WEEKEND Beach Bum
|by Eric Morrison|
|How Much Is that Doggie in the Window?
If you're not an animal lover, you won't appreciate this column. If you are an animal lover, you're all right with me. I don't understand how anyone can't be an animal lover. There's nothing in the world like coming home to a wagging tail or a welcoming purr. When I've had the worst day at work, even if I forgot to clean up last night's dinner and my roommate's mad at me, my cats won't give a lick. Actually, they will give a lick, but not about the dirty dishes. They'll give me a warm, wet lick on the nose, offering their unconditional love and acceptanceall that for the bargain price of a lifetime supply of Iams, fresh water, and a few furry mice.
My roommate and I actually have three cats between us. I moved in with my "little boy," Stubbs, and she moved in with the two biggest divas in the feline kingdom, Lilith and Eva. When we move out, I'm keeping Lilith. Last Mother's Day, Lilith took a tragic plunge off our second-story balcony onto the rocks below. My roommate was not home at the time, so my boyfriend and I rescued her from the boulders and rushed her to the kitty-cat emergency room, and we've been best buddies ever since. Unlike Lilith, Eva's contempt for me seems to grow a little more each day. She is strictly a "mommy's cat," following my roommate around so much and climbing into her lap so often, I once asked my roommate if she hadn't given birth to Eva.
I haven't always been a cat person. Growing up our family had a dog for a while, but he was about as dumb as a brick. My father bought him to train him for duck hunting. It's standard practice to train a hunting dog to fetch the dead duck using a boat bumper. Dad would throw the bumper, and Sammy would bring it back. Dad would throw it again, and Sammy would bring it back. Dad would throw the bumper one more time, and Sammy would take off with it like a bionic wonder dog, tearing through and terrorizing the neighborhood. My father grew to hate that dog. He would leap into the air and pull the hat off my father's head and steal the pliers and hammer out of his tool belt. My brother and I cried our eyes out the day someone bought Sammy from my father, swearing he could train any dog for duck hunting. I guess there really is a sucker born every minute.
For years after that, my brother and I begged my parents for another dog, but Mom and Dad had been psychologically scarred by psychotic Sammy. Finally, we trotted off to the SPCA one day in search of the perfect pet. In a back corner cage was a little black cocker spaniel mix with the energy of Liza Minelli after three pots of coffee. He shook all over and yelped like his head was on fire. He knew how to play the adoption card. My brother and I pointed out to my mother that he was snarling, his white teeth gleaming behind thick slobber. "He's not snarling," my mother laughed, "he's grinning."
I didn't know dogs could grin, but Smokey grinned for many years as a member of the Morrison family until we tearfully said goodbye a few years ago.
Only someone who has loved and lost a cherished fluffy companion can begin to fathom the accompanying heartache. Not long ago, my mother lost Zach, our family cat for almost two decades. Zach came to us as a stray and was incredibly loveable, but my mother swore she'd never have a housecat. Then, one night, Zach didn't come for dinner, and she didn't return for about a week. We kept a vigil, and when I turned on the porch light one evening, there sat Zach!
We were happy as could be until we realized she had a cut tail and half her foot had been sliced off. She'd gotten into a car's fan belt, the veterinarian concluded. We had her fixed up like new and she was the Morrison housecat for almost eighteen years. My mother spoiled her rotten, and when she died, Mom almost went to pieces, even developing stomach problems. How can you ever replace a living thing who requires so little and gives so much?
There's been a long parade of pets through my heartSammy, Smokey, Zach, Callie, Missy, Little Boy, Zora, Langston, and now Stubbs and Lilith. I hope the parade will never end. When I move out of my apartment in the fall with Stubbs and Lilith in tow, I'm going to get a third cat to keep those two crazies company. Then, just this past weekend at PetsMart, I fell in love with a beautiful bird. My boyfriend has threatened to tar and feather me if I bring him home, but I'm going to visit him later this week anyway. I've never been a big fan of our feathered friends, and the $500 price tag is more than I'd pay for a pageant gown. Still, he was just so darned cute, tilting his head for a jaw rub and perching on my finger. Everyone says birds are messy pets, but this one was so considerate that he walked away to poop and then came right back to me. That's more than my nieces used to do when they were wearing diapers.
If you've never known the joy of animals, you have no idea what you're missing. Not quite ready to take the plunge and adopt a companion animal? Shelters and adoption centers everywhere are in desperate need of caring volunteers who can give a few hours each week or month, just to play and pamper and clean a little. My boyfriend and I volunteer at a PetsMart adoption center and we always have a great time. It's kind of like being an aunt or an uncleyou get maximum fun with minimum responsibility. Shelters and adoption centers like the Delaware Humane Association are always looking for donations, including toys, beds, blankets, food and litter, and money. If you do visit a shelter or adoption center, just don't be surprised if you find yourself asking, "How much is that doggie in the window?"
Stubbs and Lilith accept fan mail through Eric's email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 4 May 6, 2005