My heart is broken. Rufus the Invincible is gone. And the irony has not escaped me that the one little soul that would succeed in bringing a smile to my face in this time of indescribable sadness, is the one little soul that has caused me such anguish in its passing. No amount of love or strength of resolve could fight Father Time or worsening health issues. If only it were that easy.
How did humans get so lucky as to evolve next to dogs? Did our hominin ancestors see wolves on the horizon and know that someday we would exist co-dependently? We might have still been on each other’s menus back then, but did they recognize the possibilities? As wolves crept closer to our campfires to feed off the scraps we threw, did we realize then what a critical role we would play in each other’s lives, for time immemorial?
Owning a dog can actually lower your stress, so they say. I’m not sure I believe that, but we’ll just go with it for argument’s sake. Ultimately, pets encourage our body to release oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) and decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels. Touching or talking to a dog can actually lower a person’s blood pressure. Unless they throw up in your lap. Which happens. Oh yes, it happens.
Dogs are so loyal and protective even the smallest one will stand up to the guy carrying the big scary boxes to your porch. They encourage a more active lifestyle… hey, don’t roll your eyes at me! It can happen! Not in my house, because my dogs are consummate couch potatoes like me, but it happens! Or so I’ve heard anyway. With the right parents at the helm, dogs can help teach children empathy and responsibility.
Of course, dogs help ease feelings of grief and loneliness. I mean, you just can’t be lonely with a dog. Or alone. With a dog, there’s always someone there, watching you. Have you ever tried to sit down with a plate of food in front of a dog? Or open a chip bag in a building where a dog resides? You find out very quickly how not-alone you really are.
There are countless incredible service dogs. Dogs who can alert their human to an oncoming seizure and then comfort them as they are recovering. Some individuals with autism have dogs who help calm them when the world around them becomes too much. There are dogs trained to retrieve things for those with mobility issues, walk next to their person and help provide stability. Be the eyes for someone with blindness and ears for someone with hearing loss. Some are trained to seek help from another person when necessary. (Quick PSA: when you see a service dog without its person, that person is most likely in trouble, so follow the dog.)
I haven’t even touched on search and rescue dogs who find people buried in avalanches or detection dogs finding firearms and drugs. There are therapy dogs who provide comfort and affection to a range of people in institutionalized settings like hospitals, group homes, and prisons. The list goes on!
What can’t dogs do? Well, okay, they can’t make me dinner after a long day of work, but they can keep me company while I cook. And they do clean up the floor when I make a mess, so that works out well.
As pets, dogs bring us simple joy and lots of laughs. A trainer once told me that everything a dog does is to benefit the dog… down to playing fetch or being affectionate. She claims that dogs only do things to better their own lot in life, so to speak. I don’t believe that. I believe that they want to make their owners happy, and I swear they smile with us.
My 12-year-old Yorkie, Rufus, is my “heart dog.” He’s had some pretty rough medical issues through the years, but it has not stopped his instigation of our favorite game: ‘Give me those socks!’ which takes place every day. He could stay in bed or lounge around on any one of his many strategically placed pillows and no-one, least of all me, would say word one to him. But no. Even on days where he’s not 100%, he drags himself into the hall to lurk oh-so-obviously when he knows his chance at a rousing game of ‘Give me those socks!’ is on the horizon.
Here’s the gist of the game. Every time I take off my socks and toss them into the laundry pile, he grabs one and leaves. He then prances back, instigating a chase by stuffing the other sock in his mouth along with the first one he has already stolen. Then, I say, “Give me those socks, Rufus!” and he takes off happy as can be. He then trots back into the room to show me the socks, with a smug look on his face, and we do it all over again. “Give me those socks!” I say, and off he goes. It’s never been an out and out chase so much as keep-away – sort of like trying to take a cookie away from a two-year old while said two-year old is sitting in a high chair.
We have played this game ever since he was a puppy. Twelve years of playful sock stealing, and I still don’t know who enjoys the game more. Me or him? I’ve been wondering lately what his intentions really are with this game. Does he play because he loves the reaction? The thrill of the thievery? Or is he stealing my socks because he sees the enjoyment I get from the game? That in his mind, I’M the one who loves the game, and he’s just going along with it to make me happy.
I’ll be honest, as much as I love to see Rufus enjoying himself as a sock thief, he’s not alone. We’re both reaping the happiness reward. Maybe Rufus has the same thought.
My mother and Petra enjoying a quiet moment as they watch their shows. I know, I know, she’s spoiled rotten. And Petra’s treated pretty well too.
Is it true that all cat owners have lost their minds—or is it just me?
