Squirrel!

On weekdays, I share a life-lesson learned. Here is today’s lesson…

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I know the angry chatter of a Michigan squirrel. I have seen them shaking their tiny fists at me from the tops of trees I have strayed too close to. They yell, “Hort! Hort!” and “Ch-ch-ch!”

I was completely surprised to find this Tampa squirrel right outside my apartment today, yelling at me in a foreign squirrel language. He sounded more like, “Hach, che-che! Hach! Hach! Che-che-che!” I tried to capture it on video but my mic could barely pick up the sound. If you’re from Tampa, I’m sure you already know the sound anyway.

I thought it was a bird at first. I was trying to find it in the branches, when I spotted this tiny squirrel dressing me down, basically yelling at me to get off its lawn.

I have wondered if dogs in other countries bark in a different language than dogs from the U.S. I also wonder if they have regional dialects. Are dogs from New Orleans tough to understand if you are a dog from New York? Can an American dog understand a Parisian hound?

Just because something looks the same does not mean it is the same. 

Regardless, watch out for foreign squirrels. They don’t like it when you get close to their nuts.

(So sorry for that–you were going to say it if I didn’t though, right?)

 

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Cat People Versus Dog People

Monday through Friday each week, I share a lesson I have learned in life. Here is today’s lesson…

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Cat People are fearful of change. They are comforted by routines, tradition, and schedules (it is their way or their way). They know when to wake you up (whenever they want you to wake up), when you are supposed to feed them (whenever they want you to feed them), and when it is time to play (whenever they want to watch you look stupid for 10 or 15 minutes while they sit there).

Dog People embrace the uncertain. They want to go outdoors, explore, and claim the world as their home (usually with pee). They are comforted by people they love, having new adventures, and tasting everything life has to offer (even if it was dropped on the floor first). They know when it is time to wake you up (anytime is a good time to wake up and explore!), when you are supposed to feed them (anytime you are eating or there is food around is the perfect time to eat!), and when it is time to play (it’s always time to play! How about now? Can we play now? Do you have that ball-thing? Do you have anything? I don’t care–I’ll chase a stick!).

Cat People pride themselves on being sly and clever.

Dog People pride themselves on being trusting and eager.

Cat People want you to work for them so they can spend more time napping.

Dog People don’t care who does the work as long as it is exciting and everyone is having fun.

No one is completely one or the other and both have their advantages (after all, they are the top two competing pets in the world). Oddly, even though I own a cat, I think I might be more of a Dog Person.

How about you?

 

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Your Pet Thinks You’re Crazy

I look back on each day and figure out what lesson I learned from it. Then, I share each day’s lesson with you. Here is today’s…

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I have been thinking about Time lately, and one thing I realized is we humans are the only creatures who have any long-term sense of it. Our pets, for example, live in a world that runs on the most rudimentary mathematical equation: cause and effect. When I do This, That happens. They live without any context for living.

In some ways, this means they enjoy more satisfaction with life–pets do not have the stress of making ends meet, maintaining relationships, or worrying about their environment. They do not even have the context of sanitation to be mindful of their hygiene. In other ways, it means they have no appreciation for the nuances or consequences of living and therefore, have less satisfaction with life–they have no fascination for rainbows, no appreciation of the work put in to feed them, no gratitude for their toys or the people in their lives.

Can you imagine what it must be like for the dog whose exasperated master rubs the dog’s nose in the dog’s urine when the dog pees on the floor? To the dog, the math was simple: he had to pee, that was the best spot he could find. The dog has none of the context around the master’s stressful day at work, the cherry-wood stain on the floor, the fact that they have to keep living there, or the amount of time and effort needed to clean the mess.

People argue that the dog knows he is in trouble, but does he? From the dog’s perspective, probably the best explanation he can conjure is, “Sometimes when I pee in my cell, the people who locked me in prison go ballistic. I have no idea what they expected me to do instead. I’m hoping they don’t notice this time because the last time they completely lost their sh*t and forced my face into it. And then 20 minutes later, they treat me well. This is one messed up situation.” 

Of course, it is not even that sophisticated. The dog has no concept of prisons, cells, bad, good, punishment, or reward. The world is simply a very confusing morass of double standards, random beatings, and meaningless love. What we consider to be loyalty, the dog might think is simply the safest bet. “Despite these people being complete nutters, I can’t imagine how much worse it could be without them.” Then again, no wonder they often try to escape and make it on their own.

