Cats and dogs and domestic harmony

It’s 6.13 am on a Sunday morning and I’m awake due to a pretty terrible pounding in my temples. That last glass of red wine was a mistake. It was a fabulous night of local music and wine and food. Perhaps just a fraction too much fabulousness. Nothing a glass of water and a few more hours sleep won’t fix I think as I stagger out to the kitchen for some water. A few minutes later as I sit amongst the broken shards of what used to be my glasses cupboard, I wonder how it all came to this. How did my life come to be dominated by such an unruly, demanding group of pets?

So, back to the glasses cupboard. I am getting my much needed water when cat A and cat B have an almighty spat. Nothing new here. There’s no love lost between these two, and many of their interactions result in tufts of various coloured fur all over my carpet. Enter eccentric and very ancient border collie with fading hearing, eyesight and general comprehension of reality who decides it’s his job as alpha male to sort this. He proceeds to chase cat A out of what he believes to be the back door, directly into the open glasses cupboard.

Cat A, who suffers from an eating disorder and acute inverse body dysmorphia (i.e. she thinks she is thin and is in fact extremely fat) attempts to squeeze into a very crowded glasses cupboard and hide. This wakes dog B who adds excited small dog yipping and yapping to bellowing-bark of dog A and hissing of cat B, who’s still in the mix and hasn’t given up the fight.

Did I mention I had a red wine headache? Things predictably, do not end well. I stagger back to bed with my water (in a plastic cup) and remember the good old days of hangovers and no responsibilities.

There’s so much evidence about the mental health benefits of pets. But despite recent recommendations, it continues to be tricky when you rent and pets in nursing homes are still the exception rather than the rule. I think back to my Nanna and her final days living in a nursing home. She was relatively happy, but whenever I called to say we were visiting, her first question was always ‘are you bringing the big doggie?’ Even from the other side of the state, the thought of him brought her joy. A treasured memory is one of her last visits to our place where her desire to sit in the autumn sun on my verandah all day was met perfectly by my ancient border collies desire to play stick all day. A more contented pair you’ve never met. They even dozed in sync.

I sweep up the shards of broken glass and ponder the pros and cons of my motley pet crew. They cost me money. They dominate my life and so don't know their place. Their collective eccentricities and ailments make going away tricky. My house, clothes and food are never free from animal hair. But later as I sit here writing with all four pets harmoniously cohabiting in front of the fire, I wonder would I have my life any other way? No I wouldn’t. They bring our little family a great deal of joy and love and companionship and the number of belly laughs they provide is well worth any number of broken glasses.

First published in the Port Lincoln Times 2013

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