“I’m never going back,” I have heard more than one pet owner say. They are talking about the office of their veterinarian, a person with whom they have built a relationship for years, someone they like and trust. But their pet died there, and the painful memories are too strong. So strong for some people that they go and find a new vet, even if they liked their old one just fine.
It’s one of the reasons I like having the option that I offer, of performing in-home euthanasia and pet hospice with Paws into Grace. Because I know more than anyone that as much as the client hated the office that one time, many pets hated it every time. That can be pretty upsetting for some families.
Which leads to the next concern, one I hadn’t thought of until a client voiced it to me. “I don’t want to go to the vet office, but I can’t euthanize my pet at home,” she said. “I can’t have that memory associated with my house.” So sometimes those clients end up decamping to a third party location, a park or a beach. And I respect that decision, though I would encourage those who feel that way to think on it a little while before making up their minds. Here’s why:
1. The precedent has been set in human hospice for staying at home.
The gold standard, for those who have adequate support systems in place, is for people to pass at home whenever possible. That is by far the most comfortable place for a patient, in familiar surroundings. I was with my grandfather when he passed on a hospital bed in the living room he called his own for 40 years. He hated hospitals and I’m pretty sure had we put him in one he would have haunted us all.
2. Moving an ill pet can be a challenge.
Pets who are very ill can be nauseated, painful, disoriented, and uncomfortable. This goes for people, too. How many times have we been down with the flu and known that we should probably go to the doctor but we feel too rotten? Same with pets. Add in mobility issues and it is just one more stress for owners, especially with very large pets or very upset cats- no matter the destination.
3. Your home is deafeningly, loudly, overwhelmingly a place of comfort.
This is the place Kekoa died:
But unlike a vet office where I might only have a handful of memories, I see this place every day and I don’t look at it as the place my dog died. I look at it as my living room, the place we opened Christmas presents, the place Brody plops down while I’m writing. It also happens to be the place Kekoa chose to settle down and leave this earth, because she knew as well that this is a happy place.
And you know what? It still is. I am glad she chose our sun dappled living room. At home, when I administer a pet’s sedation, they choose where they want to be: outside, in the kitchen, in mom’s lap. People find comfort knowing their pet selected the place they are most at home.
I’ve only been in this house a year and it’s had more than its share of sadness. I am looking at the floor Kekoa died while sitting on the couch where Apollo died. I actually drove him home from the specialty hospital as quickly as I could- after he got lots of pain meds, so he could curl up on my lap after everyone got a chance to say goodbye.
But right now, it’s the place my dog is chewing up a toy and my son is doing his homework. This is our home, where life happens. And I feel good about that.
I was debating going to SXSW this week, but as it didn’t come to fruition I needed to rely on my husband’s reporting back to let me know all the stuff going on and if it was really worth the four figure ticket price.
“They have animal stuff here,” he said. “You can get your picture taken with Grumpy Cat.”
Really? I asked him.
“Yes,” he said. “There were lines out the door last year. She’s here again.”
“The cat is at a tech conference?” I asked again, trying to get my brain around it.
“Yep,” he said. “They swear she is fine with it, though.” Oh, OK then. Have you ever been to a show like this? I’m a primate and I barely escape without an anxiety attack.
Now look, I try to remind myself not to be the hand wavy finger shaking vet, and those of you who know me, know I tend to give a lot of passes to people when it comes to doing things with your pets. Dress up your dog here and there, OK. Have a pet who likes to show off and skateboard or whatnot and clearly enjoys the bonding time? Go for it. And I would even try, within reason, to understand an occasional appearance here and there for a specific purpose. Within reason.
She’s Fine With It
At what point does ‘occasional’ become too much? I guess it’s an individual thing. My definition of within reason is different than other people’s, sure, but I suppose that is why the internet is such an interesting place to hold discourse. I’ve found a line I would not cross.
Let’s take a look at Grumpy Cat’s Wikipedia, “According to the Bundesens, Tardar Sauce is a normal cat “99% of the time”. Photo sessions are only once a week, and handling by strangers is limited. At SXSW (2013) Tardar Sauce made limited two-hour appearances each day as Grumpy Cat.“
Aaaaand she’s back again.
