Thursday, August 4, 2011

I'm No Dr Doolittle

This morning I dreamt that Leif and I were traveling on a ship. His friend Mattias, the Swedish chef (not THE Swedish chef of Muppet fame) was the captain of our ship. With us were our four animals we are watching: Mollie, Siri, Meow and Mima. Why the animals were all wearing my Augsburg shirts and hoodies I don’t know, but they were. Meow looked especially fetching in my bright pink Holy Buckets Campus Ministry t-shirt. We were sleeping on the deck, Mattias was standing at the wheel looking all rugged, and the animals were milling around and nudging our hands to get us up and moving so they could do their morning business. Where exactly do dogs and cats do business on a dream ship? Somewhere down below apparently. As we all climbed down the ladder (they are talented dogs) one of the cats made a leap to some smooth, plastic, slanted surface and with a little yelp started sliding. At that moment a very wet nose nuzzled into the palm of my hand, a cat started purring and I heard a low grumbly growl from the other side of the room. The last part wasn’t the dream, that‘s how they wake me up.

Do I seem stressed about this pet watching job? Maybe just a little. I have never been a “pet person.” I grew up on a farm, where pets are transient creatures. You grow up knowing that they will, like every other animal on the place, die eventually. I have tried, on and off, to be a pet person because it seems like a very middle-class Midwestern normal thing to do and for years that’s all I really wanted to be. I give up. I don’t know how you all do it. I am exhausted after 4 days of caring for these four animals. They are the quirkiest group of animals I have ever known.

I am nervous because this is a wild area and so the dogs can’t stay out at night. Their owner would prefer that the cats come in too, which means luring them in with food. Of course, they can’t stand each other so one has to be closed up in a separate room overnight. Any of you with cats know that you can’t force a cat to do anything without gaining a scar or two, and bribing them is pretty hit and miss. They are very difficult creatures. Some nights I get them both in, some nights they just don’t feel like being bribed, I guess. Judging from the small “kill zones” I find around the yard, they can take care of themselves.

The dogs are a little easier. But not always. The property is fenced, but everyone knows that to a dog a fence is just a test of their intelligence and perseverance. We have already had to fix two holes in the fence…I feel like I’m the evil commandant of a prison camp. They keep trying to dig their way out and I keep plugging the holes. Yesterday I lost one of them for a couple of hours and spent those hours searching the house and the property and finally the road outside the property without success. I had just sat down and was mentally composing my “I lost one of your dogs” speech for the owners when she casually strolled onto the terrace. She had an idiotic smile on her face as she gave me an “I don’t know what you’re worrying about” look. I swear, I don’t know how you pet people do this without going crazy.

Dogs can be, and expect to be bribed with food to perform certain tasks. I had to use cookies to get them into their beds in May, but this time they just follow us upstairs without any need to bring cookies. In May they slept where they always do, in the owners’ suite. During this trip the first night they slept in their room, the second night the older dog came to our room in the middle of the night. The third night she didn’t bother going to the other room but came straight to ours and plunked down on the floor at the end of the bed. Last night in the middle of the night the other dog wandered into our room looking all lonely, so we dragged both their beds into our room. A little while later the cat came in looking for a place to sleep with the rest of us.

Our room is not as spacious as the owners’ suite. It’s a beautiful bedroom but small. This morning I sat up in bed and looked around. There was a cat on a blanket on top of Leif’s suitcase, purring so loud the air was vibrating. What we had for available floor space was now taken up by two doggy beds filled with two fairly large dogs. Who, by the way, snore and snuffle like grandpas sometimes do. It looks like a room with live bear skin rugs. There’s barely any place to walk where you won’t step on a tail or foot or head.

Maybe all of this late night/early morning shuffling around after almost losing a dog explains the dream I had this morning. At first I thought of myself as a kind of Dr Doolittle, but he could actually talk to animals and I don‘t understand anything about these guys. Even if I could hear them speak it would probably be in a strange mixture of Italian and Swedish that I wouldn’t understand anyway. Maybe (given the nautical theme of my dream) I am feeling more like Noah, cut off from civilization on the top of my mountain with only animals for company and the responsibility for keeping those animals alive and safe. But I’m pretty sure Noah was probably a pet person too, otherwise he wouldn’t have been given the job of getting them all back on dry ground. Of course, being on a ship, he didn’t have to worry about losing any animals lor having to explain to God that His zoo is one animal smaller. Lucky man.


  1. Sounds like you're doing it right to me!

  2. thanks Wendi...I am terrified and feel like I'm missing some sort of important gene that allows me to love animals like people. So many people seem to have it and I can't find it in me. I seem to get on with people just fine, I suppose that's what counts.