Friday, September 18, 2009

The Saga of Irresponsible Pet Ownership and Cairn Terriers

There was an extreme amount of commotion coming from the bedroom last night.

I was tidying up in the kitchen and putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. I may be a filthy wench at heart, but in my day to day life, I am trying ~ trying ~to keep things picked up and cleaner.

The bug situation creeped me out a little bit and those ants are relentless. We have virtually emptied an entire bottle of Terro in the past week, and although I have not seen a live ant in about 48 hours, I don' trust those buggers. They are the insect equivalent of the Blade movies ~ they keep coming back, over and over and over.

Also, what is really helpful in the evenings is, before allowing the children to eat their dinner, I order them to clean. Withholding food has been, by far, the most effective manipulative tool in getting them to do what I want.

Anywho, the commotion sounded something like this:

"Get it! AHHHH!!!!" (Garbled growling, banging.)

"Grrrrrr! It's bad! Sic 'em! AHHHHH!!!!!" (Viscious growling, banging, ripping. Banging.)

"Grrrrrr! Good boy! Get it, get it! AHHHHHH!!!!! (More growling, ripping sounds, some laughing. Banging. Pant, pant, pant.)

The house we currently live in is set up in which the children have their own "wing" and the master bedroom is on the opposite side of the house. So generally, what goes on in the master bedroom can't be heard by the children.

This raucousness, though, I wasn't sure. Although I was afraid to intervene, I decided I must. I was not feeling like consoling a rudely awakened 16-month old.

"What's going on in here," I demanded as I stormed in.

It was as I had feared.

An empty case of Pepsi was strewn about in no less than one hundred little pieces.

"Hey, hey! You have to see this! Watch," Chris eagerly said.

He turned to a jazzed up and insane looking Sven.

"Get it! Get it, sic 'em," he taunted.

Sven, crazed, lunged for the nearest largish piece of cardboard and viciously attacked it, throwing it to and fro with a ferocity in which he would use to break the neck of a squirrel or a rabbit.

This squirrel or rabbit thing is theoretical, because I am fairly certain he wouldn't have a clue what to do with a critter like that if he managed to score one. But you never know ~ Cairn Terriers were bred to scavenge small rodents out of the stone fences (the cairns) and burrows in Scotland.

Scotland, where they apparently speak English, Gaelic and Scots.

The scenario for Sven if he managed to escape, sadly(now that we live in Florida), is quite bleak. He would undoubtedly be overwhelmed by curiosity about those creepy eyes peeking out from the water in the canal behind our house. Upon further investigation, he would quickly become a satisfying meal for the alligators.

Sven is an escape artist. We believe that this mad skill was how he became a temporary resident of the St. Paul Humane Society in Minneosota.

We were already the irresponsible owners of two large cats, a cockatiel and a rowdy five year old, all crammed into a 600 square foot apartment in the St. Anthony Park area of St. Paul.

I was cumbersome and pregnant; Chris was working on his master's degree and waiting tables at the local Red Lobster. He came home smelling of seafood every night with a stack of ones and a belly full of coconut shrimp.

To me, our cats were a joy.

They played and frolicked in our tiny bathtub and provided endless hours of entertainment for me during the day. And because I was pregnant, I could use the "I'm pregnant, so I can't empty the litter box" excuse. Therefore, the burden of caring for the cats became Chris'. He was bitter about it.

Nevertheless, we would still use our video camera to film our cats, Happy and Flipper, doing cute things. Our entire video library from 2000-2001 is that of Animals Being Cute which is only truly entertaining to the owners of the animals (and very small children).

What wasn't a joy was our cockatiel. We bought "Madison" on a whim right before we were married, because we read that cockatiels were delightful birds that could be trained to sing, sit on your shoulder and be great companions.

Perhaps this is so for other birds, but there was something wrong with Madison.

I am not sure if it was something that we did, or if it was an unfortunate character flaw. But when we brought Madison home and put him in his cage, he paced the bottom of it for two weeks.

