28 August 2010

The Houseguest

We have a friend who seems to stumble onto pit bulls in need all of the time. This is, most likely, due to the fact that she’s a bit obsessed with pit bulls (fair enough, so are we) and that she tends to spend an unusual amount of time (for unknown reasons) in shady neighborhoods. It’s a given (that I hope is changing) that if you find a shady neighborhood, you’re sure to find a plethora of pit bulls in need.

We were literally in flight from the UK to the US when the calls began coming in on both our phones. (I don’t know if she thinks Chris and I don’t spend time together or if she thinks that when we do, we don’t spend any of it communicating—either way, we tend to get identical voicemails from her.) She’d come across another pit bull in need. Only this time it was a puppy—just three weeks old! And she hadn’t been in a shady neighborhood, she’d been at a parade on the Southside. Oh, but she still lived in a no-pet building. Please call immediately. 

Oh dear….

I guess it’s not totally surprising that just 24 hours after landing and 22 hours after bringing T2 home from two weeks at sleepover camp, we found ourselves balancing a (probably seven-week-old rather than three-week-old) puppy on a barstool as we said, “No, no. He’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of a few days until we can get him into the rescue program.” You will notice we did not say, “No, no. We’ll be fine. We were just saying that what we really need after two weeks away, in addition to two slightly clingy dogs who missed us and a good round of jet-lag, is a puppy who has been taken away from his mother too early and who was just fed a bunch of different things that guarantee frequent trips outside at very short intervals. I mean, really, we’re not big fans of sleep or calm anyway.” Which is how we ended up with Scooby. (In my defense, I had really hoped we could find a more unique, admirable sort of name for the little guy, but the truth is that Scooby seemed to really suit him.)

The first evening was really quite something. We have our routine fairly down-pat, as do most families, and there really isn’t a lot of wiggle room for extras – especially extra canines. While I prep dinner, Chris settles into the
corner of the sectional with his laptop and a dog on each side. Chris works or peruses the internet while T2 use their time to catch up on some much needed sleep (somehow those four hours in the afternoon never seem to be enough). Then everyone eats and we all eventually return to the couch until it’s time for bed.

However, when you add in squiggly, wiggly, wound-to-the-brink puppy energy into the mix all of a sudden it becomes, “No, you can’t let him have her spot.” “Careful, I think he’s going to jump!” “Off the keyboard, you monkey.” “Get him out of the freaking kitchen—he’s going to get burned when I open the oven.” “Ow—those puppy teeth are sharp!” “Watch the wine!”  “Hooooney, will you please come get her…I mean him again? He can’t be in here alone while I’m cooking.” And so on. It took a full two hours every night for him to bounce and pounce and tumble enough energy out of his teeny system so he could crawl up Chris’ shirt, wiggle around to his back and settle down in a nice, warm, quiet space of his own. Every night. Two hours.

Funny thing about puppies—everyone loves them. I frequently handed him over the fence for the neighbors to cuddle and coo over. Our renters suddenly seemed more in synch with our yard schedule, stepping out to say hi to little Scooby before we went in. People on the sidewalk, a yard over from ours, even asked about him (he was so tiny I’m surprised they could even see him through the fence and grass). Even at the vet when we took him to get his vaccines and de-worming, everyone wanted a little puppy time.

It was actually at the vet that it became pretty clear to me that we, however, might not really be a puppy family, cute as they are. As we know, T2 have their own quirky relationship that involves numerous ‘conversations’ between them about who’s in charge, who gets what toy and other various things that dogs bicker over. I think it was perhaps Scooby’s added dynamic to their relationship and the arrival of an old, graying lab while we were in the vet’s lobby that prompted their first public display of what can only be described as the epitome of family dysfunction. There I was, with well-behaved Toni on one side and well-behaved Téa on the other, Scooby in a beach bag around my shoulder. The next thing I know T2 are doing their very best, most convincing
interpretation of what a two vicious pit bulls look like and why they have such a bad reputation. It only lasted about 15 seconds, but they were up on their hind legs, arms around each other with bared teeth clashing for the whole scene (no blood, there almost never is, just lots of posturing and drama). I looked around to see if anyone had noticed. The couple with the old lab were forgetting to whisper as they talked about the horrible vicious dogs in the waiting room. (I’m sure they were talking about someone else. My dogs were just having a conversation, after all.) Some staff were conscientiously shuffling papers while others had completely disappeared (to come around to help, I figured out later.) And me standing there with a puppy in in a beach bag like this was all perfectly normal. Just then I saw three prim looking King Charles spaniels and an equally prim looking woman heading in the door. I decided that it was time for my lovely family to move into the extra, out of sight waiting room for unsociables, when darned if they didn’t just up and do it again. Ten seconds of pure; all show and no damage; scare the pants of the uptight people brawling, and then back to my sides in less than 10 seconds—all wags and panting. Really, ladies?? In case we missed it the first time?

I would like to tell you that the rest of Scooby’s visit with us was drama free before he headed off to his longer-term foster home with the Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue program. And for the most part it was. Except for one teeny tiny incident involving a rawhide, a crabby adult dog (I won’t even name names) and young Scooby’s face. I’ll leave it at that with a closing statement that Mr. Scooby is just fine. Now.

We were all a little sad to see him go, I think, but the night he left no one seemed to mind a drama-free dinnertime; her or his own space on the couch, uninterrupted; and a howl-free bedtime.

02 August 2010

T2 get a yard!

I've been a little lax with the storytelling lately, not because we've run out of stories but because the four of us (Toni, Téa, Chris and I) have been settling in to a new home. It's taking a lot more time and energy than we humans anticipated, though T2 seem to have gotten the hang of things pretty quickly.

The basics of the move are that the four of us were living in an aesthetically amazing vintage loft in a converted former Nabisco factory. That was the up-side. The down-side was that it was exactly big enough to comfortably fit me (since I was the only one of us there when I purchased it), but now had to manage for me, Chris, Toni and Téa...and our ridiculous amount of stuff. It was also in the middle of hipster West Loop in Chicago, which is great for people but really not all that great if you're a dog (although hundreds of dogs live in the neighborhood). For instance: we had to walk a mile just to get to a decent amount of grass; the amount of semis delivering products to the various warehouses were more than poor Toni's nerves could really handle; the time it took us to get from the third floor to the first tree in the event of upset stomachs was unsympathetically long; etc.

So number one on our list of must-haves when we began the search for our new home was a yard—preferably an oversized yard. No, we did not move just to indulged our obsession with T2, but as long as we were upgrading we might as well upgrade from all family members' perspectives. More space for us, more space for T2—everyone wins!

The change in routine from four scheduled, no nonsense walks involving leashes to an ever-changing plethora of random outings involving their very own yard, various wildlife and no leashes has been hugely popular. Téa is exhausted every evening, which is something I never thought possible. Toni, who's agoraphobia was so severe that she could hardly get herself out the door for the basics when we first met her, now bounds (really, she bounds) out the back door each morning and has even been known to fling herself onto the ground for a random roll on her back, also something I never thought possible.

They even have cool new neighbors: Anya and Vivian to the north, two dog-loving little human girls; and Scooby the obnoxious chihuahua and his new little brother Rollo the 10-week-old pit bull to the south. Tonight Arthur the mastiff, one of the new tenants in our first floor apartment, moves in. Téa was eager to show him her poorest, most unfriendly manners on first meeting, but we're sure she'll get the hang of him just as quickly as she has everything else around the new home.

Téa demonstrates the life-is-good back roll.