Family Memoir

Teacher's Pets: It's Not What You Think

The dog formerly known as Mojo, 2009

Last year, at exactly this same time, we got a dog. The world was white and unbearably cold, and getting a pet seemed like a wonderful idea. We were dogless and surrounded on all sides by barky-barkers. We figured, how hard could it be, if everyone has them? Hubby researched carefully, making sure to find a breed that would be a good fit for our family.

Meanwhile I went to the breeder with my friend Cindy to meet “Lloyd,” a yellow Labrador puppy who was soon to become part of her family. They don’t make ’em cuter than that, folks. He was freakin’ adorable. But I also remembered how two summers before she’d brought home these two freaky Wheatland terriers, and she hated them. Hated. Them.

“Do they smell? I feel like they smell,” she kept asking.

I swear Cindy lost 10 pounds in the few days she had those dogs, and they quickly went back to the breeder.

Around the same time, I’d been following the trials with another friend’s new puppy for nearly four months — and it sounded like hell. All his Facebook status updates sounded like misery. Eventually, he returned his Labradoodle to the breeder. I had recently read Marley and Me, so I was nervous about lineage and more than a little anxious about making sure to pick the right dog from the litter.

I expressed my concerns to my husband who reminded me that I had successfully babysat my sister-in-law’s adorable shih tzu, Roxie, for two days.

“And I enjoy Brian — the cartoon dog on The Family Guy.” I quipped, “Can we find a witty, talking dog?”

Anyway, I told my family I was really nervous about this decision. I told them I’d never had a dog, that I didn’t really want a dog, but my husband kind of wore me down, promising that he would help with everything. He would pick up the dog poo every day. He would feed the dog. He would change the water. He would play with the dog. I wouldn’t have to do anything except enjoy him.

I know people love their doggies like family, but I kept thinking of them as eternal babies and I couldn’t figure out how we would ever be able to take a spontaneous day trip ever again. Everyone kept telling me I was just nervous about the unknown. I don’t think that was it at all. In fact, I think I knew too much. For example, while discussing the whole concept of getting a dog, I was at a friend’s house, when her Maltese got the “Hershey squirts” all over her rug.

Her. Good. Oriental. Rug.

And when Noah (a good-natured yellow Lab) came to live with my friend Betsy, he promptly swallowed a hair accessory and it was barfity-barfity-barf all the way to the vet. Another friend’s dog compulsively ate socks and had to have several emergency surgeries. Another friend’s dog kept getting foot infections. One of my brother’s dogs had weird phobias and tore through doors during thunderstorms. And, of course, we had all these barky dogs surrounding us – which could be a little unpleasant. Did I really want to own a dog?

I decided if Hubby wanted a puppy so badly, he would need to make the action steps, so I took one giant step back.

Big mistake.

Because the next thing I knew, we had a 4-month-old shih tzu. And while Hubby had said he would “do everything,” he simultaneously decided that first weekend home with the dog would be the perfect time to take a long weekend to go golfing with some buddies in Florida. So Hubby left me at home alone for four days with our brand new puppy — Mojo — who, to be fair — was a quick study about doing his business outside. But it should be noted, he didn’t seem to mind peeing or pooping inside, and he especially liked chewing on his feces after the big dump, so one had to be quick to catch him in the act.

After two weeks, I couldn’t take it anymore. Our son had stopped coming in the kitchen to avoid Mojo, who liked biting Monkey’s toes. So I asked my son, point-blank, if he would be sad if I brought the dog back to the breeder.

“Well,” he said cautiously, aware that he was operating between the clashing wills of his two parents. “I wouldn’t be particularly unhappy about it.”

This was not the voice of a child who loved his dog. There was no crying, no begging, no bargaining.  I told Hubby I would no longer be picking up “poopsicles” in sub-zero temperatures, informed him that I had called the breeder and was more than 100% prepared to lose my Mojo.

There are several good parts to this story and this is where they start: First, I did not have to bring the dog back to the breeder. My husband’s brother and my sister-in-law, who live less than 1/2 mile away, said they would love to have a second shih tzu, and I was delighted to give them everything. That. Very. Minute. So Mojo was renamed Rubie, and their dog, Roxie, got a sister, and Hubby still gets visitation rights. The dog still eats his poop, but they are way more mellow about that than I was.

