No one ever said it would be easy. Granted, when you’ve been on your own for your entire adult life, there are bound to be plenty of adjustments when it comes to sharing your home with another. First of all, by a certain age and maturity (or lack thereof), you become set in your ways, comfortable with your own schedule, prepared to do things (or not do things) based on your own timetable. You even become somewhat selfish (for lack of a better word). You sleep untilnoon(or later) when you have nothing else to do and watch TV (on the floor when the mood strikes) until all hours of the night. Your furniture becomes an old friend (especially that teal green chair that has been molded into the shape of your body) and you miss it when it “doesn’t match the décor of your new surroundings.” You relish your swimming pool (even though you rarely use it) and entertain only those people you truly enjoy (and snub the others). You can be just as moody or finicky as you want and there’s no one around to object.
And suddenly, the major adjustments prompt the “five stages of grief” to set in. Denial…I can’t believe all these changes are happening to me. Anger…No one ever told (warned) me it would turn out this way. Bargaining…I promise I’ll be better if only life would return to the way it was before? Depression…I can’t deal with these changes and simply don’t care about anything anymore. Acceptance…Maybe this new life ain’t so bad after all.
…BUT FOUR’S A CROWD
Of course, I’m referring to the adjustments and challenges faced by our long-term pets, Max the cat and Flo the dog. Both animals had reached their twilight years and were prepared to live out “retirement” in the comfort of familiar surroundings and friendly faces. At 17, Max had the run of his two-story house, able to nap all day on any piece of furniture upstairs or down, content to walk all over (literally) those humans whose company he enjoyed and hide under the couch when unwelcome guests visited. He was pampered with his wet (incredibly smelly) cat food and dined at the same hours each day. Max was never shy about “speaking up” when that bowl of delicious salmon/turkey/liver/sliced beef/white fish was more than five minutes late. Sure, he suffered from thyroid issues and was petrified of his own shadow, but Max was quite happy.
At 15, Flo likewise had her favorite comfortable (teal green) chair and loved chasing squirrels in the spacious backyard. She overcame a near fatal stroke (or vestibular balance syndrome) about a year ago and had adjusted to merely barking at the squirrels instead from her air-conditioned den. She dined on table scraps and could eat spaghetti with Traditional Ragu for multiple days in a row (and often did). She could come in and go out as she pleased with access to a doggie door and loved to soak up some rays by the pool. Sure, she was losing her eyesight and her hearing and rarely was brushed or bathed, but Flo was quite happy. When suddenly worlds collided and these two mortal enemies were forced to share a home.
Needless to say, the transition did not go very smoothly for our geriatric four-legged friends. Upon first sight of his long-lost canine step-sister, Max was a less than gracious host. He darted up the stairs like the spry 16 year old kitten he once was and hid in the very back of the closet (mine, of course) for days. When he finally emerged, Max moved between denial, anger, and depression (see above) and took out his frustrations on his mother and step-dad (that’s us). He seemed to forget about his litter box and instead chose to make the entire second floor his personal restroom. He experienced a very nervous stomach for weeks (and, believe me, canned cat salmon does not sit well on a nervous stomach). He began to scratch and bite and meow at all hours of the night. As time passed, he no longer felt the need to hide and would pass the day simply staring at Flo from the top of the stairs. Still he never got up the nerve to wander downstairs where he might encounter that perceived “vicious” houseguest.
Flo, on the other hand, handled the transition a bit easier. A less neurotic creature (more laid back like her dad), she struggled to find the newly installed doggie door and required a walk a few times a day. (She has since found her way through her personal door to the patio.) Her true frustration ensued when she realized we sleep on another floor and her age (and athletic ability) do not permit her to climb the stairs. Like her step-brother, Flo spent much of the hours betweenmidnightand dawn barking and crying for attention. One positive byproduct of the move came in the form of Flo’s diet. Twice a day, she would watch as we prepared Max’s cat food and she patiently waited to lick the fork. (Who knew that dogs love cat food so much?) Perhaps out of guilt, we now periodically buy Flo that wet (even more smelly) canned dog food to mix with her standard dry. (The spaghetti and Ragu come far less frequently as well.) She doesn’t seem to mind sharing the house with a feline and for a while didn’t even realize that Max existed. (Bear in mind, their paths rarely cross as they live on different floors and Flo’s eyes and ears are not what they once were.) Though there may come a day when they can co-exist in total harmony (not very likely), they both seem to have accepted their new lots in life, thus, proving (somewhat) that you can actually teach an old dog/cat a new trick.
AND MY TRANSITION?
I can’t imagine how and why I stayed single for so long, especially since Barb and I have known each other for over 17 years. What was I waiting for? Marriage is the best thing that ever happened to me (isn’t that right, honey?) and I expect this honeymoon to last forever. Oh sure, I miss that teal green chair that molded to my body (but only because Flo loved it so much) and would be thrilled to find a place in our living room for my Earl Campbell/Ricky Williams framed poster. Actually, I’ve never been a big fan of cats (especially those with a nervous digestive tract), but have grown to love Max as if I had raised him myself. Plus, it’s really cool to flip him in the air and watch him always land on his feet (just kidding, dear).
All in all, life has not changed that significantly. I still have my ballgames and Barb attends her book club and yoga classes. I have inherited a great new family (even if they are Yankee and Dolphin fans) and many interesting and fun new friends. Plus, I’ve broadened my horizons and stepped out of my comfort zone a bit. Why, just last weekend, I found myself at the mall buying a wonderfully scented potpourri and some Clinique #3 (was that the right brand, sweetie?).
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
The latest stage in our transition began a few weeks back when we purchased a new crib, changing table, and glider (teal green, of course). We have since spent some time at Babies “R” Us checking out the latest in jumpers, bouncers, pack-n-plays, strollers, joggers, and receiving blankets and even registered for an upcoming breast feeding class (do husbands really attend those sessions?). Yes, baby Eunice Brounes is scheduled to arrive in early October and if the latest ultrasound is any indication she will be quite the athlete (like her dad…she was already exhibiting an excellent “down-dog” yoga pose). Sports Illustrated has been replaced by Parenting magazine in the mailbox and Da Vinci Code has been replaced by What to Expect When You’re Expecting on our coffee table. And, as for Max and Flo, they have no idea what’s about to hit them. Something tells me…neither do we.