All’s Fair in Love and Pets

My daughter just finished up a summer camp at our county’s animal control department, working with pets who are up for adoption. It seems she’s inherited my love for animals and is now trying to manipulate her Daddy into adopting kittens from the shelter by making him a magnet that says, very subtly, “No Body Loves Me. Will You? Cats.” Impressive, no?

My husband and I began dating when I was in graduate school. I was lonely, tucked away in South Bend, Indiana practicing all day, in rehearsals all night and I was desperate for a companion. So when I saw an ad in the Penny Saver that read “free kittens to a good home,” I pounced. My new boyfriend, who was visiting me for the weekend, came with me as I picked up an orange furball, a mini-lion I just had to name “Aslan.”

That new boyfriend and I got married (eighteen years ago this week!) and moved into our first home, a small loft in the city. We had Aslan, of course, and also Blanche, a cockatiel that I inherited from my negligent older brother when I was in seventh grade. And oh, why not, the old parakeet still left at my parents’ house named Chica. Sure! My new husband was hesitant about all these pets, but I wore him down with assurances that he would hardly even notice they were there.

Right around this time, my husband got a job at a new firm, based in New York. He called me from his new office, terribly excited: “They want me to go to training in Manahattan for 5 months– they’ll put us up in a hotel suite the whole time. How great is that??”

I had just gotten home from a five week music festival abroad and didn’t really want to leave again right away. So I bargained hard: “we have to bring Aslan with us, it’s the only way I’ll go, I can’t leave him again like this!”

In writing this, I honestly marvel at the person I used to be. It’s like I was Mariah Carey, flying cross country with a cat in my lap and making rock star demands in hotels. Man, parenthood really sucks the Diva right outta you, doesn’t it?

He told me later that he had to repeatedly beg the manager of the hotel, but finally, he got him to agree that we could bring our cat with us to Manhattan. Traveling with Aslan through security at O’Hare was a hoot. When I say he looked like a mini-lion, I’m not kidding; at the security agent’s request, I unlatched the door to his carrier and Aslan came slinking out. The agent yelled and leaped backwards, shouting, “What is that thing?”

Back in Chicago, we talked about getting a dog, me much more eagerly than him. Whenever I needed to take a break from the solitary confinement of a practice room, I would go to the Anti-Cruelty Society and pet puppies and kittens for an hour or so, and come back all refreshed and ready to practice some more. Until one day, when it all went horribly, horribly wrong.

The puppy I was playing with that day was adorable and I was falling in love. When I was putting him back in his crate after our playtime, a couple walked up to look at him.

“Ohhh!” they said. “He’s perfect! Just what we’ve been looking for!”

I don’t know what came over me next, but I bet Mariah Carey often has no idea of what came over her next, either, so there.

“Oh, I’m sorry, but I’m already adopting him,” I said, stepping up to the yuppie couple.

Dejected, they walked away to look at another dog and I found myself facing an employee from the Humane Society. “How exciting! Did I hear you say you wanted to adopt this dog?”

And it just snowballed from there. The next thing I knew, I was in the office, filling out lots and lots of adoption paperwork. The man behind the desk was asking questions: where did I live? Who did I live with? Is your husband on board with an adoption?

“Oh, yes,” I assured him, “he’s just at work right now and can’t be here. But he’s just as excited as I am about getting a dog.”

The man behind the desk excused himself for a moment, taking my paperwork with him. “Just a few more details to work out,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”

As I waited, I thought about how I was going to tell my husband about our new puppy. Surely, he’ll be excited, right? There’s plenty of room in our small loft on the 22nd floor of a high-rise for two birds, a huge, grumpy cat, the two of us plus a new puppy!

The man behind the desk returned, but with a serious look on his face. I smiled fetchingly up at him as he sat down across from me in his chair.

“Well,” he said. “I’m not sure how to say this other than, I just called your husband at the work number you gave in your paperwork and he didn’t know anything about adopting this puppy.”

“Oh, he knows, he just doesn’t know it was going to be today, is all!” I said, trying to not look crazy.

That was literally my only thought: don’t look crazy, don’t look crazy, don’t look crazy.

“That’s not what he said, ma’am.”

In fact, according to my husband, the conversation went something like this (Stage notes: the phone rings as my husband is interrupted in his office, where he sits at his desk, pouring over important investment strategies for his important clients):

“Hello, this is Mike.”

“Hello, this is Doug from the Anti-Cruelty Society. I’m calling about the puppy you’re adopting?”

“What puppy that I’m adopting?”

“The puppy that you’re adopting from our shelter today?”

“What puppy that I’m adopting from what shelter today?”

“Excuse me, but is this the husband of a Lynn Allaway?”

“Yes, it is, why? Wait, is she there with you? Oh man, is she trying to adopt a puppy??”

 

Annnnd….scene.

It ended badly, with me smiling brightly and saying that there was a misunderstanding, we’d be back tonight! Tomorrow at the latest, really! And him nodding slowly as he escorted me out of his office.