Fast forward one year. Almost to the day. Hubby calls me and tells me to come to Petco.

Hubby: “I think you should come to look at some aquariums for Monkey’s room.”

Me: “Who cares. Fish is fish. Just pick one.”

Hubby: “Meet me at Petco.”

Hemingway in my coat – 4 months

When I walked in, I saw Hubby holding not one but two gray kittens. I almost died. I have wanted a cat for my entire life. In fact, right before I met Hubby, I was about to get a cat, but when I mentioned my plans, Hubby said he thought he was allergic, so I never followed through. I figured the whole cat thing was never going to happen.

Somehow we wound up with Hemingway, an all gray, short-haired, polydactyl cat, which means he had nine million pads on his paws. (Really, he had seven pads on each of his front paws — fourteen big fat pads, which he kneaded softly against my chest or leg or arm.) He was purr-fectly purr-fect in every way. To me, he was better than a dog because he loved to be cuddled and held and hugged — and he always went in his litter box, so none of us had to go outside in the bitter chill of winter. Hemi loved to chase ping-pong balls and wadded up balls of paper and string. He seemed to love us, and we all fell in love with him. He greeted us every morning for two weeks with a happy “meow,” and I was content to sit and read with him on my lap, his mutant paws draped lazily over my arms, the constant purr of his “motor” was always turned on.

Then on day 14, it happened.

Hubby started scratching. Initially, he complained about his eyes feeling like there were pebbles underneath his lids. But by the end of the day, the pebbles had become boulders and — much as we tried to deny it — it was obvious: Hubby was, in fact, allergic to cats. And, of course, we were all devastated when Hubby had to bring Hemi back to Habitat for Cats, as we’d all become very attached to the little guy.

They say some folks are dog people and some are cat people.

Sadly, I guess we are the people who can’t be either.

“Maybe we can get some cool fish,” I said trying to cheer my rather glum Monkey.

“I’m tired of the pet drama,” said Monkey, “Knowing us, our heater would accidentally boil the fish.”

So, for now, we are back to our former petless status.

But it is a little sad.

Maybe by winter 2011, we’ll be emotionally ready to consider a goldfish.

Somebody, tell me your own pet drama to make me feel better.

34 thoughts on “Teacher's Pets: It's Not What You Think

  1. We almost got another cat this week. Actually we keep threatening each other with a 2nd cat. We’ve had with kids just about every pet imaginable and about half of those reproduced. We stopped all reproduction from happening in our home when the youngest daughter’s gerbil ate her babies while we watched. Actually? That was the end of that vicious gerbil as well.

    I am blessed, I have no allergies and am able to enjoy animals both large and small. I really feel for those that do have allergies and wish there was some trick that would allow those with and without to exist happily. Enjoy the animals you can either through visiting friends or volunteering at a local shelter. I’ve had pets that were wonderful and others not so much.

    Pepper (10 months old, female mini lab beagle) and Angel (3 year old short hair orange tiger) are monsters most of the time. They are like 3 year olds. Play with me, pet me feed me… it is nice to be needed. LOL OK they are chasing each other around the Christmas tree! I gotta go save the ornaments!

    1. Oh Heather, Hemi was so not vicious. He was a lover. He just wanted to hop up on you and cuddle. He even let us clip his nails (all 9 million of them) without protest!

      Thanks you for the pep talk, though. If I had known you were considering a kitten, we might have brought him to you. Wherever you are.

      1. OMG! NO NO NO WE DO NOT WANT A KITTEN!!! Ha ha ha … the cat we saw that we almost filled out adoption paper work on was an adult 3 year old rescue. I’d rescue a cat no problem at this point but not a kitten. Angel (our cat) would eat it. Then I’d kill Angel and it would be a vicious circle of murder and mayhem. Still might get a second cat but probably not this winter.

        I have almost sold DH on getting my fish tank up and running again. I loved my fish tank and was very grateful to see them be adopted into a very very awesome fish family when we moved. I do miss having them though.

