Howling at the Moon

Y’all want some dogs? How about some cats?
This morning, I was driving my teenager to school and I turned to her and said, “Do you realize that there are nine living things in our house?”
She looked at me.
“I mean, nine actual living people and animals that I’m responsible for keeping alive,” I said. “That doesn’t even count all the insects and mice and things we don’t know about.”
She smiled and then looked out the window.
I drove on. “Nine!” I thought. “No wonder I’m so damn tired.”
For those of you who’ve lost count, that’s four people, three cats and two dogs. All of whom need fresh water, food and a cozy place to sleep every day. And, like I said, that doesn’t count all the things I don’t know about. And, some things I do know about – like fleas.
Yep. We have fleas.
Admitting you have fleas in your home is a little bit like admitting you have bedbugs or your kid has head lice. It feels a lot like saying, we don’t wash and we live in filth, and please, feel free to judge us because we are pretty much one step away from being Jesco White, and by the way, watch out for that dog crap in the kitchen – I’ve been meaning to clean that up for a couple of days now.
You know what I mean?
Fleas are gross. We’ve combed and we’ve bombed and we’ve poisoned. We’ve even accidentally paid $100 to join Amazon Prime in our haste to order more flea eradication supplies. I think we’re finally getting ahead of them. But, oh Lord, who knows when they’ll all just hatch out and come back again?
I told my coworker that I thought I might as well just burn down the house, and she told me that sounded an awful lot like a permanent solution to a temporary problem, and I was, like, yeah. You might have a point there.
And so I went home and vacuumed and mopped some more and threw all the rugs out on the front lawn and forgot to bring them back inside.
They’re still out there.
Meanwhile, we’ve also discovered that one of our desk drawers is full of mice droppings. Three cats and two dogs; a house full of fleas and a drawer full of mice. It kind of sounds like a country song mixed with an Irish memoir: Tammy Wynette meets Frank McCourt.
Last night, I was awakened by a pack of coyotes in the field across from my house. As they yipped, the dogs, safe in their kennels under the kitchen table, began furiously barking at the noise, offended that they couldn’t go outside and properly defend the parameter. The cats, oblivious, slept on our legs as Tom and I drowsily listened to the cacophony.
“After all these pets die, I’m not replacing them,” I said to myself, not generously.
I’ve always thought that when you live in the country, you’re going to have animals – you just need to pick which ones you have. What I mean is, if you opt to not have dogs and cats, then you’re going to have mice and snakes. The years have pretty much born out my theory.
However, there are a couple of caveats. For instance, oftentimes my large male cat, a voracious hunter when motivated, will go outside to catch a vole or a chipmunk, and then bring it into the house only to lose it under the sofa. Basically, instead of killing pests, the cat is simply bringing them inside.
My terrier does a similar thing. Shortly after we got him, we began noticing dead rats in our driveway. (It took me a while to realize they were rats because when I saw them they were always flat – because I’d unknowingly driven over their dead bodies – SORRY! – and so I thought that they were just field mice that seemed bigger after being flattened – AGAIN SO SORRY! Soon, I realized they were, in fact, rats.)
“I didn’t even know we had rats,” I told Tom.
“We didn’t,” Tom said, balefully looking at our dog. “Until now.”
As I drove thinking this morning, thinking about my house full of living beings, I imagined what the back of my car would look like if I bought those stick-figure family stickers to represent each one of us. It would take up over half the width of the back windshield, I thought. It’s ridiculous.
And yet, 10 years in the future, if someone were to present me with some big-eyed baby animal, you know damn well I’d probably bring it home. How do you think we got all the ones we have now?


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