Dogs & Cats, Living Together! Mass Hysteria!

Meko and Jude

This evening, during our regular constitutional with the dogs, Bob told me that Jude ate some random, discarded alley bread in the morning. Worse, it was the bleached white variety devoid of any nutrition or flavor. When they returned home, Jude made a beeline for the toilet in order to rinse his verboten snack down with some refreshing tank juice. An eight year-old, 65-pound Australian Shepherd/Rottweiler swarmed with affection, high quality food, medical care and fabulous designer dishes has the culinary inclinations of a starved Depression-era chain ganger. Bob and I imagined him a prisoner/bootlegger, using his white bread and john water to ferment jailhouse gin.

This is Jude.

In June, shortly after Bob and I began co-habitating, I came home to a household of three pets for one of the first times. Dino, my fluffy, four-pound, 16 year-old ball of kitty might, is renowned throughout the blogosphere. I’ve written about our relationship for some years. But life progresses unpredictably, and a woman never considered a dog person suddenly found herself eagerly learning the quirks and schedules of two new, very large babies. I met Bob one cold February night and that was it. My heart stretched to fit the exact dimensions of this motley crew.

I returned home that rainy June evening to Dino, Jude and our 10.5 year-old German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix, Meko. When Bob rescued her at age six, she had the longer name Kameko. Bob, ever the enemy of needless syllables, shortened the moniker. It fits. She’s a no-frills gal. I swear she even looks like a Meko.

Anyway Meko has been, as they say in the adoption world, “re-homed” twice. Bob is at least her third daddy. We’ll never know her complete history. But we’re certain that she’s very much afraid of storms. Not when she has the chance to run around in one in the yard, mind you. Fear of proximity would make entirely too much sense and dogs don’t operate on logic. Instead Meko cowers from tempests – but only when indoors. Actually no, cowers is absolutely the wrong word. More like she goes WWE on our garbage cans and rugs, tearing up the recyclable shopping bags with her considerable 70-pound fangs.

This is Meko.

So that June evening. It was raining rather intensely in the Chicago way, with lots of spring lightening and gusty wind. I walked home from the train after work as fast as I could, expecting to encounter one of two typical scenarios – a peed upon bath mat or golden showered doggie bed. Thankfully we have access to a large washing machine. But this was no rehearsed production. My adopted darling canines had much more in store for the new mom.

By workday because he is a grazer, tiny and both rescue dogs were ill-fed in their past lives (Bob adopted Jude at one, but the poor fella still has a strong aversion to old men bearing canes or umbrellas – sad and enduring), Dino is sequestered with his food, litter box, heating pad, kitty condo and water in our second bedroom. There’s a window facing East and the little bambino likes watching the sun rise.

One may access this room in two ways: a conventional door off a long hallway, or from a bathroom closet that hangs a sharp left into the back of the bedroom’s laundry space. No human being over the age of six can fit through the latter entrance, owing to the built-in (backless) shelves that straddle the width. But if one were to say, leave the bathroom closet door unlatched, there’s room enough for a burrowing duo of determined, troublemaking doggies.

On this stormy eve, as if ripped from an Edgar Allen Poe scene, I returned home to gruesome carnage. I entered through the kitchen and saw the red metal garbage can, slammed several feet distant into the front hall entrance – broken and twisted. Coffee grounds and stale beet juice remnants were smeared across three different rooms looking eerily like human waste and blood. Already horrified (by sight, smell and the knowledge that I’d be cleaning this mess) and unable to locate Jude and Meko, I ran toward the bathroom.

Sure enough, the closet door was open. I could see through it to the dramatically overturned laundry baskets that had been stacked against the french doors. Clean and dirty linens flung about the room in a tornado of chaos. Meko, the massacre’s ringleader, had burst through the blockade in a mad fit of rain distress, the sartorial fortress intended to add another layer between dog and cat food. Jude crept behind in her wake – the shameless scavenger. I’m not svelte enough to scrape through the passage, so I headed to the hallway to enter the second bedroom.

What greets me? The sight of two calm, satiated dogs leisurely relaxing on the floor, adjacent to a non-plussed feline covered in socks. Dino’s food (and water) of course long gone. I was furious. Dino looked at me with betrayed, accusing, hungry eyes (without the joy of the classic Eric Carmen tune).

