A few weeks ago, our cat Jacques developed what we’ve affectionately been calling his pimp limp. Assuming he’d just had a too-hard landing from one of his many leaps off the kitchen island, we waited a while before thoughts of early onset arthritis and joint fluid infections guilted me into a trip to the vet this past Saturday. After a ninety-six point inspection on his front quarters, no obvious injuries or abnormalities were found and it was all chalked up to the possibility of a pulled muscle. No doubt earned in his many athletic endeavors, including…
Lounging on pizza boxes:
Guarding the goldfish…
Eating Happy Meals:
Et cetera. At some point in the exam, our vet located a lump on his back. Something she assured me was most likely a fatty deposit, and felt like a fatty deposit, but there was a teeny tiny outside chance it could be a tumor. She recommended just waiting and keeping an eye on it, but said I also had the option of having some liquid drawn from it to be sent to the lab. Working off my general suspicion that vets, doctors and dentists are fear-mongers who rack up insurance bills by talking you into testing or fixing problems you don’t have, I was surprised by her wait-and-see recommendation, and left the office feeling pretty confident it was nothing to worry about.
Until we hit the first traffic light and Drew said, “I’m surprised you didn’t want him tested. I would have thought this was the type of thing that would have driven you insane wondering about.”
One U-Turn later, poor Jacques (who was certain he’d narrowly escaped) was having a needle plunged in his back. 24 hours later, I’m $120 lighter for a lab test that came back negative, but I’m a thousand times more sane.
I’m also feeling like a bit of an idiot, and realizing that I’m completely irrational when it comes to being paranoid about the cats’ health. And if I’m like this with a couple of flea bags, what am I going to be like if we have kids? Scuttling them off to the pediatrician for every cough that sounds suspiciously rattly? Signing off on orthodontia treatments that resemble medieval torture devices? Ordering the $4,000 custom helmet Adam Carolla always rails about being talked into for his kid’s “mis-shapen” head?
I had, up until this point, not factored health issues into the whole “we’d be dead broke if we had kids” thing. There was no need to. The cost of diapers, daycare and socks the size of marshmallows was more than enough to send me into a tailspin. But while diapers, daycare and socks are a must, some of these health-related items are Maybes at best.
And we all know how well I do with processing the Maybes. Would I be dooming myself to a never-ending string of thoughts that I was being too cheap or lazy or defensive about something that could potentially screw up something REAL for my kid?
I’ve done my fair share of poking fun at people with full-blown Baby Rabies. You know the type – the ones whose biological clocks start BRRRRRRINGING at the very sight of a double-wide Bugaboo stroller. The ones who make new moms a little nervous with such comments to the baby as, “You’re so cute, I could just STEAL YOU!” I’ll admit, I’ve been giving these crazy ladies a hard time. But that’s all going to have to grind to a halt because it’s recently come to my attention that I’ve developed a raging case of PUPPY LUST.
When we’re on The Strand and people are passing by every two seconds with some prancing ball of fur on a leash (or in a stroller – this is Manhattan Beach after all), my IQ dips to that of a three year-old. I point at every single one and say, “Doggie!” or “Look at him go!” or “So tiny!” and other such intelligent observations. If there’s a car driving past with a dog hanging its head out the window, forget it. I’m done. My day is made, but Drew’s is ruined because I won’t stop talking about how there’s truly nothing that expresses sheer joy better than a dog with his tongue in the wind.
I didn’t grow up with dogs (my Mom would dash across the street if she fancied there was a Chihuahua looking at her the wrong way), and I’ve never really considered getting one in my adult life. They always seemed to be about a diaper genie away from having a baby, what with all the waking up at ungodly hours for morning walks and never being able to just set out a bowl of food and water for an overnight trip. But with my puppy obsession reaching new heights, I decided to start volunteering at a local animal shelter to get my fix, hoping this would be enough to cure me.
Drew was a nervous wreck on my first day, convinced I’d be rolling home with a Toyota Highlander stuffed to the brim with Pomeranians. I won’t pretend that wasn’t a real possibility, but to both his and my surprise, I’ve been going the The Lange Foundation* every week for a few months now and have yet to add another four-legged friend to the house. Is it because the dogs aren’t overwhelmingly cute? Oh, I don’t know, why don’t you ask my friend Barney here?
He’s pissed you even asked. Is it because I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of worth in knowing that I’ve made their day a little better? Ricky here does this little lip-smacking thing when he’s satisfied with my petting skills that just about kills me.
Is it because they don’t do the darnest things and make me laugh every time I go in? If you could see Confi’s hilarious gait, with his tiny legs kicking up from side to side when he walks, you wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face either.
