The ‘spirit animals’ category

Animal Brady Bunch PSA

January 30th, 2017

Phoebe Luka Eliza
Budapest Jon Gary
Rocky Joslyn McInyre, freelance writer and editor Dorothy

 

They give you a lot of warnings about waiting until you’re in your forties to have kids.

Mainly it’s about the health of the eggs and the impossibility of it ever happening in the first place. Shout out to the otherwise awesome OBGYN who told an early-thirties me I better jump on it if I wanted to ever get pregnant, and also, just as an aside, you were wrong. My husband and I got pregnant with a hint of an effort and ended up with TWO beautiful children, so who’s laughing now?

Probably her, because she doesn’t have twin toddlers. But anyway.

She wasn’t a vet, so she didn’t happen to mention the other side of waiting until you’re 42 to get pregnant: the pet situation. 

By the time I was in my late thirties I had pretty much given up on all hope not just for mankind but for my own ability to ever sustain a relationship. As a consolation prize for my last breakup I acquired two cats I never meant to get in the first place.

The first cat adoption is an elaborate story for another time involving a Hungarian con man, his beleaguered South African son, a crazy Chinese lady in a sketchy housing project who didn’t speak a lick of the English, and a little feral ball of goodness and evil who was not to be stopped. Within the first hour of meeting Budapest, I had a premonition I would end up alone with her. “It’s just you and me now, kid,” I said to her, like Humphrey Bogart in a weird Disney retelling of Casablanca.

The second cat, Luka, was acquired in a slightly more on-purpose manner from the San Francisco animal shelter and was intended to be the first’s companion. Unfortunately, Budapest turned out to be half raccoon and quite a solitary figure. In any case, with the demise of the relationship, I became a de facto cat lady.

I truly relished this role and fulfilled it zealously. I did not date for years and spent many, many lonely evenings at home nervously obsessing about my cats. I loved them thoroughly and they, in turn, gave me a modicum of attention and respect—and a lot of half-dead voles and baby sparrows—and for that I will honor them forever. 

Meanwhile, a few states away, an aging ski bum with a failing marriage was also collecting cats and dogs. They were animal lovers with a teenaged daughter quickly growing up, so they started adopting pets like they were filling a void: several cats, an Italian greyhound, a Papillon, a freaking toy poodle.

But then they split up. The husband in question, an old flame of mine, circled back into my orbit. And the next thing you know, we were making plans to move in together and have twins. The only hiccup was how to refine and calibrate our pet symphony. He hashed out the custody details with his ex, I put my foot down about some details, and we moved in together. 

It’s a cozy situation full of love and lots of snuggling and quite a bit of bluster on the part of certain animal citizens of this domain. What I didn’t anticipate is that my husband and I, lifelong animal collectors and lovers, would get to the point where we didn’t have it in us to give the animals the attention they had become accustomed to. Once, I would beg my cats to curl up with me in bed, and I would feel blessed if Budapest deigned to sleep next to my head on a pillow. I spent hours of every day loving on them. And Jon had previously taken Rocky for a walk pretty much every day.

But now, after being climbed up and yelled at and drooled on and generally used as a human punching bag by toddlers all day, I don’t have it in me. I climb into bed at long last after harrowing day after harrowing day, and immediately at least three animals pounce on me, desperate for attention—and I am equally desperate not to be touched. “Please,” I beg them, “please let me be.” I genuinely never thought I’d be the type to swat a cat off my lap at 9 p.m. when I dragged my sorry ass to bed. Used to be, those kitty snuggles were the best part of my day.

And then there’s Gary, our outdoor cat. He showed up here years ago and never left, but won’t come in our house. He’s friendly with people but hates other animals and really should have adopted some lonely old lady without any existing pets. So Gary lives in an electric heated hut on our side deck, and every morning I slide open the door to feed him expensive canned food and fresh hot water. It’s really not a bad life as far as being a basically feral animal goes. I’m sure some raccoons would kill for this setup. Still, I felt pretty guilty when a good friend came to visit over Thanksgiving and expressed mortification that we don’t give Gary more attention. She did us the great favor of spending hours over the course of the weekend petting Gary. Thank god for her (says Gary).

As for Rocky, he’s a delicate Mediterranean flower who secretly hates the outdoors and any hint of inclement weather. His favorite activity of all time is curling up under my electric blanket. He sleeps about 23.5 hours a day. So he’s actually doing pretty well with the decline in his walking schedule. Jon still insists on taking him on walks a few times a week, and when Rocky senses this is about to happen, he burrows down deeper under the covers and pleads with me (with his eyes) to keep him safe and warm.

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