  2. About eight years ago, my husband decided he wanted tree frogs. He got them even though I was not at all in agreement. Until about a month ago, they lived in his home office, a room that is right next to our den where the “family” computer is. (Now it’s just my computer because my daughter has a laptop in her room). These frogs croak so much I feel like I live near a swamp. I hate the whole thing. They eat crickets, and sure enough everytime he has to go out of town for business he asks me to get the crickets because he “doesn’t have enough time”. Does he remember that our neighborhood has a really nice pond where his frogs would have plenty of friends???

    1. You mean he doesn’t break into song when no-one else is around? Remember that old Loony Tunes skit where the guy found a frog who would sing “Hello my darlin; hello my honey; hello, my ragtime gal?” — but only when alone with the owner? LOL! 😉

  3. Go for the fish tank, Renée. Our son takes care of them all by himself. You can leave them for a couple of days or buy one of those feeding tablets if gone longer. If they die, a trip to the Pet Store and a couple of bucks will get you a new one! (Don’t do goldfish – they’re messy….)

  4. My parents refused a dog when I was a kid, and I’m allergic to cats. When I was seven or eight, we got two hamsters. The pet store swore they were both boys. One of the boys had a miraculous, spontaneous sex change and had several babies. She started eating the dead ones, my mother tried to reach in and take the little bodies away, and mama hamster bit her finger down to the bone. After that we just had one hamster for a while, but he escaped one day and his half-decomposed carcass was found inside a vase in the basement years later.

    So we just had fish for most of my childhood.

    I have always felt sad that I had no furry friends to love when I was a kid. Now my fiance refuses a dog, too. Sigh.

    1. (*Raises an invisible glass*) Here’s to miraculous, spontaneous sex changes. Hilarious! And that hamster got what was coming to him. How dare he bite the hand that fed him? I wish I had been there to find his skeletal-self curled into the vase. This just shows how stupid varmints are.

  5. That’s rough! I too had a tiny dog arrive once. The thing was a nightmare and we all wanted it gone. I drove it back twice and they were closed. It puked on both return trips. Other than that we’ve always had animals. My best friend who lived with us off and on during high school had the nadty allergies and it really isnt bearable for someone dealing with that. Maybe you’re a mouse person 😉 Hamster?

  6. Please consider a guinea pig. We have two. They are rather amazing, simple, non-allergic animals. They do not bite, are tame, do not take off like gerbils and let you hold them for hours. I am allergic to cats, and mildly to dogs. The guinea pig is a small lovable creature that is easy to care for with some hay and pellets. We feed ours a salad most days but you do not have to. It is a pet your son can care for, hold, play with, will not take off on him and requires very little care. They do not make much noise aside from a small sound of love when you are near. They are also fine being alone if they have a friend, as they love to be in pairs. They can sit in their little plastic cover in their cage for hours and relax only to walk around their cage when interested in what is going on. Pets may not be your thing, but based on your experiences, a guinea pig may be an option.

    1. I agree with you on everything except the sound thing. My college roommate kept a guinea pig under her bed (illegally) for the year we lived together, and often she would make a “skree, skree” sound that was quite noisy and distracting. (The guinea pig, not the roommate.)

      Otherwise, though, a lovely pet, and much easier to love on than a smaller rodent like a hamster.

  7. My husband and son are both allergic to cats. That is too bad; I know you were loving that kitty =( Have you ever thought of going with a hairless cat? They are so ugly that they are cute! My friend has one because she too has allergies. She named her fluffy! LOL!

    1. As Monkey said, we are staying away from adopting anymore pets right now. It’s good to know that Monkey is not allergic so — one day — perhaps, he can have the dog or cat of his dreams. His father and I will simply have to stay at a hotel. 😉

  8. We have a hamster – bet you didn’t know that. It stayed and the teenager went off to college in a far away land. It was living in her bedroom closet; now it’s in the basement, probably very lonely. We have it hidden from the two cats.

    Cats need attention and it is difficult to find an entire family of cat-friendly folks so, don’t fret. Our hamster, Merrel is in excellent shape, very independent, she runs on a brightly colored plastic wheel all night. “Run Merrel, run,” is what I say when I go downstairs to do laundry. Merrel can be an inspiration to use the treadmill…

    The teenager will not tell us why the name “Merrel” so we go with Streep. When she was home for the holiday she very casually said (with a toss of her long hair) “I can’t believe she’s still alive.” Maybe Merrel needs some lovin’, some company, maybe another hamster or, a family who would actually play with it – do hamsters crave attention? Merrel seems independent and happy…

    I guess what I am tring to get at is Merrel is up for adoption… oh, and it, or, she, has survived in a cage that has previously been cleaned very infrequently. It’s a hardy hamster and not bad lookin’ either.

