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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Bath Time



Cricket is too small to take a bath in the whole bathtub, and we don’t have a plug to keep the water from draining, so we use a plastic storage box that’s just her size. We fill it up with water and dog shampoo and set it in the bathtub. I dress for the occasion, rolling up my pants, removing socks and shoes, and covering up the rest of my clothes as much as possible with the green kitchen apron that I never wear in the kitchen.

Cricket hates bath time. I can get her into the little tub, but she shivers and tries to climb out. After the soap and scrub phase, her grandma lifts her out of the tub and wraps her in a towel while I empty, rinse, and refill the plastic box with clean water. There have been times when she’s needed three dunkings, because the water gets so saturated with dirt that she needs an extra soaping before she can be rinsed.

She resents this process as much as you’d expect her to.

As soon as she’s been rinsed clean and cuddled in a towel by her grandma, she wriggles her way to freedom and then starts to growl and run and slide across the increasingly wet bathroom floor.

Then, when she’s allowed out of the bathroom, she runs to Grandma’s bed to roll around on the quilt and grumble and then she jumps to the floor and races back and forth across the apartment like a crazed animal because she is so mad at us! How dare you get me wet! How dare you wash off my wonderful perfume! How dare you make me shiver and trap me in water and dry me with a towel! How dare you!

One benefit of the running, shaking, craziness extravaganza, is that it does a lot to dry her hair. She goes from the shrunken down version of herself back to full fluff.

I don’t love giving her baths. She finds them so distressing; and I have to crouch the whole time and scrub poop and try to keep her form jumping to freedom. I know it’s in her best interests to be clean, and I can be firm and mommy-like when I need to be. But I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not hurting her, as she alternately bares her teeth at me, and whimpers. I repeat a mantra to myself, I am not the bad guy, I am not the bad guy, but I don’t think Cricket agrees with me.

Animal Cops

Sometimes I watch the animal cop shows on Animal Planet. I usually can’t watch a whole episode at once. They intervene in cases of abuse and neglect: a dog left in a yard with a chain embedded in her neck, kittens left under a porch without care, a horse starving in a filed, a duck with a knife wound in its backside.

Watching those shows makes me feel guilty for not wanting to be a veterinarian or animal cop or doggy social worker. And then the guilt expands from neglected and abused dogs to neglected and abused children, until I end up curled in a ball on the floor, feeling useless and awful, and still having no idea what to do.

There used to be a show on TV called Dogtown, about a well funded animal rescue facility in Utah, called Best Friends. They had areas for all kinds of animals, but the show focused on the dogs. They had trainers and groomers and veterinarians on staff, plus volunteers and adoption counselors and caretakers and on and on. It seemed like somewhere I’d want to go myself, to be rewired and retrained and adopted out anew. They also had a policy that any dog who couldn’t find a new home would always have a home with them.

Orphanages would come back into style if they were run half as well and with half as much compassion as Dogtown. And it makes me wonder why we can’t do better for children in foster care, or for dogs across the country who are being put down by well meaning people at understaffed shelters.

It was an aspirational show, but nothing I could imagine living up to myself. After each episode I’d think, maybe I could learn how to train dogs, or join a local rescue operation, or at least foster dogs while they’re waiting for their forever home. But then I’d crumple again, and feel guilty for having only the one dog and not even being able to train HER.

I guess my question is, could the people who create these shows take the next step, the one that allows people like me to step out of the guilt and have a manageable task to do that would actually help. Is there a think tank working on this? How can rescue organizations marshal the millions of pet owners and animal lovers to help, instead of overwhelming us with so much guilt that we can’t think straight or even remain upright?





I used to do yoga on the living room floor every day. I’d take out my blue exercise mat, unroll it, and get to work. But then Cricket arrived and made it impossible. First she stood on my chest. Then she chewed on my hair when I was in Downward Dog. Then she attacked my fingers. When her frustration had ratcheted up to its highest point – about a minute or two later – she started to chew through my mat. Chunks of blue foam rubber scattered to every corner of the room.

            My first response was to give up on yoga, because I was already tired from fending off Cricket’s attacks and taking her out to pee every hour. Then I missed my yoga mat and gated her in the kitchen, but she could cry and bark, and slam herself against the plastic tension gate for forty-five minutes straight, or, worse, she would slide her nose under the gate and stare at me with tears in her eyes.