But do any of these things make me want to take any of them home on a permanent basis? Well, of course. For about two minutes, until I really think it through. Do I want to surrender the currently un-destroyed state my furniture, take a shower every time I’m covered with slobbery licks, leave work when they get sick, feel terrible about boarding them for a weekend or asking our friends to take them in when we go on vacation? Much as I love them, they just don’t fit with my lifestyle and I don’t feel that I’m missing out on some incredible life experience that would make it all worthwhile to me.
So why can I come to this conclusion with such clarity when it comes to dogs, and remain so confused when it comes to babies? Whom, incidentally, I do NOT excitedly point out on the street. Maybe it’s because the life experience I’m missing out on with a dog is a little more clearly defined to me because of the time I spend walking with them, or because I have cats. But the whole having-a-kid thing remains just a giant fuzzy Unknowable. Perhaps the answer would reveal itself if I experimented with taking in a foreign exchange student or volunteering at a baby-walking facility. Perhaps I should stop making things up like “baby-walking facilities” and just take one of my friends’ babies out for a walk.
Anyone have a baby they want to loan me, in need of some fresh air and exercise?
[insert chirping crickets]
Fine, then does anyone have any words of wisdom about whether spending more time around babies might clarify things for me? Is it only because I’ve never had younger cousins or siblings (Matt, you don’t count since we’re only a year apart) and almost none of my friends out here have babies yet? Am I going to have to go all Elisabeth Shue on everyone, feather my bangs and start having weekly Adventures in Babysitting to get to the bottom of this?
*Boy, I did a terrible job of convincing you all to adopt a dog at Lange! But for those of you who are better people than me, Lange is a wonderful place to find a furry friend (they have cats too!) OR volunteer – we’re always in need of more walkers!
For those without kids, is there anything scarier in this world than someone showing up at work, mid-maternity leave, to show off the new baby? I’ll admit, when I heard those stroller wheels clacking down the halls at my old work, I did a legger to the bathroom more than once. Take Your Kids to Work Day and Halloween (when my company hosted Trick-or-Treating through the cubicle aisles) often found me cowering under my desk, or feigning extreme urgency – rushing off to fictitious meetings or picking up a non-ringing phone to engage in an I-can’t-be-bothered-now argument.
I suffer a certain level of guilt over this and often wonder how would it feel if I were in their shoes and someone did this to me? But oh wait – I sort of already know. Because people ignore the fact that my cats exist all the time. Am I miffed? No. Some people aren’t pet people. If they’re not interested, they’re not interested – why would I ever want them to pretend to be? Especially if the cats are just sleeping or eating, which comprises about 99.9% of their day. But if Jacques wants to join us in a game of flip cup…
…or tries to steal a sip of someone’s Merlot…
…or Olivia attempts a desperate escape up the screen door…
…well, then I’d probably expect our guest to pay them some attention.
Similarly, if someone’s baby is wearing some cute Kate Spade flats or spouting stock tips like the e-Trade baby, I’m likely to take notice. But if the baby – which, by the way, looks remarkably like every other baby I’ve ever seen – is just passed out or drooling on itself…why is it necessary to shower them with compliments? Is the self-esteem of the baby in jeopardy?
No, I don’t think so. In fact, their understanding of compliments is probably equal to that of a cat’s. So it’s for the parents’ benefit – they want their babies to be noticed. And for those of us without kids, pets are our babies. So why is it acceptable to act as if someone’s pets don’t exist, but if you try the same with a baby, your heart must be made entirely of coal?
Think about it – if you run into a friend walking their German Shepherd on the Strand and neglect to pat its head, your friend is likely to continue their walk without a second thought. But ignore a baby in a stroller when you run into a Mommied acquaintance? You may as well be cast as the villain in the next Batman movie, so vile are you.
I’m not asking for equal treatment of pets and babies. Good grief, that would be insane.
Can you imagine if the Pet People started sending birth announcements when we adopt a new furball – touting pounds, ounces and breed? Or registering at Petsmart and asking our girlfriends to throw us a party with a three-tiered litterbox cake? Or dressing our Chihuahuas in little Ralph Lauren velour track suits?
No! Let the babies have that, all of that. All I ask is that we not be vilified for choosing to focus our attention on the mother (whom we likely haven’t seen in a while and can actually hold a conversation with) instead of cooing at a baby who has no idea who we are and will never remember the incident anyways. And in return, I promise to continue not caring when someone ignores the cats, to not fish for compliments about their lustrous coats and lengthy whiskers, and to not insist that people gather them up in a cuddly embrace.
Deal? Probably not, but a girl’s gotta try.