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Cricket Saves The World

Cricket has the weight of the world on her shoulders, and they are very skinny shoulders. She wakes up in the morning believing that she has, single-handedly, kept her Grandma safe over night from all manner of insidious evil. Sometimes she curls up on Grandma’s head to protect her from bad dreams (though not from headaches, clearly).

Cricket thinks she is enormous.

Cricket thinks she is enormous.

“I’ve got you, Grandma.”

When Mom is quilting or making a pair of camouflage pants for one of her grandsons, or his raccoon, I always suggest the she use some of the material to make a superhero cape for Cricket. It wouldn’t be hard to make, but Mom does not believe that Cricket would be willing to wear a cape, or a poncho, or a sweater, or even a sari (we had some lovely diaphanous apricot colored material that I thought would look heavenly on her – but no).

A suitcase is sort of like a cape. Right?

A suitcase is sort of like a cape. Right?

As soon as Cricket has finished guard duty over the sleeping Grandma, she sets her sights on the front door of the apartment, where she senses that there are shadows lurking on the other side, trying to slide through the keyhole. She has been known to race down the hall, with her knees locked and her back feet barely touching the ground, to yell at some vague sound or another.

Cricket believes that every time she hears a noise she needs to make as much and, if possible, more noise in answer. So, one bark from a dog outside equals ten barks from Cricket. Ten footsteps on the stairs equals twenty barks from Cricket. It’s a rule as important as gravity, or conservation of energy. It’s not a form of communication so much as an energy matching plan, to keep us afloat. It keeps the world spinning. And if she can get her sister to bark with her, so much the better.

“What are we barking at, Cricket?”

The big test comes when we leave the building and her feet touch public space. Then she must be even more watchful; so many dangers lurk in the backyard! One of the worst, beyond the daily horror of mail delivery, is the man who walks up the Forbidden hill, at 6:45 in the morning, carrying newspapers!!!!!!

Cricket finds this horrifying. She barks, and pulls at the leash and tries to get her paws up into the air to fight. I drag her, and a bewildered Butterfly, up the Good hill (the one the co-op says we are allowed to walk on, and therefore does not weed or mow), until Cricket can no longer see the offending newspaper man. But she still barks at him in absentia. She barks much longer than any reasonable dog could think it might take for the man to walk down our block of buildings and out of sight.

When I take the dogs back down the hill, Butterfly strolls along but Cricket is still pulling to get to the invisible interloper. She has come very close to hurting herself any number of times by leaping into the air while her leash stays still, because I’m in the middle of picking up her sister’s poop.

Most of the time when we are out in the backyard, Cricket is so busy trying to save the world (from work men, mailmen, neighbors and squirrels) that she forgets to poop. Inside the apartment she was hopping and climbing on me and scratching at my arm or leg in desperation, but outside, there’s too much going on to focus on something as boring as having to poop.

Butterfly’s job is to follow Cricket, to back her up in a worthy cause, or to get in her face and offer some calming doggy breaths when the hysteria has gone on too long. But Butterfly NEVER forgets to poop, or pee, or listen to the birds, or meditate for a bit, or check out the cat food left out for the local feral cats. Butterfly’s priorities are internal. She hears the rhythms of her own body loud and clear and only focuses externally once those needs are taken care of.

“I’m meditating, and it could take a while.”

We finally make our way back to our building, and Cricket is still blinking, and checking from side to side, and imagining newspaper men hiding behind bushes and around corners. The girls have to stand in the lobby of the building while I bring the bag of poop down to the garbage cans in the basement (we have no outdoor garbage cans at the co-op, as a matter of policy that I still don’t understand). I can hear Cricket pacing and checking and sniffing under our neighbor’s door, to make sure that she is safe and sound.

Finally we get back to the apartment, and Butterfly begs for a treat and drinks three buckets worth of water, and Cricket’s throat is sore, and she’s out of breath, and she starts to look around and check in with herself and you can see that moment of confusion when she gives herself a sniff and realizes she forgot to poop.

Being a super hero is hard work, and requires a few sacrifices; just ask Cricket.


The Grandma Addicts


When Mom is out running errands or gardening or being busy during the afternoon, I’m usually napping. Butterfly stretches out next to me, and Cricket drapes herself on top of me so that I can barely breathe, and we all go to sleep in a puppy pile.

Butterfly adds her friends to the puppy pile.

Butterfly adds her friends to the puppy pile.

Cricket and Butterfly can be comfy and quiet for hours, but at the first sign of Grandma returning home, all hell breaks loose. Grandma’s here! We want things!

Ah, sweet sleepies.

Ah, sweet sleepies.

"What was that?!"

“What was that?!”

I think Cricket can hear the specific sound of Grandma parking the car in the lot outside my window, and she definitely knows the sound of Grandma opening the front door of our building. Butterfly is not an expert in these particular sounds, so she relies on Cricket to tell her what’s going on.

