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The Family Pet by Dr. Michael Trapani

Joy

Nov 22, 2017
by Dr. Michael Trapani

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I am grateful for many things: My family, my friends, my community, my home… and the many, many other blessings that fill my life. In this time of Thanksgiving, and throughout the Season of Renewal, it is often the smallest of things that bring us our greatest joy. I’m talking about our pets, of course, the goofy dogs and screwball cats who fill our homes with chaos. Without them, our homes would be CALM (it’s a scary thought). What’s more, the pets have taken charge of our personal exercise programs.

Surely, we’d be nothing but a bunch of lumps if one dog or another did not rouse us, demanding to go out for a call of nature just seconds after we settle down from chores. We live to serve, of course, and the dogs do everything they can to keep us busy, knowing that our well-being depends upon remaining constantly and actively at their disposal.

How would Barb and I survive without Handsome Gus, our Bassett / Lab, barking to warn us that someone has walked down the street, or that some far-distant dog has glanced his way, or that a bird has dared to settle on a lawn chair? Somebody has to keep the birds at bay, after all, or we might all wind up in a Hitchcock film. The amazing thing is that Gus can see invisible birds. He’s really quite talented that way. We, of course, must leap to our feet to see what he’s barking about. It’s very aerobic.

Sophie Wophie, our ChiWestHund, has taken it upon herself to ensure that my fingers remain nimble and my arms strong. She does this by insisting I throw a toy for her to fetch on any occasion I dare to seat myself on the sofa. She is really quite athletic about catching her toys, and would keep me busy for hours on end if it were not for Gus, who appropriates her toy for a game of Keep Away whenever he sees my arm beginning to tire.

Luna, our little old lady Malti-Tsu, is a spine and lap specialist. She keeps us flexible by insisting that we (especially Barb) lift her on to the loveseat eight times per hour. Bend-Stretch-Lift-Repeat, that’s Luna’s mantra. Once returned to her place of honor, Luna ensures Barb’s flexibility by claiming a sizable portion of the footrest. Thanks to the constant ministration of this little tyrant, Barb has the flexibility of a yoga instructor. She adjusts her legs to Luna’s varied and imaginative posturings with the skill of a circus contortionist, that is, until Luna decides to jump down. Then it’s – Bend-Stretch-Lift-Repeat – all over again. No wonder Barb is in such great shape.

The cats are much more subtle. Oh sure, they will demand to play laser chase or fishing pole now and then, but their real gift is the game of “Bump In The Night.” It goes something like this: BUMP! (Or sometimes CRUNCH! CRASH! or SMASH!). Then Barb says “WHAT was THAT?” and I say, “Whuh?” And then one or the other of us must get up and search the house for debris or other telltale signs of surreptitious cat-activity. Typically, we’ll find the cats peacefully grooming their nails as if nothing has happened. We know better, of course, and redouble our efforts until the location and nature of destruction has been identified. Finding the source of these bumps-in-the-night is not always an easy thing, yet the kitties manage to maintain expressions of complete and utter innocence before drifting into the shadows when at last we discover their mayhem.

I can’t imagine a home without animals to stir things up and provide a layer of unpredictability to a dark winter evening. Ours is a silly, sometimes crazy animal house. If perhaps we aren’t allowed to rest quite so much as we might wish, well… maybe that’s for the best.

Then, sometimes, on a deep December night when the wind blows and the raindrops pitter on the roof, we look around to see our house full of sleeping dogs and cats, and all is quiet: Gus with his big Bassett toes a-twitch as he dreams on the sofa. Luna, who snores (and toots) from the footrest of Barb’s loveseat, and Sophie, reclining majestically on the chair back. The cats, asleep in their cat tree, make not a sound…

This is joy, and all is right with the world.

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