Critter Chaos

I write this column on a table shared by shredded newspaper particles.

On a nearby rug, there is one smuggled sock, one stolen shoe and dog toys that include a sock monkey, two squeaky hedgehogs, one squeaky squirrel, three squeaky chicken legs and a bucket for the chicken legs, which, when turned upside down, looks like a Shriner’s fez.

Update: Catniss Poundcake, a cat, is now walk-ing toward me carrying one of the chicken legs. She is yowling like a code-red siren.

In the room behind me is a crate the size of a shed lined with a pink Hannah Montana blanket. We call the crate “the cubby.” It also contains a toy dog dubbed Fake Mommy.

Fake Mommy and Hannah Montana do, in-deed, make the cubby more inviting for its nightly tenant, a large puppy named Rigby Floyd. As of this writing (mid-March), Rigby is more than 45 pounds at 6 months old. When I pick him up, I feel a quaking hernia ready to burst out of my gut.

At this very second, Rigby—who also goes by “Big Floppy Monster” and “Get Down!”—is at my feet sighing dramatically.

It is raining and he is overdue for his morning walk. I am avoiding eye contact because his big goldendoodle eyes could lure me into a thunder-storm. That face could win an Oscar.

Catniss just dropped the chicken leg and fell asleep. Like Rigby, she gave up on me. On the couch next to her is Cargo, another cat, the thieving scamp who shreds the newspaper daily.

“Aw,” I’ll tell my wife. “He’s a news consumer. Ha! Get it?”

Amy gets it. Same joke every day. She, however, is more interested in removing the cat from the table.

Forgive me for burying my lede, but it takes 350 words to set the scene at the Schlenker Zoo. This column is about pets and how dynamics change when you bring a pony-sized, deliriously happy “Big Floppy Monster” into a home already claimed by cats unwilling to share attention.

Frankly, it has been a quiet morning. The circus usually starts in early afternoon when Rigby gets his bark on and, despite daily failed attempts, tries to play with the cats. He does this at full volume when Amy and I are on conference calls with cli-ents and supervisors.

But Rigby is determined to win over the cats by chasing and barking. The cats’ tails are the width of baseball bats, while Rigby’s tail is wagging wildly, his hammock-sized tongue dangling under a goofy grin.

There are no grand epiphanies in these words. But know this: We adore this chaos. We are at least one animal over my desired limit, yet this zoo is essential to our family’s story.

My guess is you can relate. Your stories likely are wilder than mine, and I would love to hear them. But for now, the rain has stopped and I must walk this year’s nominee for Best Actor in a Comedy Featuring Hedgehogs and Tattered Socks.   OS

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