Saturday, December 22, 2007

Dwindling Pack

When I moved in with Homestead Mama, we had a combined total of four large dogs, seven cats and four parrots. It was nuts, but the pack was peaceful and well behaved. My goal was always to get down to two dogs, at least one of which was a mouser/ratter to keep the yard clear of small furry things with designs on wintering over inside our farmhouse.

All of my pets from Before (before meeting Homestead Mama, that is) have died. My lovely lab shepherd mix, Maggie, was a huge black sweetheart. She survived Parvo virus at 5 months old, getting hit by two cars and being lost for a week. She picked and ate raspberries off the bush by herself - I'd find her wandered off in our old yard grazing at the garden berry bushes, deftly avoiding the thorns. She slept with a part of her body touching mine at all possible times, and guarded me and my house with a ferocity that made me feel safer than at any other time in my life.

Misha, my cat who raised Maggie like a father and was one of a very few cats I liked, died at 22 years old a couple years ago. He was an amazing hunter, and could grab a fly out of the air three feet off the ground with his paw. He preferred to sleep in the bowl of cast iron sinks in the summer for the cool comfort.

Moody, my frisky little Cattle dog mix just died last year. I miss him daily. He was a funny little dog, nicknamed 'the mayor' for his habit of greeting each person in a room/ park/ car/ wherever he went. Now that Pequita is eating solid foods, he would be kept busy. He is the only pooch I've met who preferred veggies and fruit to meat; all the grapes and bit of banana that I find squashing under my slippers he would have eaten. He was the most gentle of all the dogs, and would have slept next to the baby, letting his fur be pulled as much as Monito wanted. He was the kind of dog that would have tolerated Pequita dressing him up in outfits. He died of a mix of old dog ailments.

Homestead Mama lost her shepherd mix Cherokee a few winters ago, to a freakish autoimmune disruption when Cherry was five. She was the smartest dog I've ever known, Cherry would patrol the house after we went to sleep and eat everything that she could find - pies on the counter, crumbs on the couch, feminine products in the trash can. She defended the car with everything she had - if we passed another animal, she would bark and paw at the window as if trying to dig her way out of the car - she was 80 lbs, so her pawing would sound like the window was going to pop out of the car, frequently startling passers-by and scaring the animal in question. While Cherry was very social and not at all bloodthirsty, she chased a deer across our property until it experienced death-by-Ford on our street. Cherry sat proudly by her 'kill' while H-mama returned to the house for the tools she needed to gut the deer and bring home the venison. (Growing up in the Adirondacks had advantages.)

Homestead Mama has also lost four cats in the years since I moved in. Bubelah, Dr. Seuss, Sasha and Marlena. I don't like cats much, and never really warmed up to these. She also finally agreed to find new homes for all four parrots in the last couple years.

Yes, our house was full of beating hearts when we first got together. I am most pleased that attrition has shrunk our numbers, because even though we love animals we had way too many. I'm even more pleased to be replacing the pets with babies.

We are left with two aging cats and two wonderful dogs, Cody, who has been with H-mama for nine years, and Luna who we rescued together. We found out on Thursday that Cody has a malignant carcinoma in her thyroid. We cannot justify spending the $3000+ that it would cost to try to save her, so we're giving her an NSAID that could slow the growth of the tumor and keep her more comfortable for her last weeks/ months. It is a huge blow to H-mama, and will be very difficult for Luna who is an extremely social three years old. We'll end up getting another dog as a companion for Luna, but this is going to be a very hard transition. I waffle between teary and sad at the thought of the hole Cody will leave in our household, and worried about house training another dog if we decide we need to get one right away. I barely have time now to feed the pets we have. Wait and see, I suppose. I have a bad habit of trying to count chickens before they are hatched.

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