Sunday, July 22, 2007

Express Yourself (or reason #1 why we don't have a dog)

Ever since I was a little kid my dream companion was furry with a wet nose and named Snoopy. My sister often came close, but her name was Lisa and the wetness on her nose would eventually dry up and flake off. She had sinus problems.

Once as some cruel joke (?) someone gave me an "invisible"dog, which for those of you that didn't grow up in the 70's is a dog harness with a wire in it. Hardy, har, har. Load of laughs, pal.

Then came Gretel. She was warmly welcomed into our home for about 3 seconds and then relegated to a rope tied to a tree in the backyard for 3 hours. I was 7 and Gretel was a lab mix that belonged to my uncle Paul who was getting divorced and moving to an apartment that didn't allow pets. Why my aunt Jean (the other end of the divorce) could not take Gretel I never knew, but for some reason my dad agreed to take Gretel. This was not expected as my dad, beyond watching endless episodes of Wild Kingdom was not exactaly what you'd call an animal lover. His solution to all pet (and sometimes child) behavior issues was a beating with a rolled up newspaper.

Uncle Paul stopped by our house on his way to work one Saturday morning with Gretel. I was crazy excited because I already loved Gretel from spending time playing with her at Paul and Jeans house. Gretel was very sweet natured, gentle, hardly barked and loved to be brushed. To me she was kind of like an extra large Barbie that drooled. Paul and Gretel no sooner stepped in the front door when our cat (the very originally named, Calico) came zooming at Gretel with full force, hissing and spitting and yowling. She was like a cyclone of claws and fur. Poor Gretel didn't see this coming and promptly shit herself on the entryway tile.

My dad of course, being the gentle, man of reason that he is starts hitting Gretel with a rolled up newspaper that seemed to poof into his had at such moments as if by dark magic. The cat, having been the target of the paper quite a few times in her day runs away and hides under my parents bed where she promptly takes a piss.

As he's beating the dog my dad also begins to yell at Paul to get that goddam mutt outta mah house and at me to clean up the shit. Mr. Charming. We tied Gretel up in the backyard until Paul could come get her on his lunchbreak later that day. I never knew what happened to Gretel after that. As for Calico, sometime later that year she began to piss under my parents bed on a fairly regular basis and eventually started pissing right on my dad's feet while he was asleep. One day I came home from school and she wasn't there. My mom said that they had given Cali to my aunt Ruth who had a friend with farm in the country. I really loved that cat.

We never had pets again. My dad made an official announcement and that was that. Don't ask, don't even hint that you want any kind of mammal in this house. After that I always had goldfish.

When I was 20 and moved out of my parents house the first thing I did, before I even got a bed was get a cat. He was half feral and terrorized my roommates and I loved him with all my heart. I named him after my favorite uncle Ernie. He once jumped 4 feet in the air and grabbed an entire sandwich out of my roommates hand as she was putting it in her mouth, and ran off and ate the entire thing under the couch. Ernie was too wild to be kept inside, didn't like to be petted, wouldn't stay off the kitchen countertops, sprayed on my closet floor and chewed up paper that was left laying around, including the mail. Once after returning from a 2 week disappearance (we jokingingly called them benders) Ernie died from what I'm pretty sure was anti-freeze poisoning. He had terrorized the neighbors too. I was heartbroken.

A few months later I adopted Ollie who gave me 18 years of love and joy. We lived alone together for most of that time and he didn't take kindly to strangers. In fact he bit them. Hard. During Ollies' time I had to issue this warning to everyone who walked through my door, "Don't pet the cat, he will bite you. No, seriously, he looks all cute and shit, but he will take your hand off. Okay, don't say I didn't warn you." Why don't people believe you when you say this stuff - including my dad. Yes! Ollie once bit my dad - he struck hard and fast, like a cobra and my dad was so startled that his eyes teared up.

Dad: Jay-hee-sus Kuh Rist! That little asshole!

Me: I warned you not to pet him.

Dad: He looked like he was enjoying it.

Me (to myself): Yes! Rolled up newspaper karma baby!

Me (back to my dad): Are you ok? Let me go get a band-aid and some antiseptic. Poor daddy!

Me (to myself): Ahh, ha ha ha - um hee.

This has veered off slightly from my original intention which was to explain why I don't have a dog. I'm officially a cat person. There, I've said it. It's not that I don't love dogs, and horses, and rabbits and all other manner of pets. Cats are just simply easier. Not that cats are easy, which is the point I was trying to make describing Ernie and Ollie. Cats are a pain in the ass too. However - cats do not need their anal glands expressed (squeezed) on a regular basis or sometimes ever. Yes - that's it right there. Having worked in the veterinary industry for 7 years that is the lesson I have come away with. Dogs anal glands will explode all over your damn house. It's the most disgusting thing in the world to me and I've seen some nasty shit in those animal clinics.
In all the time I've been an adult and living on my own, I've always had a cat and I've never had to deal with a single exploding anal gland. My cats have also never swallowed a towel, eaten and entire ham, drank paint, broken their tail chasing a squirrel, ran away, chewed the sofa, jumped on my guests as they walk in the door, tracked in mud or drooled on me. But this is ultimately why I don't have a dog:

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