We choose cats because they’re supposedly less work than dogs. Cats are independent (which means they almost always come with an attitude). Cats don’t need as much attention as dogs to stay happy. Like introverted humans, they’re happy with alone time. You think they’re less demanding than other pets, until you have one, that is.
And then we do outrageous things that our cats didn’t sign up for in any way shape or form. We might dress them up in little socks or costumes. Or buy them harnesses and take them for walks. Or… ahem… put them in cat carriages so we can push them in a stroller while we walk.
As a cat owner, I can testify that we are all, in fact, at least a little bit crazy. Some of us more than others, if I’m being completely honest. It’s me. I’m some of us.
Well, the other day, I did something a little bit crazy for my evil feline friend, the ne’er-do-well. To be fair, this was my daughter’s big idea, not mine. I really don’t want to take any credit or have any part in this whatsoever… other than, you know, putting the plan into action so to speak. The ne’er-do-well is really my daughter’s cat, after all, and I think her fondness for humanity may stop there. I’m certainly not included in that benevolent bubble, that’s for sure. To say she is spoiled is an understatement. Of course, I mean Holly (aka the ne’er-do-well) and not my daughter. Um, yeah, right, of course… Holly.
So, what was this grand adventure, you ask? A car ride.
It may not seem like a huge deal, but this car ride was Holly’s first time in the car where a visit to the vet or a household move wasn’t the final destination. Instead, we stopped at Starbucks for a Puppuccino… for our cat. Did I mention I haven’t seen my mind in a while?
Usually, Holly is content riding in her crate. Well, content isn’t exactly the word, but at least she remains civil. It’s all we can ask for, really. But this time, my daughter’s big idea was to let her roam around the car so she could look out the windows and enjoy the ride. And by all appearances, she did enjoy the ride. She LOVED the Puppuccino. Yeah, I know. I did mention a certain someone was spoiled, remember? It’s up to you to figure out which one.
And hey, who knows, maybe this will create some good karma for me. I mean, I know that Holly has been plotting my demise for quite some time—hopefully, that Puppuccino will make her think twice.
After sharing a day from the life of Holly aka Evil Incarnate aka The Ne’er-do-well, I thought it was only fair to give equal time to the guardian of the house, Rufus.
I was a good boy today! I protected the family, and we are all safe, now. Well, let’s start from the beginning. Mom fed me breakfast, and it was delicious! I couldn’t wait to have lunch. And dinner. And breakfast again.
Mom left home, again. So, it was just all the pets and the girl today. It’s not so bad, except for the cats. They’re the worst. I swear… if Shaylee rolls her eyes at me one more time… And don’t even get me started on Holly! She annoys me to no end. No end, I tell you! No matter how much she may have deserved it, I didn’t kill her today, so I think Mom should give me extra points – and treats, for that.
Other good boy things I did today include letting Petra cuddle with me (even though I don’t like it or her), leaving mom a present in her sleeping spot, and not peeing in the house.
I always leave my favorite chew toy in Mom’s bed under the covers while she’s at work. I make sure that it’s all nice and slobbery and chewed too. That way, she’ll come home and see that I protected her spot all day and that I was thinking of her. I’m a good boy. Mom never seems happy to find my chew toy, especially if she gets into her spot before finding it. She makes an odd noise when that happens. Sort of sounds like Petra before she throws up in a shoe. I don’t understand why Mom doesn’t always appreciate all the things I do for her. I know she loves me though, that much is very clear, so that makes me happy. And she feeds me breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. And breakfast again. I wonder when I’ll get a treat. I haven’t had one for a long time, at least an hour.
I also tried to teach Petra the importance of protecting hearth and home. There are monsters all around us. Outside. Above. Today I saved our girl from a FEROCIOUS lizard that dared to crawl onto our patio! I might not have been able to get at him, but I did give him a stern talking to through the patio door and he was duly frightened and chagrined at his transgression. The girl didn’t seem too impressed, but I did my duty regardless of her disdain. I am a good loyal boy.
But that Petra… I just don’t know what I’m going to do with her. I tried to teach her how to bark at the people in the parking lot across the way. We need to tell them to stay away. Petra just doesn’t take her job seriously. She doesn’t know what it means to be the protector of the family. Not like I do.
Before Mom comes home, I always sniff under the front door to see if she’s close. Today, I got nothing. She must have been very far away. I wonder where she goes every day. Anyway, I took a nap so that I could be at my best before she came home. And I was.
Today was a great day. I can’t wait for tomorrow!
It is sunrise time, and the humans have not yet risen. Typical. They are all so lazy.