People tell me all the time their pet is happy when their ears are plastered against their head and they are 2 seconds from snapping. Just because you say it, just because you believe it, doesn’t make it so. The absence of actively trying to escape doesn’t mean you’re fine with it; I once saw a rabbit sitting on a red carpet surrounded by cameras and dogs sitting stock still while it waited to get eaten. I wasn’t thrilled that time, either.
If you’re going to exploit your cat’s genetic defect for millions of dollars, I’m not going to stop you, but at least be honest enough to say yes, this is what I’m doing. Because you can swear this is to the cat’s benefit all you want, but truth of the matter is I can’t think of a single feline I’ve met in my lifetime who would enjoy getting passed around to strangers while on a boat ride. Come on. This does not require an advanced degree to know. It simply involves having met any cat.
I know I’m not the only one who is a little skeeved out by this, and it’s not just people in the animal profession going “ummm…”. It’s too bad that every time someone tries to say, “Hey, you know…?” they’ll get drowned out by people calling them crazy animal activists or whatever similar marginalizing thing they can come up with, but I’m OK with that. When tech guys are telling PETA, hey, I think you got this one wrong, you know something very Carroll-esque is going on. We’re all mad here.
Not Neglect, But Not Exactly Altruistic Either
Let me be clear: I do not think the owners are abusive, or neglectful, or horrible people. I do not think the cat is being pushed to death’s door and needs to be removed by animal control. Compared to all the real and horrible animal abuse going on out there, this cat has it made. But let’s not kid ourselves and say this is the life she would have chosen or even that this is not stressing her out.
Thanks to reddit, we’ve seen all sorts of strange-looking animals launched into internet stardom, from shepherds with 2 noses to cats with no faces. Strange sells. Sure, altruism abounds and people’s hearts are in the right places generally speaking, but let’s not pretend this is anything other than what it really is:
Our generation’s circus sideshow.
So go enjoy the show, I told my husband, but I don’t need a picture of you with Tardar Sauce. One less person she has to ‘meet’.
On March first, I hit ‘send’ and the first draft of my manuscript went flying through the ether to New York to land in the capable hands of my editor. It was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. If any of you watched the Oscars and heard De Niro deliver this little nugget:
The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that’s on a good day.
That pretty much sums up my experience of churning out a manuscript. It lifted my spirits to know I was in such good company in my certainty of inadequacy. I’m still not sure of the publication date yet; it depends on a lot of things, such as Grand Central’s current catalogue and how many rounds of editing the book has to go through before it’s whipped into shape like a perfect meringue. I’ll be sure to keep you posted because I did guarantee AT LEAST 25 copies sold and my mom can’t buy them all.
In the meantime, I set myself to a side task which turned out to be rather entertaining. As part of my contract I get to submit about 15 black and white photos for the book, covering my life with Taffy, Emmett, and Kekoa. The latter two I’m set on, but finding old pictures from my childhood was a bit more of a challenge.
My father, like my husband now, was an early adopter of new photo technology. This is all fine and good if the technology sticks, but of course as we’ve found it usually doesn’t. This resulted in two major problems:
1. 1975-1983 exists solely on old slides.
2. 1997-2002, the early digital age which also coincided with vet school, ended up on an old-school iOmega zip disk. The whereabouts of said discs are unknown. They may be floating in a box that’s been packed since the day I left vet school, or in a Goodwill store somewhere, or maybe Brian put them on an old PC that is also dead and gone, who knows. It is possible the pictures could be recovered if I actually HAD them, but at this point I would need a genie and a committed tech nerd.
Fortunately for me, my father kept his slides miraculously intact, and spent the last year faithfully transferring them into a digital format. It was crazy to see what he delivered, keeping in mind the last time my father actually set up the projector in the house was 1983. I hadn’t seen any of those pictures since then, kindergarten, first communion, all those moments from decades ago. Taffy as a puppy.
