Now this is not about me or my son or any other human being on this planet.
Yep, it’s about my sweet little dog, Izzy.
When we first got her in our lives over a year ago, she’d been living with my mom since January. She would bark at strangers and growl at men (young men mostly), but other than those two auditory issues, she was truly the perfect dog.
Now we also have two cats. One is named Stanley who is about 17 years old and is strictly outdoors at this point. Sadly, Stanley, who is one tiny cat in comparison to most, is an alpha who felt the need to declare his dominance by spraying in our house. Yes, he’s neutered. We found it everywhere – he ruined a set of curtains and he ruined baseboards which we are only now fixing (a real pain in the tush.) So we made the very difficult decision to put him outside. Of course Stanley gets his own cat house which he seldom uses, and we’ve made up a cool bed for him and when it’s cold we let him sleep in the garage.
Stanley is truly one of the smartest cats I’ve ever met. He talks to you and head butts your hand as you reach out to pet him. But the talking is the best part. He’ll meow and you say, “hey, Stanley,” and you begin a back and forth that sounds suspiciously like any conversation you might have with a person. He has a great ear for waiting until you stop talking before he picks up and meows again. And he’s very affectionate.
It’s just too bad he’s got those nasty bad habits that he does. I’d let him inside in a minute but I know what would happen.
Our other cat, Milhouse, is really my son’s cat and we’ve just been fostering him for the past – oh, nine or ten years. Any day now, my son will want him back. Well, probably not, but one can hope.
Okay – that’s meaner than I meant it. Milhouse is almost the perfect cat. He’s very sweet, lets you pick him up, he purrs easily and often, he has the softest rabbity fur which really calms you down as you pet him, and he’ll snuggle right in while you’re watching TV. He’s a great cat – almost. His worst habit is that he will not – WILL NOT – bury his own poop in the box.
I know – not the worst thing because he’s never sprayed anywhere like old Stanley has. But Milhouse will use the cat box downstairs and the aroma of doody will waft upstairs – every damn time.
The ‘Publican growls, “Milhouse, you old bastard – BURY YOUR POOP” which as any of you know who have had the pleasure to be owned by a cat pretty much falls on those cute deaf ears. The ‘Publican has done plenty of poop burying for Milhouse over the years. Just to save our nostrils.
His other bad habit, if you want to call it that, is – Milhouse is one whiny son of a gun. Capital W whiny. He’s just like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. At our bedroom door the moment he hears a toilet flush it’s “meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.” In the whiniest tone ever. When he wants in to my husband’s office, he just sits at the door and whines – until he’s let in. And he doesn’t stop until he’s let in. I can say, “Hey Milhouse, come upstairs” and that won’t do a thing – he’s stuck until he gets exactly what he wants.
Now you might think his whiny meows are directed at anybody within earshot, but no. He’s quite particular about just whom these whines are directed towards, and it’s usually my husband.
That’s because, if it wasn’t obvious by now, the ‘Publican is the feeder of the animals, the primary dog-walker, and the definite catbox scooper-outer (and often times poop burial service, too.) So Milhouse is quite aware that if I exit the bedroom first in the morning, that I’m of NO USE TO HIM. He waits until the ‘Publican (or feeder) is around to start up with the whines for food.
I probably don’t have to mention that Milhouse is one big hunk of cat – or as my husband refers to him “20 pounds of quivering cat flesh.” He probably outweighs Izzy by at least eight to ten pounds.
So imagine my surprise when about three or four months ago, as Izzy was attempting to get up on the couch where we were that she just stood there, and out of her sweet little jaw came – a whine.
What? A whine? I’d never heard her whine. A few days later, same thing. And under the same circumstances.
Because, yep, after her first whine, I’d helped her up.
It was distinct and breathy, but it was a whiney little “Help me, mommy”.
And then I was in the kitchen and she came in looking for food (what else?) and she lowered her sad chihuahua eyes, and out came another whine. So now we’re up to what? Three whines?
We can’t stop her, although I’m now not giving in to the whines. Unless she’s really in distress, I just don’t respond to them.
But they completely annoy the living crap out of me. We didn’t have a whiny dog until a few months ago.
I decided to give it a think. My first thought in this think was – well, she’s mimicing somebody – and who could that be? D’oh. Yep, she’s doing what her cat brother has done for years – she sees that he whines and then he gets fed, why not try that to get what you want.
I shared my hypothesis with the ‘Publican who didn’t exactly laugh out loud. He actually gave it some thought of his own and said it had some merit.
But on my second round of thinking, I realized it could also be a form of settling in. And this is where it gets all psychobabbly and stuff. Sorry, can’t help it – I was a therapist after all. But for humans. Not dogs.
I know I’ve mentioned that she had been found by someone and eventually ended up in a foster home situation before my mom, then we, adopted her. Well, the lowest count of homes that I came up for Izzy was four. There may have been even a few more than that, as often foster situations change. Four different sets of people, four different survival scenarios to contend with, four different homes with four different sets of house rules.
We have no way of knowing if she’s been with us the longest. But she’s not that old – just about four years old – so it’s likely. We’ve noticed she’s gotten more comfortable, snuggling up with one and then the other – and often we hear a sweet sigh from her. That’s a real heart-melter for sure.
So it’s entirely possible that it wasn’t until recently, oh about three months ago or so, that she finally decided – “this is my home and these are my people.” She could finally exhale. We weren’t going to leave her anywhere or abandon her to the streets, or give her away to someone else. She was ours and we were hers. We are family, and all that stuff.
So maybe, just maybe, the whine was a way of testing the boundaries of our love. I’m not saying there’s anything conscious here. Maybe it was a way of giving all of herself, both her winning ways and her less-than-stellar moments, too, to us.
After all, we’ve pledged to love her, poopy pants and all, metaphorically speaking, of course. The only poop meister we really have to contend with is a big gray cat named Milhouse.
Of course my psychobabble might just be that – psycho and babble.
Maybe it’s just all Milhouse’s fault.