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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Cricket Loves Grandma

Generous Grandma

Generous Grandma

 

 

            Cricket sits on Grandma’s lap to share potato chips. For breakfast, she gets the leftover pancakes, or English muffins, on a plate. During dinner, she will stuff her self onto the chair with Grandma and watch her eat, coming dangerously close to licking the plate.

Cricket has favorite foods, like pumpkin pie and Parmesan cheese, but anything Grandma is eating must at least be sampled. A lick of wine from a finger. A pitted olive. A carrot stick. When it is time for Grandma’s midnight snack, Cricket follows her into the kitchen to stare into the well lit fridge and help choose.

This goes on all day

This goes on all day

But Cricket loves her grandma for more than food. She climbs up on to Grandma’s lap and stretches out, draping herself across until her head hangs off one side and her legs dangle from the other. Cricket watches TV from the lap, and gets her scratchies there, and whispers secret messages that only Grandma can hear.

In the morning, Cricket, who is usually sleeping on Grandma’s head, wakes her Grandma up and leads her to the bathroom. She watches from the floor in the kitchen as Grandma makes her morning coffee. Before Butterfly arrived, when Cricket was an only dog, she would then race down the stairs to the front door and wait for the long lead to be attached to her collar so that, while Grandma drank her coffee on the porch, Cricket could run like the wind across the front yard and feel the joy in the air.

When Grandma leaves the house, Cricket stands by the front door, looking out through the glass panels, radiating guilt as loudly as possible. Then she waits on the second to top step of the staircase and squints down at the front door, sometimes for hours. Eventually she makes do with my lap, but it is not the same.

Waiting For Grandma

Waiting For Grandma

I’ve always wondered why Cricket chose her grandma as her primary person. Cricket was supposed to be mine. I chose her. I read all of the books. I stayed up nights when she was a puppy. I taught her how to climb stairs and chase sticks. I spent months trying to teach her how to sit, lie down, do a pirouette. But she chose Grandma. I know she loves me, but I also know I’m second best.

And now I have a second dog, Butterfly, who sleeps on my bed and snuggles into my side. And I love it. But I’ve been missing Cricket. And it turns out that Cricket misses me too. She wants both of her people to herself. Even if I am second best, I am still hers. Cricket loves her grandma, but she loves her Mommy too.

 

My sleepy girl

My sleepy girl

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Grooming Cricket

The trimmer! Grr!

The trimmer! Grr!

 

Grooming Cricket means taking my life in my hands. She will bite the hand that feeds her if it also tries to remove the goop from her eyes. The breeder who raised Cricket from puppyhood told us that grooming would be no problem. Just buy a man’s electric shaver at the drug store and clip away. Then hold her feet and clip her nails with the special nail clipper. Easy peasy. She even demonstrated the nail clipping on eight week old, two pound Cricket and it was simple. For her.

Just because the trimmer is on the other side doesn't make it less of a monster

Just because the trimmer is on the other side doesn’t make it less of a monster

The first shaver we bought snagged on Cricket’s cottony hair and the motor heated up too quickly and the noise upset her. When I tried to clip her nails she bit me. We bought her a muzzle but she snapped it off her nose in triumph.

Are the scissors any better?

Are the scissors any better?

We took Cricket to a groomer after it became clear that I was not a master with the clippers and she looked like she’d been attacked with a weed whacker. Cricket was frightened as soon as we walked in. I think the other dogs must have been warning her off. She gripped my shoulder with her toenails and didn’t want to be handed off to the lady with the bad disposition behind the counter. I removed her collar and leash, and blushed when the groomer examined the horrible haircut.

I thought I’d feel better back in the car, but I didn’t. I wasn’t happy about leaving Cricket with that woman. Not just because she was a stranger but because if I’d had hair on my back it would all have been standing up.

