A week or so ago, one of our neighbors had to go to the hospital, and she asked if we could watch her 2 dogs and her African Grey Parrot. Of course we said yes. I say of course, because we had no idea what kind of stress comes along with an African Grey Parrot with a severe anxiety disorder that makes her pluck her own feathers.
“Did someone ask for a feather?”
We had to bring everyone over to the apartment in shifts. First the two dogs: George and Zoe. George is a small white Havanese (supposedly) with a very big head and an even bigger personality. He likes to wave his front paws in the air to demand attention. His older sister, Zoe, is a black and white Poodle mix, with a very long back and very short legs (maybe part Dachshund). She is a bit more reserved than her brother, with deep, soulful eyes, but she loves to go for long walks and tries to zoom around the corner to prevent me from turning back. Her only problem is that she has skin issues, possibly caused by food allergies, so she is on a severe diet of tasteless canned food (I didn’t taste it; I googled it). We can’t leave any of Cricket’s kibble out on the floor because then Zoe will eat it, so they all have to eat the tasteless canned food. None of the dogs approves of Zoe’s diet, needless to say.
We also discovered that if we tried to feed Zoe and George at the same time, in the same place, George would eat all of the food. George is small, but mighty. So now we warm up the wet food and call Zoe into the kitchen and feed her by hand until she’s not hungry anymore. Miss Cricket takes her treats under her couch, to eat in peace, but she’s still suffering because George comes over and stares at her, and growls at her, looking for any way to steal those treats. The only explanation I can find for the amount of food George eats, versus his slim build, is poop. He makes a lot of poop.
After George and Zoe were settled in, we had to bring over a big box of wee wee pads (they are trained to pee and poop indoors, because their Mom hasn’t been up to taking them for regular walks), and cans of dog food, and a bag full of food and treats for the parrot. And then I went over to pick up Izzy, the African Grey. She was in her travel cage, with a fuzzy blue blanket covering the cage to keep her warm during the two minutes she had to spend outside.
It took Cricket quite a while to get over the shock of the invasion (she’s not over it at all), especially because George decided that he had to mark the apartment as his own, with tiny puddles of pee everywhere, which meant that the humans were following him around with paper towels and cleaning spray at all hours.
“When are they leaving?”
But Izzy was clearly the biggest source of drama. She likes to answer the phone whenever it rings, from across the room, “Hello?” And then she cries out, “Mommy!” and goes off on a rant, repeating whole conversations, in male and female voices. Unfortunately, most of the words are garbled, so I have no idea what illicit dramas she has been trying to share with us. Her more clear monologues include things like “Are you a good girl?” “Do you want a carrot or a cookie?” “Do you want some water?” She is an incredible mimic, and she discovered that if she mimicked a smoke alarm, first thing in the morning, she could wake up the humans to refill her food bowl. She loves her frozen peas, and millet, and multicolored alphabet-shaped thingies, and carrots. We tried to please her, endlessly, but she never seemed to warm up to us. She shivered with anxiety, and tried to bite us when we gave her more food. She even turned over her water bowl (heavy ceramic) so that it poured over the dining room table, where her cage was sitting, on towels.
“I’m just hanging upside down in my cage. Nothing to see here.”
We sent her home after five days, because her mother was back home, and because we thought Izzy would be happier back in her full cage, where she could stretch out. But, really, that was one loud bird. I felt guilty that we weren’t able to solve all of Izzy’s psychological problems during her visit, though. I always feel like I should be able to solve everyone’s problems, and if I can’t then I’m clearly not trying hard enough. I’m going to have to work on this particular delusion before I become a professional social worker.
Our neighbor asked if we could take Izzy back, in case she has to go back to the hospital, but I said no. We can’t even fit her full cage in the apartment, nor do we want to. But then the guilt was delivered: if we don’t take Izzy then our neighbor’s son will send the bird to a sanctuary. My answer to that is, good for Izzy. She could use experts looking after her and figuring out why she’s pulling out her feathers, before she has no feathers left.
We took the two dogs over to see their Mom, too, and they were excited and happy and gave her a full on lovefest, but their Mom wasn’t up to taking care of them yet, so we took them back to our apartment, and they spent the next few hours crying (Zoe) and moping (George). I don’t blame them. I’d want to be in my own home too.
“I’ll be okay. Maybe.”
But it’s been nice to have a full house for a while, and to get to know two very different personalities. George barks when he sees other dogs on TV, and Zoe has these endearing grumpy noises that she makes when she wants something and can’t have it (my food); George has this adorable upside down sleeping pose, with his head turned in one direction and his legs pulling in the other direction;
and George and Zoe have these elaborate play fights that look like a doggy Tango.
“Would you like to dance?”
“Why yes, I would.”
Zoe and George know how to use Butterfly’s doggy steps up to my bed (Butterfly only knew how to use them going down), so they started to go up there even when I wasn’t in the room. Cricket is not happy that George and Zoe have taken ownership of my bed. She either avoids my room entirely, crawls under the bed, or sits on my chest to make it clear to the interlopers which dogs owns the humans.
We take all three dogs out four times a day, for longer than Cricket’s usual walks, because we want to tire them out before bringing them back into the crucible of apartment living. Walking with three leashes at a time is more complex choreography than I have been able to master so far, what with George needing to stop and pee every few seconds, and Cricket needing to sniff everything, and Zoe on a mission to get to the sidewalk as quickly as possible. But the joy of all three dogs is so obvious as they walk along, that it’s worth the extra level of difficulty.
The food routine (making sure Zoe eats before George gobbles everything up), and the drama, and the wee wee pads, on top of four walks a day with three dogs, and not knowing when they’ll be able to go home, or if their Mom will be up to caring for them, is adding a lot of stress to my life lately. I wish I could just say no, that’s enough, and send the dogs home. But, how do you say no to puppy dogs?
“I’ll say no for you, Mommy. I’m good at it.”