I chose one or two of Taffy looking cute then a few more of me looking as dorky as possible, which meant pretty much all of them (I had a very extended awkward phase.) So because I love you all and I thought it was funny, I wanted to share one of the pics I didn’t end up using but is very illustrative of my formative years:
I’ll need my sister (the elegant brunette in the back) to chime in on the age of this one. Mid 80s for sure. And there’s me, the love child of Sandy Squirrel and Benny Hill:
It was a bad time for fashion in general.
And of course Taffy, who was as always plotting her escape. Or perhaps planning where in the house she wanted to pee next. I owe my dedication to the newest odor removing technology to years of following her around with an ineffectual roll of paper towels and whatever carpet cleaner they had in the 80s.
Your turn- who was your first pet? What is your most clear memory of them?
Veterinary medicine, the happiest field on earth, land of puppy butts and kitty snuggles and Pet Doctor Barbies in hotpants, or so they told me when I was 10.
Or perhaps it is the land of crushing student debt, clients frustrated that they are priced out of affordable care, and the unending mental strain of not being able to make every client happy and whole at the price they want you to provide it for.
Maybe it’s somewhere in between, but to be honest it seems to me like it’s leaning a little more towards the latter than the former. It wasn’t always this way, and yes, there are plenty of vets who still tell you they couldn’t imagine doing anything else, but for many, they can. And do. I was shocked to see how many of my colleagues- good, smart, compassionate veterinarians- have left the field. It happens a LOT.
Kitty snuggles may not solve all the world’s ills, but it does help a whole lot.
Burnout rates are high, depression is rampant, and though the world was shocked to learn veterinarians have the highest suicide rates of medical professionals, no actual vets seemed too shocked by the news. The truth is, this is a tough, tough field, and the toll it takes is financial, physical, and mental, each and every day. We are expected by society and each other to buck up and put your own needs on the backburner, day after day after day, and it. wears. you. down.Justine Lee has a great article on the topic: one in four vets have considered suicide.
Last week, a colleague followed through, and our field is all the less for her loss.
It might surprise you to know that while our field tiptoes around the concept of compassion fatigue, it’s not regularly acknowledged as an almost inevitable part of what we do. Those who feel the strain are often left to feel guilty and disappointed in themselves for feeling that way. When the timing is wrong, when the wrong case hits at the same time as a broken water main or someone delivering a court summons, it can be very easy to forget that there is a way through that mess.
Animal lovers are deeply sensitive by nature, and I think both animal care providers and clients may be prone to those intensities of emotion that can veer into unhealthy places. I’ve dedicated my work the last year or so to acknowledging we need to do a better job supporting the emotional needs of our clients, but the truth is we need to so the same for our own.
I sincerely hope our field is able to provide better support for our own in terms of learning to cope with the unique stressors of this career, that those support groups that exist within the veterinary community are not kind of shoved in the corner to be sought out in desperation but held up as a standard for healthy venting and encouraging each other to live well and live outside the clinic.
I bring this up for several reasons, namely because I was very saddened by Dr. Koshi’s death and the circumstances surrounding it. I want my colleagues, especially those of you who are young and still learning how to do this vet thing and do it well, to understand that we all know how hard it can be. The internet has not made this easier. We need to be able to rely on each other and on the profession as a whole.
If any of you are struggling, please reach out, to your friends, to a hotline, to me, I don’t care who you reach out to but just stick your hand out and wave and we will take it. I am happy to hear multiple veterinarians including Dr. Lee, Dr. Myers, and others at NAVC met up to discuss what we can do to be more organized in our support of each other and stop being ashamed of admitting sometimes, this field is HARD.
And for you non-vets, because I know many of you are amazing clients, I want to thank you for being the kind of people who make going to work worthwhile. You are the reason we continue to pull our lab coats on every day.
RIP Dr. Koshi, and know that we will acknowledge and remember the wonderful work you did in this world.
I’ve learned a lot in the process of writing this book, going back and reflecting on what three very special dogs have done for me in my life. It’s almost done, the first draft at least, and I can rest easy knowing that if I get hit by a bus tomorrow there’s enough for a talented editor to work with so that this, at least, will live on. Happy Valentine’s Day, by the way.