Cricket flies off the bed and barely touches the floor before she’s out in the hall and racing towards the door. Thank God for the rug in the hallway or else she would slide the whole way to Grandma.

Butterfly stands on the bed and barks at her fleeing sister, then she barks at all corners of the room, and crouches and barks, and circles and barks, and then she remembers that she has the doggy steps, and she runs down to the floor and out to the hall to catch up with Cricket, who is already crying and squealing at the top of her lungs.

"Grandma! Grandma! Grandma! Grandma!"

“Grandma! Grandma! Grandma! Grandma!”

Cricket stands straight up on her back feet and tries to jump up and kiss Grandma’s face. Butterfly tries to follow Cricket’s example and lifts her upper body off the ground with a heroic effort, and then flops back down, and tries again.

"More! More! More! More!"

“More! More! More! More!”

"I win the Grandma!"

“I win the Grandma!”

The crying and squealing and barking and hopping and flopping can go on for quite a while.

No matter how much I love my Mom, even at my best, I could never match the girls in the greeting department. Grandma brings new smells from outside, possible groceries, guilt scratchies for being gone so long, and the possibility of who knows what amazing things – she is Grandma after all!

Even my brother, who affected indifference when we were kids, would shuffle over to Mommy for a hug. He didn’t run down the stairs and almost topple her over, like I did, but he rested his head on her shoulder and let her hold him up. He still does this. Mommy hugs are a life long addiction.

I didn’t have this with my grandmothers. Neither of them was warm or huggable. I probably had to kiss them on the cheek or do the obligatory hug, but I’ve blocked it out.

My oldest nephew was a Grandma addict when he was little. When Grandma would get ready to leave at the end of a visit he would cry and beg for her to stay. He looked suspiciously like Cricket, hopping up and down, though without the furry jumpsuit.

He and his brothers and sister have taught themselves a more reserved greeting style when Grandma arrives at their house, except for the littlest one who can still be seen running down the block from the bus stop at the first sight of Grandma’s car in the distance.

We grow out of these greetings, either because we become blasé, or believe we should appear to be blasé, but dogs keep it up forever. Even in her old age, Cricket will be dragging her walker down the hall and croaking out a bark or two to greet Grandma at the door.

This is why we need dogs.

goodbye from dogs

Cricket and the People Bathroom

"There must be something good in here."

“There must be something good in here.”

"Or here?"

“Or here?”



Early on, Cricket, my fourteen pound Cockapoo, found the whole idea of a closed door, with her on one side and me on the other, highly offensive. Mom’s door is rarely closed, especially because there’s an ironing board attached to it and telephone cords running under it and pocket books hanging from the door knob. My room has no door at all, just a door way and a set of stairs leading up to the attic. So the bathroom is a room that is uniquely closed off to Cricket when in use, and she hates it.

The door was already not quite level, because the whole apartment is kind of tilted; which explains why a pan on top of the stove tilts all of the oil to one side, and the dust bunnies in the Living Room roll down hill. When Cricket started to throw her body against the bathroom door, in a panic at not being able to reach me for two whole minutes, she managed to make the lock pop open.

She was shocked at her power. She stuck her nose into the little space she’d created and then jumped back when the door opened even further.

We added a latch to the door, but even with the latch she can get the door open about two centimeters and stick her little black nose into the space. The funny thing is, when I leave the door unlatched, like when I’m brushing my teeth, she’s too wary to walk in. She doesn’t know what to make of all of that freedom. It makes me wonder if she really wanted to be in the bathroom with me, or if she just wanted to be in conflict with the door.

Cricket is a connoisseur of the people bathroom. It is as much her as ours, because she has her wee wee pad in front of the bathtub. She relies on the wee wee pad, especially when she uses up her outdoor time chewing on sticks and forgets to pee. She also takes advantage of the convenience of peeing in the middle of the night when getting her people to take her outside is an impossibility.

Before Butterfly came to us in November, Cricket used to stay in bed with Grandma in the mornings, guarding her head, until Grandma finally woke up, and then they would walk to the bathroom together for a morning pee duet. Then the caravan moved on to the kitchen for coffee, and then to the coat rack, for Cricket’s leash, and an outing.

Guarding Grandma

Guarding Grandma

But now, with Butterfly here, I do the first walk of the day. Butterfly insists on getting up very early and stares at me until I give in. Cricket hears the footsteps and the leash rattling and relinquishes her guardianship of the grandma to come outside with us. As soon as we come back inside, Cricket runs, leash and all, back to Grandma’s bed to continue her vigil. Then, when Grandma wakes up, the routine continues as before, with bathroom visit and coffee caravan intact. But now Butterfly has added herself to the team and all three of them trail into the bathroom together.

The caravan

The caravan

Butterfly and the people Bathroom

Butterfly and the people Bathroom


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

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.