September 2001

It used to be that we had only one animal in our house. Those were the good old days. Just one smallish golden retriever who is reasonably well-behaved. Of course, Evan’s teacher had to move her family to another state and we therefore wound up with their excess guinea pig. He’s not too bad though as long as you change his bedding regularly. He doesn’t actually do anything though; you can’t really even tell if he’s standing or sitting. But, suddenly we find ourselves overrun with critters.

Mel’s brother has a border collie named Roscoe. He has had to move (the brother, that is) with his job and Mel’s mom has been taking care of Roscoe until suitable accommodations can be made. She’s going on vacation though and so Roscoe has come to stay with us. That brings us to two dogs – both in the range of 50 pounds and both of whom are accustomed to staying in the house. The transition has been pretty smooth due to careful planning and now life in our house is OK if you don’t mind having your ankles whacked by waving tails all the time. They go where I go and the tails wave all the time.

Roscoe is one of your finer examples of doghood in that he can catch a frisbee. Indeed, that’s all he wants to do and he obviously feels it is his job. He takes it very seriously; so much so that I have to hide the frisbee or he will stand looking at it and not eat. If he sees where I put it, he will stare at the hiding place and occasionally look at me and bark. If I leave the room, he comes after me with that “come here, I need something” look. It’s pretty cool to have a frisbee-catching dog even if it is only for a short while. He’s a real hit with kids. Plus, as long as the frisbee is out, he doesn’t wander very far. His only failure so far was when the frisbee accidentally landed in a pile of dog doo and there was some hesitation about where to grasp it. I can’t fault him for that though. It just shows his innate good sense.

He can also sing. One has only to pull out the harmonica and begin blowing and Roscoe with point his nose skyward and begin to howl: “Arooo! Arroooo!” I don’t think it’s because he’s enjoying himself but with dogs, who can tell? Still, it makes you think of fame and fortune with headlines like: “Roscoe sings the blues”.

Dixie has taken his arrival pretty well although she still goes wherever he goes with a look that says quite plainly “Hey! Don’t pee on my stuff!” There was a bit of growling and posturing for a day or so but they seem to have worked it out. Actually, Roscoe has never actually made eye contact with her. It’s as if he’s trying to ignore her. I had hoped that she would learn some of the frisbee catching but she’s not taken any interest. She refuses to eat her own food and eats only his now so they both eat from the same bowl of swill. They both seem pretty relaxed now; when they fall asleep in the living room in the evenings, they both are usually rolled over on their backs with their legs up in the air. I think a dog won’t fall asleep that way if they aren’t pretty sure of the gentleness of their surroundings.

Mel’s mom apparently felt worried that we would feel some hardship and therefore brought along 50 pounds of Ole’ Roy dog food. That’s a lot of dog food. Getting it out of her trunk was like trying to get Evan out of the car when he has fallen asleep on the way home. There should be handles on those bags. We also have a 10 pound box of milk bones. I didn’t know they came in such large boxes. This box looks like something a new TV would come in.

He mystifies me sometimes though. Yesterday morning, when I let them both in, they were so excited that Roscoe sat down in front of me and began to howl. Why was he howling at me? The world may never know.

As if this was not enough, as the kiddos arrived back at home after a shopping trip with Mel’s mom, they announced that they had both gotten fish. More animals! Erin has named hers “Tiger” (why a fish named tiger? You tell me and we’ll both know.) Evan has saddled his fish with the unlikely moniker of “Jim Bob” which I kind of like. One seldom encounters a fish named Jim Bob (Indeed, I don’t think that I ever have) and it is therefore hard to forget.

The final score is animals 5, humans 4 – we are finally outnumbered. So far we are free from birds or cats although Erin has been begging for a cat for years. I’m putting my foot down as far as cats are concerned though.

The time has come:  Evan is out of elementary school and has moved to the middle school to begin 6th grade.  It makes me remember my own transition to “junior high” and my first trip to the ancient old building might have been best described by the following excerpt from “The Statement of Randolph Carter” by H.P. Lovecraft.

“…I could distinguish a repellent array of antique slabs, urns, cenotaphs, and mausoleum facades; all crumbling, moss-grown, and moisture-stained, and partly concealed by the gross luxuriance of the unhealthy vegetation. 

The removal of the slab revealed a black aperture, from which rushed an effluence of miasmal gases so nauseous that we started back in horror. After an interval, however, we approached the pit again, and found the exhalations less unbearable. Our lanterns disclosed the top of a flight of stone steps, dripping with some detestable ichor of the inner earth, and bordered by moist walls encrusted with niter.”

But Evan’s experience seems to have gone much better than that.  I look forward to hearing about his exploits around the dinner table.