I stepped in it before I said it.
It was the dawn of December 26. Sunlight peeked over the horizon, chasing away a cluster of stars faintly twinkling in the western sky. I yawned and switched on the coffee pot. The aroma of Arabica beans wafted through the house. I had the morning to myself. It’s just me, hot coffee and a Christmas tree.
The coffee pot gurgled. I poured myself a cup and glanced at the tree. Ribbons littered the floor. An ornament caught my eye. I stepped closer for a better look.
“Hmm, this one is loose. It’s about to …..SQUISH. $#@*!”
I’ll remember that Christmas for a while. Our mutt, Radio, must have mooched a Christmas snack from one of the kids. The hound re-gifted me a present that was hidden beneath a pile of wrapping paper.
Dog-doo oozed through my socks between my toes. I crawled on my knees to the banister and shrieked upstairs. “Who fed Radio last night?!”
My voice boomed and jolted Hun from a deep slumber.
“You woke me up for that? I was dreaming.”
“I’m dreaming of giving away this mutt. She knows better than to mess in the house.”
My kids, now awake, stood in their pajamas. “But Dad, it’s Christmas. We fed Lilla and the cats turkey and gravy, too.”
An hour later, after throwing away my socks, hunting for landmines, and power washing the carpet, I sat with my coffee which was now ice-cold.
Humans are the only animals that own others, simply for the pleasure of companionship. I wonder who gets the most pleasure, them or me. I’m their provider and doorman.
Hun and the kids picked Radio, a curly-haired Chesapeake-Lab mix, from a litter ten years ago. I was away goofing off. Radio’s adoption foreshadowed later events. Whenever I’m gone, I often come home to new critters. Our large yard has plenty of running space, but I wonder if Hun is grooming me to stick around more often. I’ve returned home to find new cats, chickens, guinea pigs, rabbits and goats. My initial discontent is replaced by this rationale: Coming home to new pets is more acceptable than coming home to a new man.
Radio, a sweet mutt, doesn’t swim or fetch. She also gets car sick. Lilla, the Rat Terrier-Chihuahua mix, is like a banker. She makes deposits except they’re in our house. Hun got Lilla four Christmases ago during my mother-in-law’s recuperating stay after back surgery. In addition to a post-operative mother-in-law, a preoccupied wife, and two pre-pubescent daughters, I had a puppy.
Lilla, Swedish for “little,” has spiny legs, a bald belly, and wing-like, tortilla-chip-shaped ears. She’s blended with parts of other dogs too embarrassed to be themselves. She chews wood trim, raids the laundry, and shreds underwear. Eleven inches at her shoulders, Lilla treads underfoot. She clings to me like a barnacle unless a squirrel is in view. Lilla and Radio will get new chew toys this Christmas.
Our three tomcats, Velcro, George and Ringo, paid a price to live rent free. Hun had them neutered. “It’s not like they’re castrated,” she said.
“Are you kidding? No guy believes that.”
Velcro, a birthday party favor, was named after climbing my leg. I ripped him off before he reached vital organs but not without crying. Hun found George on Craigslist and Ringo found us Halloween night. Even with their “junk” removed, the cats retain enough testosterone to hunt gophers. For Christmas they’ll get catnip, and then their stoned eyes will gaze at me.
We have two other male pets but they live in cages. The unnamed rabbit is cute but worthless. Our chatty parakeet, Rocket, talks incessantly and repeats his name ad nauseam. He flies laps inside the house for physical exercise and vocally trains by mimicking the telephone.
“Maggie, answer the phone,” I shout from upstairs.
“Daaad… it’s just the bird.”
At Christmas, Rocket’s cage is adorned with miniature wreaths and candy canes.
I haven’t yet started Christmas shopping for my human family because it’s complicated and confusing. I also work better under pressure so I’ll procrastinate another two weeks. Shopping for the pets, though, is a cinch. They’re part of the family and deserve Christmas tidings. I’ll just make sure to hide the gravy.
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