Speaking of dying and all of that, though, the one thing that really jumped out at me when I was writing, and just living and working in hospice, is this: Love every moment, even when it’s just hanging out on the couch. Make a moment out of nothing.
This morning, Brody came over to tell me his bowl was empty. I decided, prior to filling it, I would take a picture of his hangdog face and make it a doge meme.
I fed him, eventually. But not before practicing balance and self control. The cat, being a cat, was excused from practice.
And because life is short, we even attempted a dog/doc selfie, which never really works because after all, your dog only wants to look at you.
Which is, really, nothing to complain about.
Love is putting up with me, at least from Brody’s perspective, and man does he put up with a lot. But it’s good, and I’m glad I took 5 minutes to make a moment out of an empty food bowl. I challenge all of you to take just a minute or two today and make your own moment. You’ll be glad you did.
One year ago today, we said goodbye to Kekoa. After a month of bucket list indulgences going from kale to turkey and then, that day, chocolate chip bacon ice cream, I said I love you one last time.
We pet owners talk a lot about heart dogs, that dog who just ‘got’ you, the dog who changed you and will never, ever be replaced (you can substitute dog for any pet, of course.) And once you have a heart dog, once you lose a heart dog, you may wonder if you will ever have another one again.
I’m here to say yes, you can.
Emmett was my heart dog, the dog who taught me fierce love and how to be a family and how even the best of us were allowed our jealous moments but we’d get over them eventually. He taught me forgiveness. I loved the other dogs I had before him just as much, Taffy and Mulan and Nuke, but he was the dog who spoke to my soul.
Kekoa was brought into our lives furtively, a sneak adoption if you will. We were supposed to adopt a different lab, a younger one, one glossier and with better teeth, but as I didn’t realize until after she was gone, she spoke to my daughter’s soul, and there it was. She was the shoe that fit. That was a February as well. This is her month, the month of heart.
Kekoa lived without a spiteful bone in her body. I think she growled once in her life, when Apollo tried to steal a bite of her food, and even then it was more indignant than menacing. She loved food, almost as much as she loved us.
When she died, when I made the decision to euthanize her when her bone cancer was causing her pain I couldn’t control, I wrestled with the same emotions every pet owner struggles with: uncertainty. Is it the right time? Guilt. I’m acting too soon. Pain. I don’t like seeing this. She was bothered by none of this internal turmoil, choosing instead to just trust us and sleep in my daughter’s room at night. I was so busy thinking of my own distress I really missed the boat on thinking about how the kids would be affected, but Kekoa stepped in- completely unaware she was even doing it- to be there for them.
Many things happened afterwards as a direct result of her death. I began working with Paws into Grace. In the midst of my mourning, her story wrote itself into the book proposal I was working on, which will be a forever monument to her. I committed to getting certified in pet loss counseling, which I completed last week, in order to give a voice to those who are sad and suffering so they know: NO, you are not alone and your grief is real. They don’t call them heart pets for no reason. They take some of it with them.
She was a heart dog too, and I never even gave her credit for it until long after she was gone. This sad, head hanging little black dog with terrible head/chest proportions and bad gas taught me how to take care of others just by being true to yourself. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
Miss ya, girl. Thank you for everything.
Yesterday, I was working on a homework assignment for a course I am taking on pet loss and bereavement. I was reading about the guilt so much of us feel after losing a pet, and one of the exercises they recommend we do is imagine a conversation with our pet. I decided I would try this with Kekoa, as I struggled- like so many people do- with knowing if it was the right time to say goodbye to her last year as she dealt with bone cancer.
Me: Kekoa, I’m sorry.
Kekoa: I love you.
Me: I feel like maybe I let you go too soon.
Kekoa: I love you.
Me: Do you forgive me if I made the wrong choice?
Kekoa: I love you.
I kept waiting for her to say something else, but that was all she ever had to say. It’s been almost a year, which is hard to believe. February 10th. A Valentine’s Day with a massively broken heart.
