Monday, January 11, 2010

If I had a penny for every hair...

Some mornings I wake up before the sun to the sound of a herd of elephants running up the stairs and then tumbling and rolling across the floor with a bone-rattling enthusiasm. It is soon followed by a blood-curdling scream, punctuated by a yowl.

Ah, the cats are hungry.

Mornings like that, my mind wanders in a state of sleep deprived delirium and eventually falls to wondering how we ended up with so many animals. We took each of them in for good reason, I know that, but when viewed as a whole, sometimes it’s hard to remember exactly what we were thinking.

Stumbling from bed, Morgan and I fall into a routine while our brains remain cloaked in fog. Bear gets a quick belly rub and a hug before being let out, Murdoch gets attached to his line and sent out the door at an excited trot, Max takes some prodding to get his harness on when clearly he wants to stay in bed. Eventually, Max gets clipped into his wheelchair and aimed out the door while I whip off the wrap that velcroes around his waist and acts as a diaper, absorbing any accidents he had during the night. It usually takes about half an hour to get everyone out, then back in, and fed, which includes mixing up Chestnut’s special food to combat recurring crystals in his bladder.

Our animals are decidedly high-maintenance and it’s funny because when Morgan and I first started seeing each other, the one thing we agreed on was that we didn’t want kids. Neither of us longed to be parents or tied down by that kind of responsibility, but now I find myself able to join in conversations with parents of young children. I get what they’re talking about.

Our life has also become all about feeding times - who gets what food and when - projectile vomit, cleaning up messes, and teaching manners, right down to the endless debate of disposable diapers versus reusable; not to mention dealing with the issues that go along with those things, such as diaper rash and endless loads of laundry.

Of course, I try not to be too enthusiastic about the similarities. Nobody wants their children compared to a pack of dogs, and I am aware of the precarious line I walk where one slip would put me squarely in the crazy dog-lady camp, the one who thinks her animals are her children. But at least I can sympathize.

Aside from all that, I have inadvertently become somewhat of an expert on dog hair. Labs, despite their sleek, neatly coiffed appearance, shed a lot. Beneath the smooth, every-hair-in-place exterior lies uncertain depths of fluffy, lighter than air, dirt-catcher undercoat which emerges in clumps and gathers in tumbleweed-like dust bunnies that dart out unexpectedly from under the couch or behind a set of stairs.

Whatever abundance of hair Bear leaves behind though, I’ve learned German Shepherds shed even more. There are days when I think Max must have hidden pockets in which he carries around pawfuls of hair and deposits them strategically around the house when I’m not looking. If piles of hair aren’t gathering around him like seaweed along a sandy shoreline, then matted bits stick out of his thick unruly coat, begging to be plucked. But, like an iceberg, an aberrant tuft is just the tip of a far bigger clump of hair hiding beneath the surface.

Murdoch’s hair, I never find. Either it blends in really well, or he just doesn’t shed that much. More likely he probably eats it as fast as it falls out of him. Murdoch doesn’t have a very sophisticated palate. Whenever I brush Max he eagerly camps out nearby and pounces on the accumulated pile of hair if I’m not fast enough to stop him, gobbling it up before I can even blink.

The cats, meanwhile, leave behind great swirls of white hair as though a cotton candy machine exploded on the chair or couch or bed.

I sweep the floor constantly, and within the hour it looks like I haven’t swept at all. Hair permeates every pore of our house. Strands hang suspended in the air, turning corkscrews through beams of sun streaming in windows, others stick to all but the most slippery of fabrics, entwining themselves amongst individual threads of blankets as though purposely woven there. Pieces also turn up inside previously sealed containers that were never, before the instant of being opened, exposed to the environment of our house.

I wonder sometimes how much hair I’ve swallowed. Some days I get the odd one or two stuck in the back of my throat, scratching and tickling at the same time making me cough. I want to reach in with my finger and sweep them out and I think about the size of the hair ball that must be forming in my stomach.

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