And so the week of trial is over, and it is official – we are in love with Toby and Tootsie and they are here to stay!
One of my favourite experiences is sitting, half-asleep, in our landing at 8 am, the soft glow of a thawing morning streaming softly through our window; a small crack letting in the cool breeze and the sound of cooing pigeons. Toby and Tootsie are both curled up in their beds, two balls of fur with eyes, their bodies quietly rising and falling as they lay asleep. It is the perfect picture of serene bliss, and this is what having two dogs look like all the time.
In order for us to get to 8 am, let us go back to a little time I’d like to call 6.15 am.
Toby and Tootsie are up and barking at our front door and I check my phone and wonder what’s caused this commotion before their regular morning walk at 7 am.
I lazily get out of bed, the 2.30 am bedtime from an evening shift the night before still weighing heavily on my eyelids. I brush my teeth and slowly blink the sleep out of my eyes, and put on my dog walking uniform – tracksuit bottoms and a heavy jacket, both more functional than fashionable, and then I brace myself… and I open the door.
Toby and Tootsie greet me with the same enthusiasm of thirteen-year-old Beliebers at a Justin Bieber meet and greet. (Except that I am not Justin Bieber, of course. I am far more handsome. Hah!)
Their tails are wagging, their mouths are open in an almost-smile, panting excitedly while their eager paws punch me repeatedly in my not-yet-hardened crown jewels. (See? Exactly like Beliebers!)
I go down and I get their leashes and in my semi-asleep state I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I can grab some coffee from our nearby cafe.’ I saunter over to get my wallet and remember: it is 6.15 am on a Saturday. Nothing is open, you idiot.
It is a fatal thirty seconds as the kids are pawing desperately at the door now. I bend down to leash them but I am too slow – the reason for their anxiousness to leave suddenly becomes apparent. It is not that I am Justin Bieber. It is because they needed to pee.
A sudden yellow mini-lake appears rapidly under Tootsie, who pees like she’s trying to sink Noah’s Ark. In relief, she steps into her own pee and starts pacing around the living room, her paws distributing the Lake into Smaller Yellow Ponds. I tell her off but it is too late; I rush the leashes and I walk both of them out. Toby immediately proceeds to pee on our front step, while looking back at me with a face that perpetually says ‘Sorry’.
I lock the door in a huff and Tootsie’s footpeerints follow mine into the brisk morning air. A skulk around the nearby park/toilet and the kids relieve themselves fully. I have the pleasure of picking up after Tootsie, and Toby does a phantom poop like he always does.
Fifteen minutes in the cold is all we can stand, and we rush home. We cross The Yellow Lake, and Tootsie had the audacity to sniff it like she was Sherlock Holmes trying to solve The Curious Case of the Yellow Puddle. (Hint: It was you, Sherlock.)
Four rounds of paper towels barely began to absorb any of the Flood, in fact all it seemed to do was to spread it around, and it is then that I suddenly began to lose my cool.
This is bullshit! I think. In a moment of weakness I think that perhaps having dogs were a bad idea after all. I surveyed the mess that was everywhere, I felt the stickiness under my feet suggesting that I too, am distributing pee everywhere, and I looked at our floor tiles that were once white, now stained with the dirt of a wet outside world, and I am tired and certainly not happy.
I look at Tootsie, almost expecting an apology but all she does is look at me quizzically. Toby is collateral damage to my seething rage and I tell them firmly to stay as I find the mop and begin to clean up the mess. I mutter under my breath as I vacuum up the dirt and grass, and I passively aggressively clear out the dishwasher and empty the sink of dirty dishes from last night, unleashing all my wrath on innocent plates and Tupperwares.
All this while, part of my anger transfers silently upstairs to Karen, who is curled up in bed, and a glimmer of blame crosses my mind ‘This. Was. Your. Idea.’ How had we gone from a nice spotless house where everything was in place to this?
But my anger passes quickly, and soon the floor is dried and somewhat clean, and there is a slight sense of order in the house again. I come to my senses and realise that the dogs were just doing what dogs do, and the combination of excitement and a full bladder led to this accident. I sit down with Toby and Tootsie, their unblinking stares trying to guess my next move, and my hands run all over their fur bodies lovingly, and then I proceed to feed them and play with them for about half an hour.
So fed, and tired from a morning’s activity, we all retire to the landing, which brings us again to my favourite time of day, 8 am.
After awhile, I crawl into bed next to a sleeping Karen, oblivious to all the sound and fury that preceded 8 am. I check my heart and there is no resentment, and I inch my body close to her, and she instinctively wraps her arm around me for a hug without rousing.
I wrote in my last post that I certainly never had pets growing up, and so this whole experience is new to me. There is going to be a definite period of adjustment and getting used to new routines and the wonderful chaos of living with pets. Don’t get me wrong – I do love Toby and Tootsie, both of them with distinct personalities, both of them unconditional in their love for us, both of them unfair victims of my misguided anger as I begin to slowly shed my selfishness.
At lunch today I recounted the chaos of 615 to Karen and we had a good laugh about it. I feel that there are times when Karen has felt somewhat guilty when Team Toto get into trouble, and has tried to defend them or placate me. That could not go on, and so I said to her I had come to a conclusion that morning – the decision to adopt the dogs was ours, and not hers alone, and I did not want to carry on any resentment from this point on about caring for our dogs.
A friend once said fatherhood changed him – a part of his brain suddenly came alive and he began to see the world in a different light, almost anew. Certainly the presence of team Toto has altered our lives – I know I am certainly more present while I am at home now, and part of me actually struggles to comprehend this unconditional love that is being poured out on me by these two creatures I didn’t know ten days ago.
There is a new sense of purpose in our lives – I know certainly my conversations with friends and patients are richer for being able to talk about these two sillies. Ironically, in loving these two animals, it has made us more human. We have something else to live for. There will be many more 6.15 ams, as well as 8 ams, and – for better, or for worse – we are here for each other now.