We read that a transition period could be possible so we remained patient. We bought him treats, toys, mirrors and tried to teach him how to "step up" on our finger. He eventually succeeded in this little feat, but to let us know his displeasure each time he performed it, he would do his damnedest to draw blood.

It was a "transition period" in which he never recovered and he became neurotic. It became worse when we acquired the two cats, the first coming from a farm owned by an ex-boyfriend's parents. To the dismay of the bird, "Happy" the cat already had ingrained hunting instincts.

The second cat came from a veterinarian's office who just happened to be a distant relative of mine, as well as an active member of the church where Chris interned. When Chris took "Happy" in for his shots, he was bamboozled into taking this second cat, "Flipper," home.

"One more cat is no problem," the vet/distant cousin said. "They'll keep each other entertained. Really, it's no more work."

What Chris failed to mention was that we were living in an apartment building that didn't allow pets, so we were technically breaking the rules by even having the bird. We were having to snuggle animal paraphernalia in and out of the building and lived in fear of being discovered.

Later that summer after we were married, we moved our belongings and animals up to Minnesota ~ to the 600 square foot apartment. Obviously, it was busting at the seams.

So why the hell would we not add one more animal to the mix (and later in the spring, a baby)?

We adopted Sven, a one year old terrier mix, in the fall of 2000. We promised the kind Humane Society folks we would care for him, feed him and give him a good home. We signed papers, bought a leash and a collar (purple for the Vikings) and took back to the tiny apartment.

The cats were confused and the bird was beside himself. He acquired a screeching that made me wonder how much it would actually hurt him to let him go in the -20 degree weather in the dead of the winter in Minnesota.

My mother-in-law took pity on the bird when she visited from Orange County, California. She bought a plastic shoebox from Target, punched holes in the top and took him back to California with her in the airplane. He lived happily for a little while. She renamed him "Biff" and he began to sing a tune that sounded a bit like the "Adam's Family" theme song.

She eventually moved from Irvine to Des Moines to be nearer to us. The move put him over the edge. Biff/Madison's end came in the form of a six year old who opened the door to the house and (being overdue for his scheduled wing clipping appointment) Biff used his aeronautical skills to exit the house into the cold Midwestern spring weather.

We did the obligatory calling of Biff's name, of which I am sure he observed, amused, as he sat on the perch of the nearest oak tree and thought, "Ha ha, eff you suckers! I'm free!"

That night when the temperature dropped to 15 degrees, Biff/Madison's tormented life was rudely extinguished.

We still feel badly about the whole situation. However, we used it as a life lesson and realized we are horrible bird owners. So, seven years later when our son asked whether he could get a parakeet, we confidently answered with a definitive, "Helllllllllz, no."

Sven turned into a delightful dog after the urinating on pillows stopped. There was also the issue of Chris' friend, Dan, who Sven would piss all over whenever he visited our apartment (which, quite understandably wasn't very often). He never did this to anyone else, however.

He's a very good dog and most importantly, he has always come back when has run away. He is the lone survivor of our brief pet ownership debacle of 2000-2002. The cats went to live on a farm when it was apparent that Wes had allergies. Biff flew away.

There was the whole "Norweigan Elkhound" cluster. Ole, the Elkhound, very quickly went to live with my sister-in-law. We like to keep irresponsible pet ownership within the family.

We are desperately trying to avoid the running away thing now. "Don't let him eat frogs," a Facebook friend of mine pleaded. "A friend of mine took her Yorkie to Florida and it ate a poisonous frog and died!"

Great. Now we have to worry about snakes, alligators AND frogs. Backing up to a canal, these are very real threats and we are being extra careful about not allowing him to run away.

He is almost 10 now and has slowed down only a wee bit. He sleeps a lot after a lot of exertion, such as tearing apart a box or chasing shadows and light reflections (which we think is funny, but is a serious psychological problem, according to Cesar Milan).

We would miss the little guy if he ever didn't come back. Which is why, if you ever visit, he will be leashed to the leg of the kitchen table.

It looks inhumane, but really, being eaten by an alligator, on the scale of "inhumane-ness," appears to fall in a slightly higher category. We do what we must.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I miss Svenny!! (and everyone else)!!!