I must wake them. Apparently, no one in this house, except me, knows when feeding time is. I don’t care if there is food left down for me 24/7… I want the good stuff, the wet food.
As I stretch my slender body, preparing to wake my human, I see movement out of the corner of my eye… who is it? Shaylee. Best to pretend I didn’t notice. She is the eldest feline and owns most of the living quarters. She prefers space.
Climbing on top of my human, I ask her softly to wake up… meow. I sit.
I should be gentle with this one since she might give me treats later. To her credit, she does give me treats several times a day… just not nearly as many as I deserve. Perhaps I must command her better.
How does she not notice me sitting on top of her? MeOW. Are her eyes open? I cock my head, the universal signal of what? and squint my eyes. MEOOW. Awake human!
It’s no use. This one is destined to sleep. And on my pillow, nonetheless. Rude. I jump off the bed and head towards the servant’s sleeping quarters. Where are those pesky dogs? They’re usually hanging around the servant like the groveling creatures they are. I flick my tail around, as a signal not to mess with me, just in case they can see.
The naked dog, Rufus, has no respect which is annoying. But the shaky white dog, Petra, likes to bark. And if the servant wakes to a cacophony of barking, it’s not a good day for any of us. Even I know that. So, I avoid them as I enter. There was no need. They’re too stupid to even notice me.
Of course, my servant is fast asleep still, too. So useless. Maybe I’ll rummage around on the bedside table before I wake her. Yes, I think I will. There’s barely any space up here to land, so I inevitably push some things to the side. Welp. There goes something that looked important. That’s what she gets for putting things on my table.
If this servant were better, she would remove some of these bizarre toys to give me more space. I bat around a funny white container that makes a satisfyingly loud noise when it rolls around. Like there are tiny pebbles inside. Strange.
The servant dislikes it when I play with her things, so I make sure to leave an obvious mark that I was here. What else can I touch? I scratch myself on the lamp while I look around. Hm. I think I’m done. On to the servant.
I take a flying leap from the table and land squarely onto her chest. MRRREEEOOOOWW.
This one does not need a gentle wake up.
Yes, servant. It is feeding time. Do I have to tell you every day?
“Holly, okay. I’m up. Sheesh.” The servant acknowledges me and rises. Good. She feeds me, but she is also quite annoying. She stopped getting the good food, and now I’m left eating mediocre food. Unacceptable.
I will drown her favorite items later to show my dissatisfaction. Although, in an unusual moment of intelligence, the servant moved the water bowl recently, making it increasingly difficult to drown her beloved things. I will simply have to steal more. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, I say.
. . . . . . . . . .
Unlike the servant, the small human, that is, my human, has been performing adequately, but I fear the quality of her service may be declining. I shall test her. I yowl loudly, as if in distress, just to see if she is paying attention.
She is slow in responding. Duly noted.
I think I will torment the rest of the creatures in the house, now. Where is that little white dog? Ah, of course. Hiding again. I could crawl in after her, but then she would just scream which, apparently, upsets the servant. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care, but I saw a familiar can of tuna when I was going through the pantry earlier. And a pissed off servant means no tuna for dinner.
The bald dog needs to be taught a lesson. It does not appreciate me and Shaylee for the Goddesses that we are. I sneak up on the little dog… and pounce! Hah!
Unlike the shaky white dog, he is not afraid. In fact, he’s quite testy. He runs at me, so I flee. I need to get away, but where? The bookshelf! I jump up just in time. Looking at the little dog on the ground, I realize I barely made it. That was a close one. I collect myself, cleaning my paws and fur, while the angry little bald dog paces out of reach.
I scale the shelves up to the highest point. This is the best place for plotting. Should I torment Shaylee next? No. That would be a mistake. A big mistake.
What I could use right now is a snack. Hmmm… how shall I steal more treats? After my last raid, the servant installed some high-tech sealing machines, so I cannot open the cabinets anymore. I’m this close to figuring out those feline locks, and when I do… oh, I will feast!
What shall I do once I tire of drowning the human’s objects? Perhaps I’ll plot the demise of the world as we know it. All these creatures, so unsuspecting. Playing with their little objects. I will drown them all. The thought makes me very happy and I purr softly.
I hear them talking as they gaze up at me …
“Hey, Mom? What do you think Holly’s doing up there?”
I don’t think Holly gets the whole “lying in a sunbeam” thing.
I know that wild animals are supposed to be wild and we should just leave them alone. But I tell you what, if this cute little guy living in my shed was just a smidge slower, I’d have another four-legged housemate.