But here’s where unmitigated gall surpassed credulity. Both pups had the nerve to look at me with innocent joy, I dare say relief, that someone they love came to the rescue. For as doggedly determined (pun intended) as they are to reach a goal, they’ve never figured out they need to retreat the way they invaded. Obedience school should teach the domestic harmony of covering crimes more intelligently.

Jude was so eager to run from a self-inflicted prison that he took off from his resting place like a shot, stepping on my bare right foot with untrimmed claws, cutting the big toe at the nailbed. Tons of delicate blood.

When Bob came home, I was in a fully outraged stir. Bandaged and 30 minutes into cleaning, straightening, and refreshing Dino’s food, I couldn’t wait to tell him what “his dogs” had done.

But as I started spinning my yarn (and you know? I do that), the body and spirit rejected righteous indignation. I reached the part of the story where Jude sliced my toe in haste to leave the scene, complete lack of guilt about his mien. I started laughing so hard I had no option but to let go. In anarchy, there is often delicious, humorous harmony. Bob labeled Meko’s destructive, trash and laundry-scattering fit, not an emulation of the Incredible Hulk, but rather a special Meko-brand Smash.

We giggled. Bob devised fake apologies and voices for the dogs, issuing long-winded regrets about our cheap, parental taste in cat food. He also created a bit involving an affronted Dino, shaking an elderly paw at the damned kids (middle-aged dogs) on his lawn. Then we laughed some more, toasted the silliness and wondered how we entertained ourselves before we became a family of five. A happy, messy menagerie.

Insomnity (January 20, 2011)

I have had extra nocturnal time on my hands lately, so I started inventing new words. “Insomnity,” a combination of “insomnia” and “insanity,” pretty much conveys my physical and mental state. Feel free to use it.

It was a week ago that I wrote about finding the clarity needed to take myself less seriously. May I ask where that all that quiet calm went?

I am so frustrated. Back in December, I understood my sleeplessness when I actually had something to cry about. After being unfairly terminated, I went on interview after interview with no results. My father continued to weigh down my sister and I with increasingly odd and unlawful behavior. My husband disappointed his parents to an extent I found psychologically intolerable, and of course the holidays always bring a modicum of distress, no matter how ultimately enjoyable.

But the continuation of this now weeks-long battle to sleep just doesn’t make sense in the New Year. I am employed again. I secured a full-time temporary business writer position with a consulting firm located in downtown Chicago. Of course there is no guarantee that I won’t find myself back on the market at the conclusion of tax season, but I have a better than 50% shot at being asked to stay. I used to like those odds in my 20s. It brought out my competitive spirit. But now? I spend so much time worrying about the lack of security that I may ultimately render 2011 job seeking a self-fulfilling prophecy. Who wants to hire a strung-out looking curmudgeon?

I have had other blessings come my way in this new decade. Last Friday evening, I received a pleasant surprise in the form of being asked to edit the quarterly newsletter of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. This is a board level appointment, and though no monetary compensation is involved, a job well and dependably done could open a wealth of doors for me. The association is largely run by female writing professionals of retirement age, and the current President made it known that selecting me represented a huge effort to engage young blood. It’s a terrific opportunity.

Yet five minutes after I accepted the appointment, I was on the verge of peeing my pants with anxiety. Apparently I have come to associate career openings with contingencies for failure. What if I flop? I do not even need to be told that this, to quote Al Franken’s legendary Saturday Night Live character, “Daily Affirmations” host Stuart Smalley, is “stinkin’ thinkin’.” But awareness that one is self-destructing and being able to control it are two totally different matters.

I have seen a doctor, several times in fact. Ambien was a nonstarter. Anti-anxiety meds seemed to help calm my system for awhile so I could get some shut eye, but I tend to grow immune to medications rather quickly. Rather than covertly up my dosage, I thought about Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson and gave it up altogether. A night or two a week I am managing six to seven hours with Nyquil or OTC sleeping pills, but really? This should not be necessary. My doctor recommended therapy, which is fine and all, but I’ve been there, done that and am not going to talk my way into a restful state. If that were the case, I’d be passed out at the conclusion of every blog post.

I am impatient and disenchanted with my own neuroticism. I am as bored with it as everyone else in my life is. Sunken eyes, blank stares at loved ones who wish to engage, and running behind on daily tasks is not sexy. Nor does this condition demonstrate a tormented artistic spirit in the style of Edgar Allen Poe (though come to think of it, some opium might be handy). It’s nonsense, and until recently, I never considered myself to be a frivolous person.