I had the flutters, like an old fashioned English lady with bad nerves, and I couldn’t leave the apartment again to pick Cricket up two hours later. She came running up the stairs with Mom behind her, and I didn’t recognize my puppy. I sat down on the kitchen floor and held her wiggly body and cried. Blubbered. Threw a tantrum really, because I was afraid I could not love this poodle looking dog.

She looked like a stranger. And she smelled like one of those frou-frou poodles with the pompoms on their asses and she didn’t look like anyone I would know, or like. She didn’t understand why I was reacting so badly. She thought she was still the same dog and I was still the same Mommy and I should have been licking her the way she was licking me (though I’d told her repeatedly that I do not do such things).

My favorite version of Cricket’s haircut is when the hair on her body and face is pretty short, but her ears are long and swing out like wings, just like her Cocker Spaniel mommy. I don’t like when the groomers shave her nose, or leave it round and fluffy like a Bichon. And I don’t like when the hair on her body is long enough to get matted and hide debris in the layers. She doesn’t need a shelf of hair on her forehead or a pompom on her tail. She needs to be well trimmed in the hygienic areas so the poop won’t stick.

Cricket tried a lot of different groomers. There was the one who put purple bows in her hair and didn’t take the hair out of her ears or clean up the “hygienic areas,” and charged us extra because Cricket was so difficult.

Then there was the groomer who was also a vet tech, and managed to cut Cricket’s ear and had to do emergency care to stop the bleeding. Then she nicked her foot as well. We were given a credit for a free haircut with another groomer, but by then Cricket was even more reluctant.

Cricket refuses to look in the mirror after her haircut.

Cricket refuses to look in the mirror after her haircut.

Cricket is legitimately difficult. I’ve watched her at the vet when they try to give her a shot, or, god forbid, clip her nails. She has to be held by two people and she still wiggles and cries and shrieks like she’s being tortured. I don’t know why she’s like this. I’ve worked hard to counteract it. I tried reflexology on her feet to get her used to having her toes touched. And I worked on small grooming tasks at home, paying her for each snip of hair with chicken treats. But she still gets very frightened and very angry. I have to believe some of this is just genetic. But I keep worrying that it’s really all my fault. I didn’t raise her right.

This last time we got a groomer who knew when to push Cricket, and when not to push her. She was the perfect groomer, except that she shaped Cricket’s tail into a pompom, like tiny topiary. After a few weeks it was overgrown and matted, so I cut it off and she’s back to her stumpy-tailed look.

Now that Butterfly is here, I’m hoping that Cricket will learn some better manners. She was so jealous when Butterfly had her bath, that she offered herself up for the second shift in the tub. Peer pressure, you’ve gotta love it.

Cricket and the Mailman

Cricket watches for the mailman

Cricket watches for the mailman

 

 

            I don’t remember when Cricket discovered that the mailman was the embodiment of evil, but it happened early in her life. She sees him on our street and starts to bark. The closer he gets to our house, the more hysterical her tone of voice – higher pitched and in a faster and faster rhythm until she’s throwing herself against the front door and snarling at him through the glass.

I’ve tried everything to discourage Cricket’s obsessive reaction to the mailman. I used to call her upstairs with the bag of treats in my hand, but I could never break the treats into small enough pieces to outlast the mailman. She still had plenty of time to get back downstairs and bark her message.

She sees the mailman

She sees the mailman

"Mailman! Mailman! Mailman! Mailman!"

“Mailman! Mailman! Mailman! Mailman!”

She starts barking as soon as she hears his truck coming up the street, and keeps going until he is absolutely, positively, gone. Sometimes he has the nerve to park right in front of our house and then slowly bring the mail to all of the houses on our street, returning to the truck for new batches, forgetting mail and having to go back again, waiting until the end to go back and take the packages from the truck that he couldn’t carry the first time through.

We have a pet gate a few feet away from the front door because our previous dog had severe separation anxiety and would always try to leave the house when we did. So we tried closing the pet gate for Cricket so she couldn’t actually see the mailman coming. But, she can hear him. And she hears him before we do, so we never get the pet gate closed in time.

