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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Butterfly’s Artwork

My mother has a ring-around-the-room problem, where, inevitably, everything she’s reading or working on ends up on the floor around her bed. When I question this system, I am often told that everything is where it is meant to be. The problem with this system became clear, even to Mom, when Butterfly found a quilting magazine on the floor and destroyed it.

"Voila!"

“Voila!”

Butterfly loves to chew paper. She doesn’t chew soft papers, like tissues or paper towels, the way Cricket does. Butterfly chews harder paper that takes real effort to rip through; she likes coupons, and recipes, magazines, and textbooks, crossword puzzles, and pretty much anything close enough for her paws to reach.

"Ooh, yummy!"

“Ooh, yummy!”

            Paper chewing is satisfying. She can hear the tearing and crumpling sounds, and she can smell that humans have been near the paper, and she can taste the material the paper was made from, and all of it keeps her engaged.

Pop-up book, by Butterfly

Pop-up book, by Butterfly

            She has made attempts to chew the furniture, but her teeth just aren’t strong enough to make a dent.

            Butterfly has been watching Grandma learn how to quilt.

Grandma's Sailboat

Grandma’s Sailboat

The Snowy-Haired Egret a la Grandma

The Snowy-Haired Egret a la Grandma

            Butterfly sees Grandma playing with scraps of fabric, and I believe she has been inspired to create her own works of art. She takes what used to be boring pieces of whole paper, and tears them with her teeth and paws until they are all different shapes and sizes, and then she scatters them across the floor in a pleasing design.

Scatter Art

Scatter Art

            The act of scattering the ripped paper seems just as important as the ripping itself. She doesn’t want to organize the paper into a neat pile; she wants to cover the floor with it.

            I would love to be able to help Butterfly preserve her art work. We could spread a huge piece of mural paper down on the floor and provide all kinds of materials for her to work with: magazines and catalogs and newspapers and crossword puzzles. And, when she finishes a mural, we can put it up on the wall so that every time she passes by, she can sniff it and say, hey, I made that!

            My only concern is that she would pull the murals down and try to redo them, like any other artist, never satisfied with her finished work.

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The Afternoon Nap

Most days, I need an afternoon nap. It’s a necessity without which I would be incoherent for the rest of the day. My dogs have decided, though, that what they need most, at exactly the same time, is to play. This is when they need to bark at each other, and climb on me, and compete for my attention. They have spent the morning pleasantly napping while I was getting work done, and now they are restless.

Party time!

Party time!

Nap time generally starts out well. We make our own puppy pile on the bed, and if they are actually tired, we all curl up and go to sleep. But at some point, long before I am ready to get up, they will start the drama.

puppy pile on the bed

puppy pile on the bed

            Cricket will climb on me and demand scratchies. Butterfly will pace back and forth on her side of the bed in search of good chewing material, and then notice that Cricket is getting scratchies, and she will want her share. And then the barking begins, because Cricket has heard a noise, or had a premonition of a noise to come. Did the mail come? Were packages dropped at the door? Does one of the girls need to pee (this is contagious by the way, if one is desperate to pee, the other becomes so agitated that she believes her bladder is bursting as well).

Cricket in my face

Cricket in my face

Butterfly chewing in my ear

Butterfly chewing in my ear

Scratchies!

Scratchies!

"What was that noise?"

“What was that noise?”

            Clearly, they’ve read all of those articles about power naps and how you shouldn’t nap for more than half an hour at a time or you’ll be even groggier. I try to tell them not to read pop psych magazines, but they don’t listen to me.

            Once Cricket jumps off the bed to check for the evil mailman, Butterfly starts to bark, or whine, or stand at the end of the bed and contemplate the certain death that will come from jumping off the bed. I force myself up to put Butterfly on the floor, so she can be with her sister, and that’s when Cricket decides to jump back up on the bed, to be away from her sister. So Butterfly barks from the floor, to try to get me to pick her up again.

            This can go on all afternoon.

"Why am I on the floor?"

“Why am I on the floor?”

            After they are done barking and chasing each other around the apartment, the dogs think we have reached the point in the afternoon where I devote all of my attention to them, and not to sleep, or, God forbid work. Butterfly tries to chew my notebooks, and Cricket butts my book with her head, or knocks it down with her paw.

Studying, with help.

Studying, with help.

            And that’s when I realize, it’s been hours since they were out to pee; two hours at least. And if I take them outside, and wear them out a little bit, maybe I can come back in and get some work done, or take another nap, until the whole drama starts over again.

