It was late December 2006, only a few days before Christmas, when Nicole and I moved into our new home in Roslyn. We actually made settlement in October and went through two months of various repairs and upgrades in the house, turning a lovely grandmother’s home into a house worthy of two relatively young and geeky childless people.
Among the work we did was making sure our new home was pet friendly. With Cleo (and our personal taste) in mind we removed all of the carpet and had hardwood installed throughout the upper and lower floors. We put a pet door in the basement door so Cleo and Saku would have easy access to their litter box and get that out of the view of visitors. We put the cat tree in the foyer, allowing the cats to look out of the front windows from a prime location. Everything was set.
I still remember seeing the cats wander the empty apartment before we moved them into our new home. I opened the apartment bedroom door and they came out slowly — stunned almost — and looked completely freaked out, as if Cleo and Saku were concerned that we were robbed. But bringing them into the house was an adventure for them. New smells. New places to explore. And more importantly…STAIRS! Cleo had a brief taste of stairs when she lived with my In-Laws, and both of the cats had fun in the apartment hallway on occasion. We would let them walk down the stairs under close supervision, but now they had three floors to roam and enjoyed checking out all of this space for two tiny cats.
Our next-door neighbor – a single mother with two teenage kids – was also a cat owner, but she was an absentee one at best. She had five adult cats and four of them would come and go from a broken window on her front porch. Our street, which is a dead-end block that terminates at a park, has plenty of feral cats in the area. My supposition was that this neighbor was probably a good reason for that since most of these cats were likely inbred castoffs from her own indoor-outdoor family of unfixed felines.
Our cats had an entirely different lifestyle in which they were safely sheltered. They were in their glory roaming their new home and got along wonderfully in the new digs. Then in February we did something to throw them for a loop.
Only two months after we moved into the house, Nicole and I stopped in a local pet store that was holding an adoption event featuring puppies that were born to dogs rescued from the recent Hurricane Katrina. We fell in love with a tiny black ball of fur that the people running the event eventually convinced me was really a Black Lab. We thought it over, put in an application and gave the required vet references. Seven days later we were called and told that the puppy was ours.
Just like that we were dog owners.
We were very careful when we took the puppy home, especially because neither of us really knew what to expect since we were both new to puppy ownership. Nicole and I both had experience with dogs (mine much more briefly than hers) but neither of us had ever owned a puppy. We learned the hard way that owning a puppy is different than dog ownership. Everything is on a smaller, dirtier, bitier scale with lots more work. And much less sleep.
When we first introduced Nori to her new stomping grounds, Nicole and I figured it would be wise to keep Cleo and Saku locked away in our bedroom. Only once we were confident that cats and dogs would not fight like…well, cats and dogs, we took baby steps to introduce them. Nothing was funnier than that first night when Saku and Nori, both the same size, were playfully chasing each other around the house. We laughed for hours watching them.
But that was what seemed to be the lone bright spot of puppy ownership.
While housebreaking Nori we kept her alternately gated and crated in the kitchen. During the day, while Nicole and I were at work, Nori took the time to chew everything in the kitchen in sight and poop everywhere except on the newspaper we laid out for her. I’m not sure about you, but cleaning up dog doo and shredded wood from your kitchen on a daily basis is not something you want to do. But Nori was also telling us, in her own way, that maybe we weren’t dog people. Animal lovers? Sure. But definitely not dog people.
Waking up in the middle of the night, walking her at 2am, breaking her habit of chewing everything, housebreaking her, and the frustration of taking her outside to go potty only to have her go to the bathroom the moment she walked back in the house – all of these things were anger-inducing reminders that living with a dog is nothing like living with a cat.
So, when the contractor who was brought in to begin renovating our kitchen showed interest in Nori it seemed like kismet. He was married with three children and lived in Bucks County where he had two and a half acres of land, and most importantly, he had an adult black lab at home that wanted a playmate. It sounded like a great place for a dog to be, and in all fairness to Nori we were not giving her the amount of love of the life she deserved. After only four short months of being Nori’s owners we made the difficult decision to give her away.
Just like that, Nori was gone and we were back to being cat parents only.
Two weeks after saying goodbye to Nori we were still re-adjusting to our calm lives of cat ownership. It was a blessing to have had Nori in our lives, even briefly, because it instilled in Nicole and me the idea that we are not cut out to have dogs because they are so different than cats. A dog depends on you so much more, treating you like an owner. A cat lives with you almost independently, as if you’re just roommates and they’re there rent free. And much like our own frustrations, the idea of having a dog in the house seemed to stress the cats as well.
Around the same time we said goodbye to Nori, our next door neighbor (the terrible cat mom) sold her house to move into a more affordable apartment. We were glad to see her go and offered to help her find new homes for her cats if she needed it, but she said she was taking them all with her. We figured we would never hear from her again.
Naturally, just as Saku and Cleo were beginning to get their bearings again on their more relaxed living environment we received a phone call from our former neighbor asking if we could take a few kittens off of her hands…
TO BE CONCLUDED