But now, I can think of no better way to reflect on this anniversary than to be with all of you, my friends, who can all relate to the special sort of sorrow this kind of loss rains upon us. The first- and hopefully not last- online pet memorial candle lighting ceremony is tonight, February 5th, 6 pm PST. I will be joined by several wonderful friends and we are so honored to be sharing in this event together.
How to Participate:
This ceremony, and this hangout, is for you and all you find meaningful. I encourage you all to participate to whatever degree you wish.
If you like, you can watch the Hangout right here, no special account required.
(Crying along at home is fine, by the by. I wish we let ourselves do that more often.)
You can also watch the Hangout at the Google + Event page here. You do not need a Google account to do so, but there are two ways you can participate there that will require an account.
Share a memory: You can click on the Q & A button and write a memory of your pet.
Share a photo: You can post a picture of your pet by clicking on the camera icon next to the “say something” box. If all goes as planned, I can incorporate those into the ceremony too.
Tweet a memory: If you post on Twitter using the hashtag #petcandle, I should be able to incorporate those tweets into the ceremony as well.
Above all else I want people to feel included. This is a group-owned event. Feedback after the fact is welcome as well. If you’re not up to watching, we’ll be sending much love to you. And if you know of anyone who might want to watch, I would love it if you could share this with them.
There is something vastly powerful about going through grief with friends. It validates, it resonates, it comforts. When it comes to losing a pet, too many of us are forced to endure the pain without that camaraderie of a circle of friends.
To that end, and because I know so many people continue to hurt and feel alone in their grief over the loss of a beloved pet, The Tiniest Tiger and I are hosting a Pet Loss Candle Ceremony next Wednesday, February 5th, at 6 pm PST.
What Will Happen
During this Google Hangout, we will be lighting candles to remember those who have left us, and to comfort those left behind. It’s open to all- kids can participate too!
How To Participate
1. Watch at home: at Google +, YouTube, or here.
The main Google + Event page is here. You do not need to RSVP to watch it, but if you do you will be sent a reminder through your Google account.
You can also watch at light your own candle at home without a Google + account. It will stream live, and also be up later as a recorded event, on YouTube. All you need to do is click on this link at the time of the hangout, or simply come back here and watch it here on this post.
Date: Wednesday, February 5th
Time: 6 pm PST (Click here to convert to your time zone.)
2. Watch and Chat
If you’d like to type in a question or memory during the Hangout, you’ll need a Google + account at plus.google.com.
3. Be an Online Candle Lighter
If you would like to be online with us as a candle lighter, we will have a limited number of spaces. You will need a Google + account as well as a webcam- and a candle :). If you’d like to be a part of that, please contact me here or through my Contact Page and I can give you more information.
We are very excited to be doing this event as so many of us have known this sadness recently- or even not so recently. We hope you can join us!
This morning, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Joanne McGonagle over at The Tiniest Tiger for a Google Hangout on the topic of pet loss. I had this whole long post about how easy it is to get wrong and how hard it is to get right, but rather than go through the long sordid tales of all the times I’ve said the exact wrong thing I thought I would instead sum up what we, along with all the wonderful participants, concluded during the course of the talk. Some of the statements are specific to pet loss, but really, most of them are pretty universal when it comes to grief.
WORST THINGS TO SAY TO SOMEONE WHO HAS LOST A PET
1. How old was he?
While it may be an innocent question, it sort of implies a gradient of allowable grief depending on the age of the pet. Three? Tragic. Thirteen? Well, he was old, so it’s not quite so sad. Losing a pet is sad and awful no matter the circumstances; pets who lived a long life had that many more years to seal into your heart.
2. Aren’t you over it yet?
Clearly, they’re not. Making a person feel like there is something wrong with them for feeling sad will only force their sorrow into isolation. There’s no official grief timeline.
3. Come on, it was just a dog/cat/bird. I can get you another one this afternoon.
A pet is not a yoyo, an easily replaceable object. Nor is the pet a human, but that does not mean the attachment the person felt to their pet wasn’t just as deep, nor their grief easier to bear. And that individual will never be replaced.
4. Too bad you didn’t try fish oil/more chemo/crystal therapy.
Second guessing what a person did in the days leading up to a pet’s passing serves no purpose other than to add guilt to what they’ve already piled on themselves. This is not a teaching moment; nothing will change what happened. If you can’t say “You did the right thing”, don’t say anything.