The context of our lives is what makes life meaningful, which means it can also rob meaning from parts of life. We make some parts more meaningful than other parts. Sometimes the dog is important. Sometimes the dog is an excuse to vent negative emotions. To the dog, though, it is all the same. You are a crazy person.

To bring this back to Time, the dog has no context from which to remember peeing on the floor is bad. The dog just knows you are random and crazy and sometimes treat the dog well, sometimes poorly.

For us, it is the context of the past that gives meaning to the present and future.

 

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Before You Get a Pet…

Today’s Lesson: Pets are great companions but they come with the same challenges as taking care of a toddler or elder.

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I love my one-eyed cat. She can turn a bad day good in about two heartbeats. She is my assistant, making sure I never wake up late and reminding me when to take a break. She is cute, attentive, and fuzzy.

She is also a terror. She barfs randomly and often, usually in the middle of the night. She insists on barfing anywhere there is carpet and avoiding the 85% of the apartment with easy-to-clean linoleum or hardwood floors. She sometimes misses the litter box and what I sometimes think is a hairball… isn’t.

She whines. A lot. She can wreak havoc on my ears and patience with a piercing “Mee-rrOWW!” when she demands attention.

She is fickle about her toys and food, and I have spent a frightening amount of money guessing what she might like. Not to mention, the cost of removing the tumor in one of her eyes, as well as follow-up vet visits, bills, and the obvious onset and cost of arthritis and other problems as she grows older. In fact, when the cost of removing her eye started edging over two grand, I began debating if I was doing the right thing. With two thousand dollars, obviously I could save my dear cat and extend her life… but I could also have simply given the money to a local shelter and saved many cats and dogs–which would perhaps be equally loved and valued by other families. It was tough but obviously I ponied up the money and kept Rainee around, despite her more annoying eccentricities.

When I see people trying desperately to give away their pets, I feel bad for both the pets and the people. I can relate. I have had so many late nights broken by poor sleep (thanks to Rainee’s puking or wanting to play or just generally announcing her presence to the quiet room) that it is more remarkable for me to count the nights I have slept more than three hours in a row.

The point is this: pets are wonderful but it is surprising how many families are unprepared to accept the responsibilities of ownership. Of course, some pets are easy just like some people–they do not seem to want to be fussed or have few needs. Most pets are also quirky, eccentric, and unpredictable…just like most people, and their needs change over time. It is surprising we do not have to pass a ownership test before buying a cat or dog. Most people, I would guess, are simply not prepared to be good pet parents.

If you are considering buying a pet–a commitment of nearly two decades of care and responsibility–I recommend considering these three questions ahead of time:

 

1. Am I ready to have a toddler in the house (again)? Are you prepared to never expect a solid 7-8 hours of sleep per night for the next 20 years or so? Are you prepared to have things broken, clean up messes, and be at the beck and call of a poor communicator that never matures for two decades, no matter where you move? Are you prepared to never have an uninterrupted romantic moment and clean hair and other things from your clothes all the time?

2.  Am I willing to break the bank for medical expenses, if needed? Cats and dogs have accidents and grow old just like people, and they come with the same problems you may face in taking care of a toddler or elder. Pets may experience dementia, eventual blindness, brittle bones, cancer, or random accidents like falling and breaking a leg or having urinary tract issues or even just food poisoning. You are the parent, caretaker, friend, and prison ward all-in-one.

3. Am I able to take proper care of my pet? Pets need to have their teeth brushed. They expect clean and sanitary rest room areas just like you. It is not good for them to “hold it” for 8-10 hours a day any more than it would be good for you to do the same. They need attention and social time every day or they become a little crazy, just like a person would. They are part of the family when you bring them into the family. We buy toys for pets because pets are not toys, and they are not glorified footrests or outlets for frustration.

 

If you are not ready, willing, and able to be a pet parent (or have not given it thorough consideration), then you might not be ready to own a pet for now. Sure, they are cute and cuddly and charming but they are also needy and demanding and dumb by comparison to humans. If the idea of taking care of an older parent or grandparent until they die is not appealing to you, then consider you have the same responsibility to an aging pet. Rainee is basically a child trapped in the “Terrible Two’s” stage of development for her entire life. Two-year olds are adorable (to some people) but they are tough, especially when you did not give birth to them.

