Victoria Jelinek


XX: Dog Days

My fashion philosophy is if you’re not covered in dog hair, your life is empty. Elayne Boosler

border collieMy beloved dog, a bright Border Collie, is having a hard time adjusting to my rationed cigarettes, alcohol, and consequent change of habits. When I get up in the morning and head downstairs, she greets me at the bottom of the stairs then goes and sits in the kitchen while I make my coffee. Once I’ve poured my coffee, she heads to the back door and waits till I open it in order to go out for a smoke with me. Whenever I head to the kitchen for something she does the same thing. She knows I like something to drink with my cigarettes. So, she gets up from her bed, sits and waits for me to finish in the kitchen, then heads to the back door waiting for me to open it and go outside with her to smoke. Every time I rifle through my purse, she gets up from wherever she’s lying and goes to the back door and waits for me to exit for a cigarette that I would normally have retrieved from it. After dinner, once we’ve cleared the table, she goes to the back door waiting for me to exit, wine in hand, to have my ‘after dinner’ cigarette. When my son has gone to bed and I normally return back downstairs for a phone conversation to the states (time difference), drinks and much smoking, she gets up as soon as I take the phone from the cradle, she stretches, and heads to the back door waiting for me to open it.

I finally ‘clocked’ her behavior last night when I was clearing the dinner table and began cleaning the dishes. Normally, I would have gone for my after dinner smoke before doing this, and normally she would have gone and stood at the door waiting for me after the clearing of the table. But this time she didn’t. She lay on the floor and looked at me. She eyed my every move, but did not get up to go to the back door. Also, I noticed that she has taken to lying at the bottom of the stairs after I go up with my son for bedtime. I haven’t gone back down after putting him to bed in recent days for a phone call or anything. I now prefer to go to bed early, like a farmer might, ‘cause I can’t drink and smoke anyway. It makes the day shorter. One week in and she realizes there’s a new regiment going on (smart dog) but she’s confused. Maybe a little saddened that our rituals together are changed. Then I realized, “She’s a creature of habit, of course! And, for five years – her entire life – she has been my companion in the rain, sun, snow, cold, heat for my frequent cigarettes throughout the day and night. Cigarettes that were habitual – with coffee. With the second coffee. Before lunch. After lunch. In the middle of the afternoon with another coffee. With my first cocktail at ‘cocktail hour.’ The subsequent drinks. After dinner. Before bed while on the phone. And now that’s over. At least I hope it is.  “Well, it’s messing with my head, too, my dear doggie. We’ll get on with it together as best we can. Something tells me that you’ll break the habit much easier than me.”

 



The Pregnancy Diaries – 2

Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.” Colette

My doctor doesn’t think that anything I’ve done to date will harm this baby – not even smoking. However, he is concerned about the fact that I’ve acquired a kitten. Apparently Toxoplasmosis is common in France – ‘because we eat a lot of raw meat and are dirty,’ he told me. I thought it was something one got from tampons, but apparently not. I’m pleased it gets me out of kitty litter duty, but my doctor is not amused. As a result, I shall be tested for Toxoplasmosis weekly for the first three months, then monthly.

We found this kitten when we purchased a used car from a French mountain guide and his wife. The man had been left alone to care for the mother cat and had let her ‘prowl’ unguarded while she was in heat, so his wife had returned to a pregnant cat. As a result, they were getting rid of the kittens immediately. We drove out to their farm outside Annecy. Their stone house has been in his family for generations. We first saw the kittens as they were nursing from their mother! I asked the farm lady if they were old enough to be taken from their mother? She said that they were eight weeks and that was plenty. I was sceptical, thinking that one of these babies would be parted from the safety of their mother that very day and that me, a mother-to-be, would be the culprit that literally pulled the kitten from its mother’s tit. I told myself that the mother cat would be batting these kittens away in the days to come, wanting her independence again, and I’d give it a good home, but my hormonal heart wept. We sat on the ground in their living room with all five of the kittens playing around us while the woman made a fresh quiche for us from the eggs their chickens had laid that day and her husband smoked incessantly and looked grumpy. My husband wanted one of two particularly feisty tabbies, but there was a wee black one that kept coming up to me, and I knew that this was my kitty; she is brave and independent. We took her from her mother that day and put her in a box with a dirty piece of cloth that her family had been sleeping on in their cellar. She mewed in the car on the hour-plus drive back to our house, her little heart beating so quickly, but she never wet or pooped. How scared she must have been with the sound of the cars motor and the movement. She was so small, then – the size of a teacup. She immediately took to her litter box even as she had to scale its wall and fall into it. It was difficult for her to eat food, so we wet it and she would eat one little nugget at a time. I couldn’t bare the idea of her sleeping alone so I slept on the couch with her for the first several days. She would suckle at my neck when she was getting ready to sleep, which was a little ticklish and a tad uncomfortable, but mostly poignant.

And now my doctor is telling me that my brave kitten is dangerous to my baby. What have I done? No, I will not get ‘rid’ of the creature (either one). We took the kitten to the vet’s to have a check up. I told the vet that my doctor tells me that the kitten is bad for my unborn baby. She was irate and demanded to know who my doctor is. When I told her, she called me a liar (she’s tactless, but a great vet). Then she promptly got on the phone and called his office. After a rapid-fire conversation with him, she told me that I am not to clean the kitty litter, or to sleep with the kitten anymore, and I’m to wash my hands every time I touch it. My doctor hasn’t said anything about the phone call, and he still prescribes the weekly toxoplasmosis test.