Mitzi meets us at the door. She’s been crying; two messy splodges of mascara where her eyes used to be.
‘He’s through there,’ she sniffs. ‘I told him not to come out.’
Gary is moaning in bed, his left arm crooked over his head, the other one bunching up the sheets to his side.
‘Just – one second,’ he says, before rolling over and throwing up in a bucket.
‘He discharged himself from hospital this morning,’ says Mitzi, tearing off some toilet roll and passing it to him. ‘He’s got a kidney infection. They said he wasn’t over the worst of it and now look.’
‘Why did you discharge yourself, Gary?’
He flops back on the pillow, exhausted.
‘It’s my birthday,’ he says.
‘Oh! Happy birthday, Gary!’
‘Yeah. Right. Thanks,’ he says, the words pattered out by the rigors of his fever.
‘The doctor said to come straight back in if his symptoms got out of control again, which they have,’ says Mitzi, squeezing his feet through the duvet.
‘It’s back to the hospital, then, Gary.’
‘I know,’ he says. ‘Fuck it.’
Whilst Rae takes a few obs, I follow Mitzi out of the room to help her get things ready. The kitchen is sectioned off with a baby gate; just beyond, a beautiful black and tan puppy yips and yaps and skitters across the laid out sheets of newspaper, crazy with the unalloyed joy of it all.
‘Sorry about the mascara eyes,’ says Mitzi, pausing at the gate to blow her nose. ‘It just all got too much. First Gary getting ill, the birthday and everything, and then the puppy.’
‘What’s wrong with the puppy?’
‘Nothing. I don’t know. I just forgot how much work they were.’
We both pause a moment and watch as the little dog throws itself around some more, leaping up, wagging its tail, trying to force its head between the bars, yip-yapping.
‘Just one night. That’s all I need,’ says Mitzi. She takes a breath, then slowly, wearily, reaches over and unlatches the gate.
Puppies are a boatload of work, a ton of noise and mess and not much return for a couple years. And then they almost always predecease us and that's hard to deal with too. But, as my kitty wraps around my ankles, I too have a companion animal and feel lost when I do not.
Out of the two of them Mitzi has to look after,I think I'd take the puppy.
Gary,what were you thinking?Clown.
Lynda - It's amazing just how much work a puppy is! (Almost broke us, the last one we took). But once they're settled in - bliss!
Jack - I think he just really wanted to be home for his birthday - and misjudged just how big a deal his infection really was. :/
As long as you understand, before taking them on, that giving space to cats and dogs represents a total change in your lifestyle, then they're really no big deal by comparison to the pleasure and companionship they confer...
We've currently nine cats and a dog (though at times down the years it's been up to three dogs, and as low as five cats)...OK there are costs in more than one way...but they're surely something you should consciously take on at the outset!
All the best
PS Our house is the one with the wrecked garden (Cats, Dogs, and until lately Ducks too!)
Definitely a huge change - and (almost) completely for the better. We've covered hundreds of miles walking Buzz & Lola, met a lot of people (incl the drummer for the band), seen a lot of weather, done a lot of thinking. They can be a pain in the arse, getting into scrapes, embarrassing you in creative ways, but I'm so glad we took them on. They're such a part of the family. Buzz is getting a bit rickety now, but he was here before the girls (in fact he was there at J's birth, his paws over the side of the bath, giving encouragement...)
Don't know if I could stretch to a duck, though (there's a sentence I didn't think I'd type today).
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