We went back the next day, but “my” puppy had already been adopted. I went Mariah Carey on his ass and  he realized it was time to get a dog, both of us on board this time, before his wife got arrested for dog-napping. And that’s when we welcomed Friday into our lives: a hyper Australian Shepherd, smarter than most humans and determined to save me from every danger in the world, both real and imagined.

It wasn’t long before I foisted another pet manipulation upon my poor husband. We now refer to this as The Case of the Weekend Kitty. We had recently moved to accommodate our growing brood. Early on a Friday summer evening, there was a knock on our door. We opened it to find the electricians who worked in our building standing there, holding a meowing bag.

“We know you love animals and our cat just had kittens. We didn’t even know she was pregnant! And now we have all these kittens that we have to find homes for, or else…”

“No,” my husband said.

“Awww, can I see them?” I asked.

“We can’t have any more pets,” he said, to the air, as I was too busy with a bag full of kittens.

They were adorable. The runt of the litter was teeny tiny, grey and black with a white tip on her tail. They placed her down on our floor, where she immediately pooped.

“No,” said my husband.

“Just for the weekend?” I asked. “Can’t we just play with her for the weekend and then give her back when they come to work here on Monday?”

“No one takes a kitten for two days and gives it back! No one in the history of the world has ever done that!”

I will! I will totally give her back on Monday! Another pet would be crazy,” I heard my alter ego, Mariah Carey, say from a distance. “And I’m not crazy, so don’t worry.”

Tigger is about 16 years old now.

One night, we had a party in our pet-filled loft for my husband’s college football teammates, who knew him and his fastidious ways extremely well. I’ll never forget one of the guys stopping the party in its tracks to shout, “Holy crap, everyone. I just saw Mike let a dog kiss him on the lips.”  Bit by bit, dog lick by dog lick, he was turning into an animal lover.

The month after my Mom passed away (yes, I’m going to bring this up all the time, get used to it), I could tell something was wrong with our beloved Friday. I took her into the vet and sure enough, it was cancer. They told me they had to operate immediately or that was it.

I called my husband at work, thinking back to the man who took a call about a dog more than fifteen years before. I told him the news, sobbing: the surgery was insanely expensive, thousands of dollars, the cost of a lovely spring break vacation for our family.

“Do it,” he said, with no hesitation. We did it. It bought us another year with Friday. It was my husband who was the one to carry her in his arms to the vet’s office when it was finally time to say goodbye. We all held her, my husband as distraught as I was, as upset as the kids were.

When folks asked us about getting another dog, I said no way, no how. I could never, ever go through that pain again, I said. A few sad months later, my husband came up to me and said, “Lynn, we need to talk. Come here and let’s sit down.”

Panic.

First of all, he never calls me Lynn. He calls me all sorts of terms of endearments and nicknames, but never just “Lynn.” And he never says “we have to talk” in a serious voice like that.

Well, I thought, this is it then, as he led me over to the couch. I guess we’ve had a good run–17 years of marriage, four kids. He’s going to tell me now all about his second, secret family that he’s been keeping up in Wisconsin. All those business trips were really visits to them! I’ll bet his other wife is sturdy, quiet and practical; makes meatloaf for every meal, loves to wash the floors and never, ever takes her clothes off and leaves them right on the floor of her bedroom at the end of a long day, as if she’s been Raptured Up and all that’s left of her is this pile of clothing.

“Lynn? Hello? Did you hear me?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I must’ve spaced out there for a moment. What were you saying?”

He took a deep breath and said, “We need a dog. This family needs a dog. This home needs a dog. You need a dog. I need a dog. We have to get another dog. The kids should have the experience of a puppy. You need a puppy. We all need a puppy.”

Knock me over with a feather.

The man who used to practically walk behind the cat, sweeping up stray hairs was now advocating for a puppy?? A peeing, shoe-chewing, mess-making, hyper puppy? Wait, he wants that and not a sensible, meatloaf-making second wife? Score!

We welcomed Blue (Friday’s grandnephew) into our lives just a few months later. He chewed our shoes, ate my cowgirl hat, made messes, barked and woke up napping kids. But Blue was also there to help us all when we had to say our devastating goodbyes to Aslan, who was nearly twenty years old.

But apparently, my husband does have his limits…

Tigger has been peeing in weird spots for reasons we can’t quite figure out, nor can the vet. My husband thinks it’s “because she’s being an asshole.” She pees right at the bottom of the staircase, on the wood floor. And who is usually the first one down in the morning, walking barefoot, half asleep, to let the dog out and make coffee?

What the? Oh, for crying out loud!! TIGGGGGERRRRRR! I told you no one ever in the whole world gives a kitten back. When Tigger goes, that’s it! No more litter boxes, no more cats, you hear me? NO MORE!”

I can’t help but think about my daughter: C’mon, girl, keep painting him pictures about lonely cats at the shelter. You are your mother’s daughter, work him over and get us some kittens–you can do this!

And also: happy anniversary, baby.

 

 

 

 

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