Monday, February 21, 2011

She Ain't Heavy. She's My Grandmouse

Fifth Grader has been pestering me for a dog since the dawn of time. I blame this on dogs, for acting all frolicky and cute when they belong to other people. Not to disparage dogs without cause, I'm just saying this has not been my experience when they reside with me.

I have precisely two personal dog experiences to draw upon. The first was a Shepherd Collie mix that "belonged" to my little sister. It began "belonging" to her when she was about eight years old and I was in high school, during a miserable trip to the boonies of Maine to see my father's relatives. A visit to an aunt's house brought us in contact with a basket of fluffy puppies. I paid zero attention to the basket of fluffy puppies. I didn't like puppies, and my aunt's house smelled like cooked onions and turnip. I desperately wanted to get back in the car and begin the six hour drive home. At this point in my life, I was in rabid pursuit of securing myself a musician boyfriend. This down home family visit? Nothing but a waste of valuable boy hunting time. Maddeningly, a fluffy puppy in a box made the six hour drive home with us. I was beyond disgusted.

The puppy grew up and lived for about sixteen years, ultimately becoming a beloved companion to my father. I am able to appreciate the poignancy of this relationship mostly because I only had to live with the furball for about eighteen months. Sorry, Sis. I just wasn't a fan.

Dog Experience Number Two came along courtesy of Former Husband, who loved all things as long as they were brand new. The Tornadoes were quite young and totally unable to help take care of a demanding pet. I was working long hours to compensate for Former Husband's lack of same. Let's get a German Shepherd!

How I loved standing in the snow at 5 a.m. waiting for the dog to pee! What joy overcame me when she scarfed down my entire dinner while I helped a potty training girl back into her Pull up in the bathroom upstairs! The good times only multiplied as she grew bigger and stronger. Former Husband simply couldn't find the time between EBay auctions to take her to obedience class. Thus, I made it clear when we divorced that I did not wish to retain custody of the giant wild animal. I'm told that Former Husband found her a good home with a retired couple on an apple farm. And I called a moratorium on dogs as pets.

So as I said, Fifth Grader, who recalls our time with the giant wild animal in a slightly more rose-colored hue, has campaigned relentlessly for another dog for quite some time. For a while I chose to deflect the issue by ignoring it. Then came a bout of definitive "No"s. Then we moved, and I tried saying nothing so that Future Husband could take the fall. That wasn't so good for the relationship with Future Husband. Plan D:

"What might you settle for instead of a dog?"

"A rabbit?" Too smelly. "Rat?" Too gross. "Hamster?" "Guinea pig?" Yuck and double yuck. Then I recalled a co-worker from long ago who brought her pet chinchilla into the office for a visit. Its personality reminded me of a squirrel. I have never seen anyone with a pet chinchilla since. A rare, fuzzy pet with a perky personality - a perfect match for my non-conformist tween! It was decided.

It was decided almost three months ago, actually. Many hours have been spent since then on researching chins, preparing for a chin, looking for a chin, having our Craigslist responses to "chin needs home" ads blown off, and finally having our application to a Chin Rescue League declined because we could not name the exact brand of timothy hay we would provide (we decided the nice people at the Chin Rescue League might make excellent subjects for an animal episode of Hoarders, so ridiculously arduous is their re-homing approval process). A fully outfitted multi-level cage sat, unused, on its well supplied table for a month. Finally, we broke down. And went to a pet store.

Cut to this morning: Day Four of Fifth Grader's love affair with her new baby. It is indeed very cute and squirrel like in personality. And as I mentioned, it lives in a cage. Big plus. I have been very careful not to handle the little critter too much, wanting Fifth Grader to firmly establish with it that she is the Mama. A little more challenging has been minimizing the torrent of newborn care advice I find myself wanting to spew at her. It's her baby, after all. She's read the books. She needs to find her way. It will all be fine! But a routine would help her a lot. And that seems like not enough food in her bowl. And there may be another way to arrange things in that cage.

Okay, I am too young to play this role. Waay too young. I'll be upstairs if you need me.