While running errands with the kids one Saturday I spotted a row of cages lined up on the sidewalk outside a pet store.
“We’re not getting a pet,” I told the kids, “but we can play with them…that’s all.”
There was squealing.
“I’m serious,” I said. “Don’t ask, don’t beg, don’t whine…no pets. We’re just playing with them. Understand?”
Nodding all around. And more squealing.
Becky is adamantly against pets. She has four children.
But Becky was out of town. So I texted her a picture of a puppy.
“You want a dog? Very mellow lab mix up for adoption.”
“Don’t do it!” she said.
“Mellow. And it has the saddest face.”
“Please no! Look away!”
“Caramel colored. Light blue eyes. And did I mention mellow?”
“All I asked was that you find a table for the den while I’m gone…not another kid.”
“I’ll take care of him. And give you a table.”
Twenty minutes later… “You’re gonna love our new dog!”
“You better be kidding.”
I waited a few minutes and then… “If I got a dog without you I know you would never go out of town again. And then when would I get to see Candy?” (Candy is my make-believe girlfriend. Becky’s make-believe boyfriend is Walter. This is dysfunctional, of course, but we’ve been together for 21 years so dysfunctional is working just fine for us.)
Two weeks later I called home from the lobby of a hotel in Canada. A small voice answered — Not with “hello” but with “We got kittens!”
“Can I talk to your mother please?”
There’s a boy down the street who killed a pet baby bunny last year. “On accident.” When this boy rang our doorbell to show off his two new kittens? It was justice issue.
The boy was given the kittens by a neighbor who obviously had not heard about the bunny’s untimely end. And the boy’s mother told him that if he couldn’t find a home for the kittens he could keep them. He knocked on our door knowing Becky didn’t want pets…but not knowing the extent to which she would go to save a life.
“We don’t have to keep them,” Becky told me as I paced the hotel lobby. “I don’t want to keep them either. But we’ll have to find them a safe place to live.”
The next day I met Margo and Buttercup.
Yes, they already had names. And a blanket the girls made for them to sleep on.
“I really don’t want cats,” I said.
Margo curled up in my lap purring.
“Litter boxes stink. Cats just sleep all day. They’ll need shots. We’ll have to take care of these things long after you guys move out and…”
Buttercup spun in circles chasing her tail.
“But they’re orphans, Daddy,” Penelope said. “We’re supposed to take care of orphans.”
And now I have cats.