            I felt so guilty that I switched to exercises I could do with her in the room and with only minimal injury to me. Anything I could do standing up and wearing shoes was a good option, though she still tried to jump up and bite my hand weights during bicep curls.

            When Cricket gets frustrated with me she makes this adenoidal “fnuh” sound. Not quite a sneeze, but the noise comes from her nose more than her throat and is accompanied by a quick nod of the head, as in “Damn you!”

I can’t do strenuous exercise anymore. There’s been a gradual worsening of what’s been diagnosed as Fibromyalgia. But I still unroll my yoga mat on the living room floor and go through a series of exercises I cobbled together from physical therapy and exercise tapes I’ve watched over the years.

Cricket likes to pick out on of her toys from the toy box – the now deflated birthday cake, the purple fish, the nylon bone she’s had since puppyhood – and she brings it to me to throw for her. When she gets tired of that, she buries the toy under my shoulder, or in my hair, and then scratches at my hand to let me know that SHE wants to be scratched. Sometimes, when I’m stretched flat on the floor, she’ll do laps around me, a slow walk with stops for sniffing along the way. But sometimes, all she wants is to lean up against me and take a nap. It still surprises me that I am of comfort to her, but I am.      

Choosing Cricket

I wanted a dog who would like to snuggle. My previous dog was forty-five pounds and wiry and strong. Even in her dotage, she bit me if I tried to pick her up to take her outside. My idea of the perfect dog was a tiny Golden Retriever, a lap dog with a sunny personality who would lick my face and always love me. But I was afraid I’d be criticized by the big-dogs-are-the-only-real-dogs people. Like my brother.

            A little dog would be an affront to dogdom. A little dog would need haircuts, want bows in her hair and, for god’s sake, wear sweaters!

            But I needed a dog. I needed someone to hug, someone to drag me outside where other people actually exist. So I started to search the local pet stores.    

First there was the Chic-a-lier, a mix of aChihuahuaand a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She was so tiny she fit in my palm, and so shaky that I felt an immediate kinship with her. We could sit in a corner and shake with fear, together. But I was afraid I would step on her. And I was afraid she came from a puppy mill where her tiny mother was left in a cage, with matted, shit covered hair, and distended teats and no chance to walk on solid ground. All the way home in the car, I was longing for that puppy and trying to be stern with myself. Do the research first. Find out what the health issues could be. Find a reputable breeder. But I could never find another Chic-a-lier.

When I finally decided on a Cockapoo, a Cocker Spaniel and Poodle mix, I wanted a ruby haired one – to get as close as possible to my ideal of a tiny Golden Retriever. And I wanted a breeder I could see in person.

Mom and I found an affordable breeder inNew Jersey, with a whole crowd of Cockapoo puppies in her basement. They were white with ruby markings. So, not exactly what I’d wanted, but more adorable than I could withstand. We sat down on the floor and the breeder handed me the one female puppy she had left and one of the boys too. Immediately, the boy ran after the girl and chewed on her back leg. She looked back at him, with a face that reminded me of me as a little girl, wondering why my brother would want to twist my arm off, and then she stretched out behind my back, as low as she could get, so her brother couldn’t see her.

I was afraid to leave her behind and take time to think about it in case someone else came by, or one of her brothers decided to attack again. And the breeder was circumspect about whether we would come back or not. She said something like, you’ll fall in love with another one, don’t worry. And that bothered me, because it isn’t really true for me. I have a hard time falling in love, and once I do, I have a much harder time falling out of it.

We stopped for donuts, for me, and coffee, for Mom, and tried to think clearly. We were both tired of the puppy search. And this puppy was cute. She would grow to be about fifteen pounds, the breeder had told us. And she wouldn’t shed. But most of all, she needed me. This little girl puppy needed a protector and I could be that for her.

When we returned, the puppies were piled up in their crates, napping. The breeder gave us a baby blanket from the communal crate, and a squeaky purple dinosaur to keep our new baby company, and then she picked up my little girl and kissed her goodbye and handed her to me. She told me to hold her against my body in the car for the long ride home.

When we reached the bridge back toNew York, Cricket, though she was still unnamed, relaxed in my arms and peed on her blanket, in my lap.

Who knew pee could feel so much like love?