What are you proud of?


I usually shy away from boasting. I have a self-deprecating manner. There is something I’m proud of that I’ll share with you.

I have never hit my dog. I have never yelled at my dog. I have never hit my cat. I have yelled at my cat. Now, not hitting them is easy, the yelling part I should explain.

I got Amber back in August ’05. I tried to adopt two other dogs before her. I took both dogs back within a week. I don’t feel bad about taking the second dog back. She was a beagle Shepard mix that terrorized the place for three days before I wised up. I need a marshmallow dog. That’s what the first dog was. She was a 4 year old Bernese Mountain dog. She walked into my life and made herself right at home. She was big and friendly and nice. A perfect dog, for an imperfect master. She was much more at home than I was. I wasn’t ready for the attention. Perhaps it exposes some missing part of my upbringing, but I was not ready to have another being care that much about me. The pain in her eyes when I left, the jump for joy when I returned. She loved me more than I was ready to love her. On top of my shortcomings, I had a brewing problem with my cat.

Twitch was living above the drop ceiling in the basement. She would poke her head out a hole when I went downstairs. She wouldn’t let me pick her up, though. I had the scratches from trying. I took the dog back after 10 days. She howled in pain as I walked away from her kennel at the pound. One of the reasons I volunteer there now is to atone for that.

Amber did not make a smooth entrance into my house. Twitch was ensconced in her Fortress of Solitude by now, so I wasn’t worried about her sticking to the ceiling anymore. I just wasn’t ready for what was sticking to the floor. You see, Amber was abused at some point. I don’t think she had been inside a house for some years before I got her. Three months. 90 days. Twice a day. I cleaned dog crap and pee off my floor. Off my carpets. I still don’t fully understand why she’s still here. I asked people to take her, I tried to return her. Somehow, I always let myself be talked out of it for another day or two. That was 7 months ago. When I look at her sleeping on the spotted carpet, I can’t imagine her making any more. I don’t think she can imagine herself making any more, either. Through all that time, I never stuck her nose in it, I never yelled at her, I never hit her. Perhaps it exposes some shortcoming in society that I should be proud of my pacifism. I still think it was the right way to treat her. From the first day, she shied away from any movement. She was eager for a belly rub, but she was very protective of her head. It makes me very happy now that she sticks her wet nose in my hand when I reach out to her.

As for the Cat, that is another matter. I have one outburst on my record. It started as a strategic struggle. The cat wanted to scratch my futon frame, and I was determined to keep her from it. There were moments of escalation. She tore a hole in the futon once. I countered with a liberal dose of Tabasco to the frame. Hehe, that had her scurrying around the apartment for a couple days. That’s when she made it personal. I was sitting on the futon couch, watching tv. She jumped up onto the futon, and I scratched her head for a couple minutes. Then she jumped up behind my head and started scratching the frame. I grabbed her by the scruff and ran to the bathroom. I’d intended to flush her down the toilet, but I cancelled that plan when I realized that I’d have to fish her out again. I turned to the shower. I gleefully turned on the water, and stuck her in. Any cat owner will tell you that I made a fatal error here. Never put important veins within reach when you’re dunking your cat. Twitch just about removed my thumb before I could drop her. She hung for a moment, dug deep into my flesh, then I was free. She bounded out of the shower. I didn’t see her for two days. She was still there, because the food was going down, and the litter was going up. That cat rips ‘em like a sailor. That’s my only transgression towards Twitch.

The dog has given her new courage. She has impeded this post several times… something she would never have done in the old scratching days. Now we’re on to the new scratching days. My new plan was to encase her favorite couch in scratching posts. When the last scratching cardboard was in place, she sauntered up to inspect my handy work. She reached through a gap in two scratching posts, and latched onto the couch. Slapping my forehead scared her away, and she’s been good ever since.

Pride and regret in the same anecdote. That’s what pets are all about.

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