5. My dog had cancer too- all of my dogs! And my hamster!
While it’s human nature to want to empathize through sharing similar experiences, beware of the Pain Olympics- being the person who has to turn someone else’s grief into their own, and then top it. “Oh, you’re sad? Well, not as sad as I WAS back in 08! Boy was that a doozy!”
6. He’s in a better place.
The only place we wanted him was here, with us.
BEST THINGS TO SAY TO SOMEONE WHO HAS LOST A PET
1. I’m so sorry for your loss.
Simple, right? Just acknowledge their pain. Those around a bereaved owner may hesitate to say anything out of discomfort, not knowing what to say, or trying to avoid having the topic come up at all. Make no mistake, they haven’t forgotten that they are sad, they’re just stuffing it down as hard as they can because that is what one is supposed to do.
2. My favorite memory is:
I love this one. Share a memory, something their pet did, or how their fur felt, or how they always leaned up against your leg. It is so lovely to have another person share with you an impact, no matter how big or small, your pet had on them too.
3. (Silent hug)
If you can’t think of any words, just go for the hug. It is another form of powerful acknowledgement.
4. Take as long as you need.
Grief is not a straight line that decreases in a defined percentage each day. Think of it more like a receding tide, waves roll in, then go back out, then roll up again, and pull back, a little bit further each time. There are good days and bad days, and having a meltdown 6 months after the fact in a Barnes and Noble just happens sometimes. It just does.
I’m happy to explore this topic more, as I think there is so much to learn to help us be better pet care providers, better caretakers, and better friends. If you have more suggestions as to things you’ve heard that were good or bad, please share them below.
You’re on a walk with your dog. He looks tired. You don’t know if he’s just tired from the walk or if he’s showing early signs of hyperthermia. What do you look for?
Unless you have a lot of experience with dogs or happen to have an emergency medicine textbook on you, you might not know. But thanks to increasingly cooler and better apps, you can get some immediate reassurance from your smartphone.
The latest must-have app for dog and cat owners just came out, and at $0.99 there’s no reason not to download it right now. The Pet First Aid app from the American Red Cross was developed in conjunction with the vets at Penn, and offers concise, easy to navigate info that you can access in seconds. It’s worth the price just for the 18 second CPR videos covering three sizes of dog and a separate one for cats. (There have been some awful CPR videos out there on YouTube, just sayin’.)
I just bought it and put it on all the smart apps in the house. The pictures (dog with bee sting!) and videos (bulldog in respiratory distress!) are ones you can use to educate yourself, or for the vets out there serves as a quick and easy resource to show clients in the exam room. And it has quizzes (thank goodness I passed all the ones I took, that would have been embarrassing.)
Thanks Red Cross for another great- and affordable- resource!
Pet First Aid at itunes
Pet First Aid at Google Play
I have no one to blame but myself, of course, for the events that have transpired since Christmas.
I was the one who brought her in, invited her to come into our home and get to know the place. My husband said it was the only thing he wanted this year, so I went with it, albeit with some trepidation.
You should have seen his face when he realized what I had done. “Wow!” he said. “Finally!” The children looked on in confusion. Brody ran away. Only Penelope, the newest addition to the fold, approached her with anything resembling curiosity.
Her name was Rosie, and she was here to stay.
I don’t consider myself a jealous person under normal circumstances, but it’s hard to compete with someone who plays their role with such aplomb. I even took out my Thomas Keller Bouchon Bakery cookbook and made what may be the most amazing chocolate chip cookies in existence in an attempt to regain my rightful place in his affections: “See!” I say, holding one out. “Aren’t they wonderful?” He takes a bite, nods in assent, and before I can say another word in she comes, swerving around me to clear the floors. She’s loud in her approach. You can’t miss her. Immediately his attention is gone, focused now on something newer, shinier. He smiles in admiration as she saunters away, the crumbs vanished.
Rosie is, if you haven’t figured it out yet, our new Neato robotic vacuum. I thought I was buying a household appliance. What I was getting was an obsession.