    1. Thanks but no thanks, Sara. No offense to Merrel — as I’m sure he/she/it is one good lookin’ hamster. Right now we are all recovering from post traumatic stress and are content to enjoy others’ heinous pet stories. Can’t you tell me something disgusting that one of the cats did? 😉 There had to have been a rogue squirrel in there somewhere.

  9. Perhaps you should consider a totally different approach and simply try a Monkey for your Monkey. It can peel your bananas before you come down for breakfast, learn to play Wii, shovel the front walk, maybe even some light housework. I did hear, however, that they like to pick up and throw their own feces around. The trade-off seems worth it. no?

  10. Okay you asked for it! My neighbor has 5 cats. I went to go over there this past summer and one of their cats was ripping a baby bunny to shreds on their front step. I started screaming because the rabbit was still alive and screaming too! It was one of the most horrific things I have ever seen her cat do! PS: Tanner hates her cats 😉

  11. Here is one of my pet horror stories:

    Many, many years ago, before elementary school, my family owned a dog named Lady. Lady was a purebred mutt (lol), who was loved by both my entire family and the neighbor’s labrador retriever. Well, about two months after Lady had her “tryst” with Jake, she was plump and ready to bust.

    A little understanding of Jamesville is in order to appreciate the entire beauty of this story. Jamesville is a town where your dreams can come true, especially if you want to pretend that you are a farmer. My father, God bless his soul, was a man who had that inner farmer that needed to be freed. When I was two years old, he brought the family out to Jamesville where he quickly entered his “Green Acres” stage. He plowed up the back yard and planted corn, turned the shed into a makeshift barn, purchased a pony (directly from the Devil), and procured about 20 laying hens and one rooster. The hens kind of backfired on “pa” because it made us young-uns question where the eggs came from. No, we didn’t eat eggs for years and if my mother baked she’d have to hide the eggs. Many a time we questioned the ingredients to our Sunday dessert. Okay, I’m getting a little off track.

    One day the family went on a trip and upon our arrival home we realized something was amiss. My father looked around and all of the sudden he displayed a very sobering look. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Where’s the chickens?” then my father muttered, “Ma, take the kids in the house.” Us kids watched from the window as my father surveyed the landscape and what he saw obviously upset him. Twenty-one very shallow graves marked by forty-two tiny little chicken feet sticking out of the ground. Apparently our lovely dog Lady knew that she was pregnant and was preparing for the day when we would stop feeding her.

    This would turn out to be only a minor setback in the “farming” life that I would one day be proud to call my heritage. To this day, whenever I see a chicken roaming a yard freely, or a pregnant dog ready to bust, my memory goes back 40 years to this simpler time. Just so you know, I had no permanent repercussions with eggs because my mother explained how the eggs in a market are made in a factory and don’t really “come out of chickens.”

    1. Omigosh, Jeff! That is awful and hilarious at the same time. When are you starting your own blog? I want to read more about your dad and your life in Jamesville! 😉 So what happened to Lady’s pups? Did you get to keep ’em?

  12. Well I guessed correctamundo that it had to do with your kitty 🙂 The only horror story I have is wanting to get rid of one of my boxers, Thor, a couple of years ago. He would fight with Dozer, our male golden retriever. Or the other way around. Now that Emma has passed, they don’t seem to fight anymore. It was scary!
    I can see why your family wants to be petless for now;)

  13. Aw, I wanted to ‘like’ this post but I can’t it’s just too sad! Not being married, I’ve obviously decided I like my cat better than any of the guys I’ve dated/lived with…wait, I think that’s a life horror story, not a pet horror story. Anyway, condolences on being petless…and yeah, maybe wait a while before trying the hamster/guinea pig thing?

  14. I love your son’s comment: knowing us, the heater would accidentally boil the fish. I have a story about when my puppies got hives which will just further strengthen your knowledge that you’re doing the right thing by not having pets
    Very happy to find your blog through Leanne Shirtliffe!

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