She has a mailman early warning system in her brain that I seem to lack.

One time, when the mailman arrived, I opened the door to get the mail. I probably didn’t know he was still there when I opened the door, because I would have been hiding on the stairs if I’d known, but once he was there I smiled and tried to be friendly. But he grimaced at me and asked, “Is the dog there?” in this about-to-pee-his-pants tone of voice. Cricket was standing about two feet behind me, so I closed the door and let him get on with his business.

It has generalized so that if Cricket sees a mailman when we’re out walking, even if it’s not Cricket’s mail man, she barks. And if she sees a white truck passing by, even a truck with a small amount of white on it, she barks. She has generalized her anger, like a child who was bitten by a dog who learns to fear all dogs.

Butterfly, our new dog, has not learned to fear the mailman, yet. She just stands at the top of the stairs and watches Cricket bark and throw herself at the door. I hope she doesn’t start to think this behavior is normal.

Puppies in Paris

Those puppies really liked me

Those puppies really liked me

 

            When I was fifteen years old, my mom and I spent two weeks visiting my aunt in Paris. It was August, and my aunt told me that we came at the wrong time of the year, because everyone was away on vacation and there were no kids my age left in all of Paris. I discovered for myself that August was a bad time to visit because the heat is unbearable and my aunt didn’t believe in air-conditioning.

I remember noticing that there were dogs on the subway, but I don’t have a strong memory of the dogs on the streets of Paris. Maybe a lot of the French dogs were in the country for August with their owners.

A few weeks before we left for Paris, my dog, Delilah, died. And I missed her. The hope was that Paris would rejuvenate me, and Mom too. We would see the city of lights and be inspired, and hopeful. I’d spent two years learning French and being indoctrinated into the romance of Paris and cafes and the Seine and the museums. I didn’t know that I could still be depressed in Paris.

I had panic attacks. I was afraid of everything that summer: heights, food, buses. I was dizzy and sick to my stomach and anxious all the time. We found out later that my thyroid had burned out and that a lot of my symptoms were related to not having enough thyroid hormones, but at the time, I just felt awful. I was afraid to walk up the glass steps at a museum, because I could see the floor below me and I could picture myself slipping through the slatted steps to my death, like a long legged Flat Stanley. I kept trying to put my foot up on the next step. But I couldn’t do it.

It was a week and a half of that. Feeling frightened, and guilty for being such a burden, and lonely, and struggling to remember any of my two years of French.

And then we found the puppies. I thought we were just going from one flower shop to another. There are so many outdoor markets in Paris, for cheese and vegetables and flowers. But it never occurred to me there would be a row of puppy stores in the middle of it all.

Everyone in Paris seemed so aloof and sophisticated and cool and hard. And I am none of those things. All of my vulnerable, soft, lonely, hopeless feelings were rising to the surface. And then there were the puppies. And what are puppies but soft and loving and needy and vulnerable and desperate to be held and chosen and taken care of and shown attention.

I wanted to climb into the cage with the puppies and snuggle, but I was too big and the cages were too high off the ground. But I felt better. One nose kiss at a time, I started to feel better.

Poodles! In France!

Poodles! In France!

Butterfly’s New Home

 

Butterfly before her bath

Butterfly before her bath

 

 

Leading up to my birthday, I was reading about dogs who had lost their homes in Hurricane Sandy. I was overwhelmed with stories about rescued dogs, and information about where to find dogs to rescue close to home. I’ve been thinking about adopting an older dog for a long time now, but I’ve been intimidated. All my life, I’ve only had one dog at a time, but lately I’ve been meeting a lot of people with two dogs, or more, and I’ve been tempted to have a pack of my own.

I talked to Mom about it and she said why don’t we just go take a look?