If I still have not dissuaded you from buying a pet, then enjoy spoiling your pet and be prepared to learn patience and kindness on a whole new level (meditation will help). Otherwise, maybe instead of a pet, use the money you would have spent on pet care each year to go on vacation, and be grateful for every good night’s rest! You can always volunteer at a shelter or dog-sit for your friends and have quality pet time without having to worry about being a bad pet parent.

 

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The Doctor Is In

Today’s Lesson: Patience is a virtue… until it isn’t.

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Our office dog, a charming Shih Tzu known as Doctor Monkey, knows how to get what he wants. Doctor Monkey knows where I hide the treats. He knows how to sucker me out of them, too. Those pleading eyes, the cute little dance with a slight, excited whine…

Doctor Monkey, to his credit, also knows when it is pointless to try. If he hovers around me for more than a few minutes and I am engrossed in my work, he half-heartedly tries a whine or two. If I do not respond, Doctor Monkey casually walks over to Bill’s office where he knows he has another opportunity to get what he wants.

Follow Doctor Monkey’s lead. Use your tried and true techniques to achieve success first. If they are not working, though, don’t keep hanging around waiting for magic to happen. Change your approach or move on to the next opportunity.

 

 

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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Today’s Lesson: Sometimes you have to do things you don’t like. Be pleasant, get them over with, and move forward.

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I dread that “certain time of month” when some people’s moods are affected and everything you are doing is thrown off for a couple days. It’s the worst. I think you know what I am talking about.

Haircuts.

I dread having my haircut every time I go to the salon. I feel stressed a day or two before. I am prone to making an appointment, then canceling it, then rescheduling, and then just showing up randomly anyway. I just do not like having my hair cut. I am not afraid of scissors. There was no haircut trauma when I was a kid (well, except for the seventies “bowl” cut). I have always liked my stylists. It is not that getting my hair cut is ever a bad experience.

The problem I have with it is the interruption to the flow of life it creates every four to six weeks. It is an hour or more where I am forced to sit and listen to, and create, inane conversation (“So… how about that weather?” “Yeah… there sure is a lot of weather today…” “Did you see that thing on the news about that celebrity? Can you believe Bennifer is naming their kid Moonspeckle?”) Ugh. Please–just shave it all off and let me out of here! I’ll pay you whatever you want.

Not only is that meaningless conversation bad, but I am at the mercy of a person with scissors for as long as they want me to be. They get to push my head around like I am a living mannequin–“Tilt forward, please. Side. Lean your head back. Forward. Close your eyes. Here, let me rub a horse-ass hair brush on your face for a minute. Want a mirror?”

Then, when it is all done, even if they shampoo my hair again afterward, there are still a bunch of tiny hairs they miss that will make my neck and face itch until I go home and shower (for the second time that day, which adds to the time wasted not being productive). I am worse than a puppy getting a bath. I squirm. I pout. As soon as they are done making it look pretty, I run home or find the nearest lawn and just flop over and rub myself in the dirt so I have a reason to shower again.

Sometimes I skip rubbing myself in the dirt because… society. Still, haircuts suck. Yet, I still have to visit the stylist every month or so since I have not taught myself to cut hair with my left-hand, backwards while holding a mirror with my right.

The point is… sometimes I don’t understand evolution.

 

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The Lesson I Learned Today… 140705

If you have a cat (or dog), then you probably don’t need an alarm clock.

I am sometimes surprised by how well my cat knows my routines and rituals. If I am not up by 6:10 each morning, I get a Wet Willie from my cat (she licks my ear). If I’m not up after that, it’s a soft paw tap to the face. If that doesn’t work, she will repeat, and then start whining and nudging my hands until I can’t take it.

She also knows my routine when I come home (keys on counter, laptop on desk, clean up, change, start dinner). If I go out-of-order, it can really throw her off and she will “yell” at me and lead me where I am supposed to be to help me back on track.

It’s not surprising that our pets know us better than we know ourselves. After all, they don’t have much else to do but study us and our routines every day. We are the most exciting thing that happens in their lives and if I lived with giants, I suppose I would want to know their routines pretty well, too, so I could avoid being squished.

Ironically, cats always seem to be under foot, so… maybe I would study their routines so I can practice plotting their deaths if they ever turn on me. You know, just in case.

 

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