional issues and the snake helped to keep him calm. The snake may have kept him calm, but I can't say the same for the other passengers. Regardless, man and serpent were allowed to travel to their destination, and there wasn't a thing Greyhound could do about it.
This got me to wondering if the feline variety can even be trained as service animals. Dogs, with their pathetic need to please, are naturals, but our two cats are trying to kill me, or at least maim me for life. They sit down suddenly in mid-stride when I am right behind them, dart out at my feet when I walk by, and force me to step over or around them while I am carrying large loads, hot pans, knives, boiling liquids, glass, nuclear warheads, scissors, and other similar items of death and destruction. One time, when I slipped and fell in the bathtub, instead of running to Richard to summon help, they both sat there and smirked.
Google, that wonderful on-line card catalog, tells me that there are service animals and emotional support animals (ESA). Under Department of Justice guidelines (the DOJ is charged with administering the Americans with Disabilities Act), a service animal is any dog that is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The guidelines exclude all other species, both domestic and wild, trained and untrained, from the definition of a service animal.
An ESA, on the other hand, is not task trained and, in fact, requires no special training beyond that of a well behaved pet. These animals provide comfort, companionship and emotional support, and are not considered true service animals. If a medical doctor believes that a patient with a disabling mental or emotional condition might benefit from an ESA, the doctor can write a letter of support. If the patient lives in "no pets" housing, the letter is usually sufficient to allow the ESA on the premises, and to travel with its owner in the cabin of an aircraft.
CAN cats be trained to assist humans? Google had very little to offer on the topic. Some cats can warn their owners of an impending seizure. Supposedly these cats are ultra sensitive to the minute changes that occur prior to onset. By playing up and reinforcing the cat's natural radar, it can be trained to alert its owner before a seizure happens. As awesome as this is, it still doesn't get the cat into Wal-Mart or a seat at Chez McD's; only a real service dog has that right.
If you've never seen it, check out the season 3 episode on Malcolm in the Middle called "Monkey". In it, Lois' co-worker Craig, who is temporarily confined to a wheelchair while his broken bones mend, gets himself a helper monkey, a small capuchin named Oliver. Everything is going peachy until Oliver's homicidal tendencies surface, and Craig is in fear for his life.
Monkeys and kitties and snakes, oh, my!
Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. My daughter's friend, a very nice young man, "surprised" her with this tiny, snow white, blue-eyed kitten three days before their date to the senior prom. I say "surprised" because I have a strong hunch Paige finagled him into doing this, but she swears she's innocent. However it happened, John paid the grand sum of $5.00 for this month-old spitfire at the local animal shelter, gave her a bath, tied a red ribbon around her neck and, in proper dead-beat dad fashion, promptly saddled us with her care and feeding for, oh, the next 15 years or so. It wasn't quite a ding-dong ditch, but as I write this, he's only been by once to see his cat. My husband and I grumbled at the impetuosity and short-sightedness of 18-year-old boys, but we knew we were beaten. There was no way I could justify returning this little creature to the shelter. As for Richard, he melts into useless goo whenever his daughter bats those baby blues at him. And now there are TWO pairs of baby blues, human and feline, looking at him. The man is a lost cause.
When Penny first saw our other cat, Phoebe, she made an immediate dive for Pheeb's underparts hoping, probably, for an after-dinner snack. Phoebe, who's just a dried up old maid, went ballistic at this assault and sent the little beast rolling across the floor with one smack of her paw. It didn't faze Penny in the least. Nothing fazes Penny.
Kittens know two speeds: comatose (see picture above) and mega-warp. Compared to Phoebe's matronly physique, Penny is a gangly pre-adolescent. Compared to Pheeb's grace, Penny is awkward and inept, leading one of my sons to ask if she was retarded. When she runs, her tail --- held vertical --- follows her like an exclamation point !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! all through the house. Come to think on it, it's not a bad representation of her rear view.
There really is nothing like a kitten for pure entertainment. Everything and everybody is fair game: paper bags, Phoebe, the furniture, Phoebe, stuffed animals, Phoebe, and any exposed skin. In Texas in July, there is a lot of exposed skin. Those little claws are sharp and the needle teeth sharper. When she gets too wild, a blast of water from a spray bottle will put a stop to things briefly. But life is just too !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! to keep a good kitty down for long.
I grew up with dogs. My parents had an Irish terrier they purchased from a pet store about a year before I was born. Then, when I was seven or eight, they went completely 'round the bend and bought a Yorkshire terrier. For reasons unknown, my parents, who had always been very sane, decided to go into the dog business. They were going to breed, raise, show and sell these little rats with long hair. They even had a name for their kennel picked out: Yorktown Kennels. The business was an abject failure, mainly because my mother couldn't bear to part with any of her precious dogs, and also because my father had no patience for the constant grooming and upkeep those long coats require. We had yorkies out the wazoo until the last one, Bernard, finally choked on his Kibbles and Bits. This did not happen until several years after I became a married woman.
Five years ago we bought a kitten from a cat rescue group. We named her Phoebe. Two years later my husband surprised me --- a gross understatement --- with another cat, one he literally picked up off the street: a scruffy, skinny, dirty, flea-infested, ear mite-riddled tomcat with an eye searing stomach problem and fangs that made him look like a walrus. We named him Wallace. Somewhere along the way Wally lost his tomhood, but whether they fell off or what, I couldn't say.
If I was appalled, it was nothing compared to Phoebe's feelings. She was outraged. She promptly chased him behind the toilet and poor Wally lived back there until he finally called her bluff. The two of them eventually hammered out a truce of sorts. As my father used to say, our cats had a love/hate relationship; Wallace loved Phoebe and Phoebe hated Wallace. That pretty much summed it up.
My husband's rationale for acquiring this cat was that Phoebe needed some excitement in her life. Considering that Pheebs, like all cats, sleeps most of the day, an iron supplement, or maybe a line of cocaine, would have been an easier alternative. Anyhoos, one extra large litter box and one very happy vet later, Wallace blossomed into a really nice cat, all 16 pounds of him. Even his stomach problems went away...for the most part.
Granted, my experience with cats is fairly limited, but there is no doubt that Wally was one smart cookie. An Einstein of cats. Maybe living outdoors and having to fend for himself had something to do with it. He learned his name and came when called, a concept Phoebe still hasn't figured out. He taught himself to open doors, drawers and cupboards, a handy trick when he needed a place to hide during thunderstorms; he was terrified of them. His inquisitiveness would get him into trouble sometimes because as smart as he was, his thought processes only went so far...he was a cat, after all. Phoebe, who has never had an original thought in her life, would try to imitate --- badly --- anything he did.
So when we found Wally stretched out dead on the living room floor one night, barely more than a year after he came to live with us, we were all devastated. Even Phoebe missed him. She lost weight and took it upon herself to stake out his favorite spot by the fish tank, something she never did until he died.
We gradually adjusted to a life post-Wallace, but something was missing. My husband and I would occasionally look at cats available for adoption through rescue groups, but nothing clicked, as cute as they all were. And then when we least expected it, along came Penelope.
And that's a subject for another blog.
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