It was in early November. The time when we bask in the onset of the Season, smelling cookies and Christmas dinner, peculating as it does, through the cold and fog. Our neighbor called, seriously exercised.
“I just found seven kittens under my porch! What do I do?” (Hint: you call my wife, and she makes the problem go away. Is there a Mafia word for that? Pet cleaner doesn’t sound right.) “I know you volunteer with the Humane Society. Can I take them in?”
“Let me find out,” my wife says, already knowing they are too young to go to the pound, but my master bath is the most perfect place in the world for seven kittens, hardly walking. Now my household pet count is eleven. We sit the kids down and reiterate that in no uncertain terms can you tell the man who walks by our house each day, the Mayor we call him. He oversees our HOA with an iron fist. The rules state that anyone wanting more than one animal must get approval from the association, and almost every neighbor ignores this. I have pined for a goat for a year now but am sure that won’t be ignored.
I say that ‘we’ raised them, but my wife does all the work. We have an agreement: she does whatever she wants with pets and animals, however many there are, and I write and read and do other more heady things. She attends to dirt and I look to the heavens. Plato and Aristotle. The girls squeal and promise to feed, clean, and care for anything living but rarely put in actual work. So, my wife works like a midwife while I am elbow deep in medieval mysticism. It’s a fair trade as long as no one is watching.
Part of volunteering for the Human Society – part of volunteering for anything – is learning to say yes to any question without consideration for yourself. So my wife and girls walk dogs at the center, feed cats, and dote over every horse and donkey at the farm.
As a parenthetical aside…I understand the overabundance of cats and dogs, but horses? The center had a call a month ago about several horses running loose through a trailer park. “Can you come and get them?” How do horses end up running loose and wild through a trailer park? It’s common, I guess, for loving dads to dote on their eyelash-batting daughters by buying them a horse. Flea bags come pretty cheap. What Dad doesn’t know, and will find out in a hurry, is that this hay burner is like a beat up, old Porsche. He thought the lanky thing that makes his daughter so happy would scrape away at the lawn and save him from mowing. It’s Saturday, you know, and college football is on TV.
What he learns, though, is that owning a horse requires shelter, lots of feed, vets, shoeing, and your daughter wants one of everything at the tack store. He thought he was buying an old Chevy. He’s learned now that he bought a German super-car. What to do? Well, you could call my wife, and she’ll make arrangements for you. It’s a pain for her, but you get to keep your good citizen plaque. Instead, most people just open the gate at night. The horse runs away and you can blame your daughter for not closing up. Problem solved except a horse is loose and challenging cars on the back roads, and your daughter gets to live her life knowing that she’s irresponsible. Way to go, Dad.
We kept two cats. I knew this was coming, and wanted to keep the weepy-eyed runt. She had no energy to fight and was happiest resting on your chest while you laid down, purring the entire time. But we put the kittens up on a social media site and someone wanted the runt. What?
“Who would want that little thing?” I asked my wife. “I mean, she can hardly stand. You told the guy that?”
“I did, and he was thrilled.”
They met, and he took the kitten, thrilled as she said. “It’s for my daughter,” he said. Who, he also explained, was also challenged. Great. Now I’m an ass. I hope today that kitten and daughter are in snuggling-love with each other. They deserve it and I’m happy for them.
We let another sad-heart raise two kittens, and she found homes for them. We found homes for two more, leaving two with us. The girls named them Max and Ruby.
Young Maximilian, also called Little White Man, is all alley cat. He wants only to growl and fight and will mount anything furry and reachable. He sits on my office window ledge, dreaming of the outside and the day he sinks his sharp teeth into a tasty cardinal. And, like an alley cat, he eats anything. We’ve already made a couple of vet visits to rectify that peccadillo. Don’t worry. It’s nothing that selling my classic Saab 900 Turbo can’t pay for. As much as he defines Plato’s ideal of a tom, he is the most loving cat I’ve ever seen. He loves me like a dog would, and runs to me when I call. He jumps onto my chair and lap when I write, and wanders all over the desk, typing as he walks. His purr is loud enough to drown out the neighbors, and comes on like a light switch. Everything about him is over the top and larger than life. He’s a true Kardashian. So, I flip him over now, on my lap, and stoke his little Saab belly while his purring rattles the windows. Life could be worse.
We call his sister Little Red Girl or Ruby. As brash and bold as her brother Max is, she is refined and demure. Funny how these opposites run in families. We see the same thing in our twin girls, who happen to be human. Ruby runs with her brother, and fights – what else to do when you’re being attacked? – but is happy then to lay with someone who is still in bed sleeping. Her purr is something earned, usually by gently stroking her tummy. I watched her this morning, rapt and sitting at the back door, watching Hoplina, a bunny who lives on our porch. Max came out from behind the couch ever so quietly, and I knew a tussle was coming. Ruby didn’t notice and Max kept creeping, lower and lower to the floor like a panther. At just the right moment, Ruby turned to see her brother and flashed a look saying, “Dude. Leave me alone. I’m doing something.” I laughed when Max shrugged his shoulders, looking around like he was oblivious to the entire shenanigan.
“Me? Hey. I’m just looking at the paint on the wall. What’s your problem girl?”
So, now I have matched my pet count to my number of offspring. Seven each. What a day.