Every day, my husband greets us after work: me, the kids, Rosie. “What did you get done today?” he asks, then turns to Rosie. “And how did she do?” He surveys the house. “Wow. Wow. This is, like, the best thing ever. Is the dustbin full? Is your brush stuck?” He turns to me. “Did you check if she was OK and if she needed anything? Did you check the dustbin?”
She is thorough, I’ll give you that. She follows Brody around and grabs more off the floor in one afternoon than I seem to manage in several gos around the house. She doesn’t get annoyed at and ignore the space under the coffee table where furballs go to retire. She flushes them out like an angry beagle.
Living with her is sometimes a drag. She drones on and on, vRRRrrrRRRRRR. She always seems to be underfoot right where I need to be. Brody is petrified of her. My husband won’t stop talking about her. One day, when I lost all patience for her and her distracting antics, I hissed “Choke on a carrot, you dumb robot.”
Later than day, I came home from the grocery store, expecting the usual roar but instead being greeted with a disquieting sense of silence. The floor in the entryway, sparkling clean since her arrival, had the thin sprinkling of daily dust we were accustomed to in our pre-Rosie days. Brody looked at me with an expression I couldn’t read. I heard her, finally, a quiet, desperate chirping. I followed her cries for help to the kitchen.
She had choked on a squirrel.
Immediately chagrined, I disentangled the two battling toys and dispatched Rosie to the entryway, while I spent the time I would normally be dragging my Dyson around working on the book. When my husband got home, he didn’t even need to ask. “I emptied the dustbin. Twice.”
My husband posted about her on Facebook a few days ago, and one by one, the men all came out of lurking. “I have one too.” “Me too.” “It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.” Our friend J just bought posted that he bought two. One for each floor of the house, or one for each dog, not sure.
I’d be more insulted at the apparent poor vacuuming skills this implies were it not, if I must tell the truth, an entirely correct assessment. We have come to an agreement, Rosie and I. My husband can gloat and lavish praise all he wants, as long as she keeps those hairballs away.
*No, I have no affiliation with Neato. This post is all me.
It started innocently enough, my son asking Penelope a question about her feet: “Penelope, how many fingers do you have?”
And without much thought, I answered for her, in a high pitched Muppet voice: “None, I have 20 toes.”
And thus began one of the kids’ greatest sources of entertainment for the past two weeks. He argued with her for a while, about why cats have four legs instead of two arms and two legs. In this case, Penelope was right. But sometimes she’s not, like when she insisted that cats were permanently excused from school due to a 1960 Act of Congress declaring they already knew everything there was to know. She is opinionated.
Like most pet owners, I sometimes imitate my pets saying something, but never has it evolved to this degree. Penelope has a distinct personality, for sure, and plenty to say. I don’t even pay attention to what she is saying half the time, the material just kind of writes itself. She’s a saucy thing. I’m just the translator.
The kids look forward to this now, which, had I known was going to happen would have picked a voice less damaging to my vocal cords. “Penelope!” they yell after school, barging into the front door. Sometimes they are actually looking for the cat. Sometimes though, my son will appear in front of me accusingly. “I said, PENELOPE!!! Where are you?” and then I sigh, and say, “Right here!” or, if I’m smart, “Hiding somewhere in the house! Come catch me!”
Penelope only has about 5 minute in her before her voice needs a rest. She is, after all, new to this talking thing.
Last night, my daughter was angry with me for reasons that only nine year old girls understand, something to do with Animal Jam time restrictions. I was persona non grata. I was sitting on her bed wondering if I was going to be able to get a goodnight hug when in walked Penelope.
“Hi Penelope,” she said.
“Hi,” she answered.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m looking for mice,” she replied. “Seen any lately?”
“No,” my daughter laughed.
“I think you’re holding out on me,” Penelope replied, and just like that Animal Jam was forgotten and I got my hug.
All these years with pets and I’m still learning how much they enrich our lives. Thanks kiddo. Penelope is now the new intermediary. Please tell me someone else talks for their pet like this too, so I know I haven’t entirely gone off the deep end.
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