So, on Tuesday, November 20th, we went to North Shore Animal League, on Long Island. I loved all the big dogs. If I had a house and more energy I would have adopted five of them on the spot, especially the hound who stood on his hind legs and looked me in the eye. I’m pretty sure he winked at me.

But then there was Betsy. Her little pink tongue stuck out, and she had huge brown eyes and a sweet little snout and feathery white hair. She was a Lhasa Apso and the tag on the crate said “Adult +” so she was at least eight years old. The volunteer told us she was a puppy mill dog.

I don’t know what Mom was thinking when she encouraged me to have a visit with Betsy. She should have rushed me out of there right then.

I spent an hour with Betsy, staring into her eyes and coming up with potential names: Snowy, Dawn, Fawn, Buttercup, Cinnamon, Butterfly. I was loopy. We filled out a preapproval form and Mom said we should go home and think about it. But the longer it took to get the approval, the more I went back to see Betsy and the less likely it became that I would be able to leave without her.

I worried that Mom would not be happy, and a second dog would cost too much, and Cricket would be jealous and my own health problems would make the extra effort unmanageable. But I lost control of my brain. I was just a puppet nodding my head.

I decided on Butterfly as her new name, to fit in with the insect theme of Cricket’s name, but also because of the transformational effect I hoped we would have on each other. Love is a magical thing.

Then the vet tech took Butterfly to see the vet one last time. We’d been there for three hours by then and I could barely stand up, let alone think straight. When they came back to tell us she had a heart murmur and that we should probably leave her there and not take her home with such an uncertain future, I almost cried. They listed her issues: she was at least eight years old but probably more; she had been a breeding mama at a puppy mill and couldn’t walk on a leash or pee and poop outside; she was skittish and afraid of being touched; some of her bottom teeth had had to be removed because they were rotted out, so her tongue lolled out of her mouth; she’d had a cyst removed from under her armpit; and now the heart murmur. She’d need an echocardiogram before they could even tell us how serious it would be, and then she’d need one every six months for the rest of her life. But that was what clinched it for Mom. She has a leaky heart valve too. She would never want to be left behind in a shelter. She’d want someone to pick her up and take her home. So that’s what we did.

I carried Butterfly to the car and she stood on my lap in the backseat and looked out the windows the whole ride home. She was so much more curious than we’d expected, though she did drool up a storm, flicking droplets of water onto her forehead and onto my sweater.

Cricket was, as predicted, not happy with the interloper. The first night, I sat on the kitchen floor with them and Cricket stood with her front paws on my leg in her ownership pose accepting scratchies with noblesse oblige, and then I reached out with my free hand to pat Butterfly. Immediately, Cricket pushed my arm away from Butterfly with her nose, and then she walked across my lap and out of the room in a huff.

She’s such a person.

Cricket staring at Butterfly

Cricket staring at Butterfly

But, given her resentment, Cricket has been pretty well behaved. For the first few days she ignored Butterfly entirely, and then she started to sniff her and walk near her instead of avoiding any room Butterfly was in. It helped that Butterfly couldn’t climb the stairs, so Cricket could come up to my bedroom with me and leave the interloper downstairs for a while and pretend life had gone back to normal.

But Butterfly has been blossoming.

She’s had two baths so far. The first one took off the surface dirt and left me thinking that she was off white with grey and apricot markings. But she kept scratching her ears and neck, so we bought an oatmeal shampoo to help her skin and her second bath took off just as much dirt as the first one, and turned her into a white dog with apricot markings all over her feet and back. I’m afraid of what we’ll discover with bath number three.

We’ve had Butterfly for a week and a half now, and she’s already pooping and peeing outside. She’s gotten used to the lawn, and she walks on the leash and has made friends with every dog she’s met. But her favorite dog is Cricket. She sniffs her and follows her lead and learns from everything Cricket does. She even makes a point of finding the spot where Cricket peed and hopping into a squat to pee on that exact spot.

Cricket thinks that’s just weird.

The Girls

The Girls