Cricket’s Couch

We have two couches in our living room. The shiny new leather couch has no real underneath space, and Cricket finds this very upsetting. She will lie down under the stand-in-for-a-coffee-table, or, she will go to the other couch, the IKEA couch that used to be in my room in the old apartment.

Butterfly trapped on top of the IKEA couch

Butterfly on top of the IKEA couch, sniffing the Rachel-made blanket for comfort

Cricket has very strong feelings about enclosed spaces. She loves them. She can slither under things like a snake, using her paws for propulsion and bending her legs in at her sides like pretzels. She has an apartment under my bed, and one under Grandma’s bed, and one under the coffee table and one under the couch. These apartments are a good place to go when humans are trying to steal the goop from your eyes, or give you a bath.

Cozy Cricket

Cozy Cricket

Cricket also discovered that while she can crawl under the IKEA couch, Butterfly has trouble scrunching down that low, which meant that Cricket could steal Butterfly’s chewies and hide them under the couch, where Butterfly couldn’t reach. But Cricket did not understand that, while she enjoys chewies, Butterfly is a chewie addict. And that addiction gave Butterfly the motivation to teach herself how to lower down, and scoot her shoulders under the couch, just enough to steal the chewie back.

Cricket guarding her couch

Cricket guarding her couch

Cricket has lost her head

Cricket has lost her head

Butterfly’s head and trunk are much wider than Cricket’s, and she is much less flexible, so the first time she managed to retrieve a chewy from under that couch I cheered like I was at a sporting event. I was so proud, and she was so gleeful, and Cricket was glowering at both of us. I grew up with an older brother, so I know something about being smaller and weaker, and it was nice to see a little one prevail.

That is Butterfly's tail!

That is Butterfly’s tail!

In fact, Butterfly has taken to dropping her own chewy on the floor, running over to the couch, scrunching down, and stealing Cricket’s chewie, on principle.

I really shouldn’t enjoy this as much as I do.

All Her Children

Butterfly is going to be nine years old this fall, but I almost feel like she was born last November when we brought her home from the shelter, because she’s doing all of her puppy learning now.

The almost birthday girl

The almost birthday girl

            Butterfly lived at a puppy mill, for eight years, and when she first came home, she was still swollen from her last litter, and stunned. She picked up a yellow stuffed duck that Cricket had given up on, a duck that quacked, and carried it in her mouth. When she was tired, she would sit on the floor and lick the duck. She wasn’t chewing it, or de-stuffing it, the way Cricket would have done; she was taking care of it, and giving it a bath, a really ineffective bath that turned Ducky’s yellow fur grey within two days, but a bath none the less.

Butterfly carrying her Ducky

Butterfly carrying her Ducky

            For months, Butterfly walked around the apartment with one or the other of her stuffed toys in her mouth, carrying them with her for walks, setting them gently on the grass to rest while she took care of her business. There was Fishy, and Froggy, and Platypus, and, of course, Ducky.

Butterfly with some of her toys.

Butterfly with some of her toys.

            Somewhere along the way, Butterfly moved on to wanting to chew things. She didn’t want to chew and destroy her stuffed toys, so she left them in every corner of the apartment and focused her attention on rawhide chewies, and if she couldn’t get her paws on one of those, she would settle for the closest book, magazine, or notebook, currently in use.

Chewing with an audience

Chewing with an audience

            I’ve been watching Butterfly move through these stages of puppy development, at her own pace, in the ways that feel natural to her, and I feel inspired by it. I’ve been told, often, that you only get one shot at your childhood, and if you miss out, too bad. But Butterfly is showing me how untrue that is. If you missed important stages of development the first time around, all you need is a safe place and love, and you can get that learning done, at whatever age you happen to be, at whatever pace you can manage.

            Over time, I think, Butterfly has traded in her attachment to her stuffed toys for an attachment to Cricket, and me, and Mom. She licks my arm the way she used to lick Ducky, leaving a thick residue of saliva that I choose to think of as a protective coating.

The girls are conserving there energy, and using their mind control powers on me

The girls are conserving their energy, and using their mind control powers on me

She hasn’t completely given up on her Ducky, though. In times of stress, she still cuddles up with platypus, or carries Fishy in her mouth, or squeezes Ducky’s belly to make him quack.

And, every once in a while, I find Fishy waiting for me outside the bathroom door, or Froggy staring up at me from Butterfly’s bed next to the computer, and I know that she has left her friend to keep an eye on me, while she goes to find something to chew on. And I feel loved.

Butterfly, sleeping on fishy.

Butterfly, sleeping on fishy.