Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Every Parent Knows

If a person had to sum up the Taoist philosophy in one solitary word, either harmony or balance might come to mind. Both words are taking center stage in our household as we welcome a new member -- Jasmine -- while trying to reassure the other dog and 3 cats that they haven't lost any status.

It's a dynamic that I'm certain every parent knows well! Every time a new child is brought into the fold, much effort must be made to ensure the other children don't feel any less loved and this balancing act continues from that point onward until death.

With domestic animals, the situation is a little different because they and we humans don't share the same language and cognitive abilities. Over the past 15 hours, I've tried to spend equal time with the new recruit and the old crew.

Jasmine needs to feel comfortable in her new digs. She's found a cloth monkey (one the other dogs never seemed interested in), so my wife & I have spent a lot of time playing tug-o-war and throw and fetch. She carries her new toy from room to room looking to play with each creature she comes in contact with.

Our other dog Heidi feels a bit slighted. As she is a senior citizen, she no longer has the energy to play much. We can tell she wants to play -- maybe she's remembering herself as a more youthful dog -- but she can't seem to summon up the needed verve. I've taken her into my office twice without the new dog present so she can enjoy her one-on-one time with me as before.

Of course, the cats are on high alert! They are each so used to Heidi that I don't think they consider her a dog at all; more like a really large cat. The new dog, however, right now is most definitely a dog and an unwelcome intruder in their lair. So, I've gone out of my way to sequester the cats in another room on my lap with lots of petting.

To provide the crew with a better semblance of normalcy, I decided last night to have Jasmine sleep with me in my room with the door shut. My thinking here was that they could move around as always without having to be ever watchful for the intruder. However, as I led Jasmine to my upstairs "cave", I discovered Mookie & Little Bit already asleep on my bed!

Three eyes (remember, the one-eyed cat!) immediately opened wide and sustained hissing became evident. I gently picked up each cat and placed them in the hallway. I then shut the door, so Jasmine and I could settle down for a brief nap.

Just as I was falling asleep, Little Bit -- obviously forgetting that the DOG was in my room -- came to the door and started his pitiful-sounding meow. This sound is his way of saying he wants to come in to curl up in my arms for the night. I tried to tell him through the door that he really didn't want to come this night, but he kept up his melancholy meowing. Finally, I went over and opened up the door; he started to come in until he saw "it"! He looked at me with a sense of betrayal, then scampered back out of the room!

First thing I did upon rising this morning was to find Little Bit and he's sitting on my foot as I peck out this post. Tonight, Jasmine will sleep downstairs and Little Bit will be able to claim his rightful place in my arms for the night. :)

It's all about balance and harmony -- welcoming a new family member with open arms while, simultaneously, providing warmth and reassurances to the older family members.

5 comments:

  1. I love pets. Right now we have three cats that have adjusted to each other. But I don't know what is more painful or difficult -- helping them get integrated with a new household that has other pets in the pecking order...or when a pet dies. But partially, it is because of these difficulties, that I love them so. My nature is to care for others.

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  2. CM,
    At 106 years old (from your blog profile), I bet you've seen a lot of pets come and go! I agree that the greater difficulty is dealing with the death of a pet. It's hard on we humans and often even harder on the pets left behind. We've been through this twice in the last 10 months.

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  3. When we lived in San Diego, we lost 4 cats to coyotes over the span of 7 years. Then we lost a favorite cat to FIP -- a deadly feline wasting disease. We don't let our cats out, after this. I heard that the average lifespan for an outdoor/indoor cat is about 4 years, indoor cat, about 14 years. Right now we have three cats that are 90% indoor -- the 10% outdoor is when they manage to break out. Of course, living now in Chicago, they have no interest in going out when it is -5 below. With spring on us, they'll be conspiring to get out -- and they will...at least they don't have opposable thumbs. If they had those, cats would probably take over the world.

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  4. Oh -- I almost forgot -- the profile wouldn't let me be older that 106 years old. I'm actually about 345 years old!

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  5. All of our cats are indoor/outdoor ones. In fact, Little Bit spends more time out than in -- his choice. Though I know we have coyotes in the area, none of our cats have yet to have a run-in with one of them in the 1.5+ years we've lived here.

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