family pets

No excited phone calls, no cards in the mail, no flashy pictures on e-mail or websites announcing their arrival, but still they come – tumbling, pouncing, barking and mewing for their own place in the family.

First, the Pennsylvania family announced they had returned from vacation with a couple of pit bull puppies. My son wrote that their names are, “Tiger and Izzy. Izzy is white and Tiger is brown with slightly darker stripes across his back. At least he used to have them. We’re still trying to figure out if we are going to keep them. I figure they’re fine, but you know the pit bull stories. And they do like to wrestle with each other. We don’t let them have free range through the house – we thought we had them house trained, but they surprise us every time. So at night they go in a cage. They actually run to the cage when we bring them in the house.” He added that his wife has trained them to sit by putting food down in front of them and telling them “Sit” repeatedly. She would move the food if they moved. They learned to wait until she says, “eat.”

Then my daughter called. Her friend, an enthusiastic, animal-lover who provides housing when the local pet shop does not have room for a stray, called to say she had the perfect cat for a house with babies and toddlers.

Our youngest grandson named the sleek, black, feline ‘Pirate.’ Like every other two-year old in the house, the cat loves to play. In the wee hours of the morning while the rest of the house slept, I watched Pirate swat and spin a sporty, metal Matchbox car across the hardwood floor.
“That cat likes to roll the Matchbox car,” I said to the weary daddy emerging from his bedroom to start the day.
“Every morning,” he sighed.

“And he likes to carry soft, small stuffed animals in his mouth,” my bemused daughter said. … And, the baby’s pretty pink socks, I concluded after a flash of black with a dot of pink zipped by me.

Still kittenish, Pirate loves to wrestle. He tackled my hand in vigorous combat – but never unsheathed his claws. Visiting toddlers and pre-schoolers grab his tail, pet him backwards and delight in discovering the cat. Without baring a fang or claw to teach them their manners, Pirate heads for higher ground until an adult intervenes. An excellent place to be when the one-year-old cousin – with a topknot that flops charmingly over her eyes – arrived with her parents.
Eyes sparkling she reached to pet the cat. “Nice kitty,” her pet-less parents said. Technically they had a poodle, but through the busy years in college and work, a relative had assumed ownership of my daughter-in-love’s childhood poodle. A cat acceptable in one apartment was prohibited in the next.

Leaving the cat at home, we loaded up a double stroller and went to the Farmer’s Market in Little Rock. Toddlers and adults gave a cursory look at the fresh flowers, fruits, vegetables, baked goods and novelties. But, the St. Louis family came to a complete stop in front of a pair of ten-week old Shih Tzu puppies.

“We have been talking about getting a dog,” my son and his wife said bending down for a closer look. They petted and held the puppies. They wanted a dog, but with a six-hour drive home, they had not planned to buy a puppy.
They walked away saying, “If it is here when we get ready to go, we will take it with us.”

Three hours later, the puppy left the market in a brand new dog carrier.
At the house, their daughter grinned at the tiny mop of a dog. She clamored over her daddy’s leg to the puppy and turned herself around to sit down on it. Her daddy guided her bottom away from the little dog. Still smiling, she stood up, looked around, found the puppy and again prepared to sit on it. Before she landed, Daddy re-positioned his daughter and slid the puppy back into the cage’s protection.

Pirate walked over to the cage and poked a black paw through the grid to welcome the little stranger.
Puppy names floated over the cage: Bowser, Rocky, Bean – the new owners settled on Mr. Bean.

They broke up their ride home to St. Louis with frequent rest stops. Holding their toddler’s hand and the puppy’s leash, the new owners experienced a new reality, “Cute dog … oh and your daughter is cute, too.”
No big announcements, but the new norm has arrived for our families with new pets.