Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bear’s universe implodes

When we had lived in Thunder Bay for just two months, Morgan brought up the idea of adopting a dog. He said he felt like it was something we could do for a less fortunate creature since we were doing so well - in our furniture-less house, keeping our milk cold by pushing it up against the back wall of our kitchen cupboard, and sleeping on an inflatable bed.

He also suggested it would be nice for Bear to have someone to play with. The idea of getting another dog had never even been an ember of an idea in my mind and I was taken aback that it seemed like a growing flame in Morgan’s. He and Bear and I were the three musketeers, though somedays it was more like the three stooges.

For the previous year, the three of us had been together everyday, all day. We worked together, ate together, slept together, played together, it was the perfect system. We just fit nicely, I didn’t want to mess with a good thing, and adding a fourth member to our little family was not something I wanted to do.

The issue was dropped for a couple of weeks and then Morgan brought up the idea of fostering a dog. I probably wouldn’t have gone along with this half-formed notion if Morgan hadn’t been looking at pictures of sad, forgotten dogs on the Humane Society website as we discussed it.

Fostering was something I didn’t think I’d be very good at since the idea is you eventually have to give the dog away after you’ve bonded with it, but soon after our discussion, we returned home with a quaking Quincy in the back seat of our car. Beside him, looking straight ahead and sitting so tall her head just about brushed the roof of the car, sat a disgruntled Bear, casting sideways glances out of a face that had become stony and very serious. I imagined her thinking that if she ignored the dog, and me in the front seat turned around to talk soothingly to both of them, it would all just go away and return to normal.

I read in a book shortly after bringing Quincy home that Labs prefer to be the only dog in the family, they’re more of a one-on-one breed. So introducing another animal was a bit like telling her she wasn’t good enough. I felt terrible about it since as far as I was concerned Bear was the perfect dog and Quincy wasn’t there to replace her, but she didn’t know that.

It didn’t take them long to work things out though. Their very different lifestyles meant they often didn’t cross paths and we all settled into a workable routine. I think she may have even enjoyed his company on our long walks It was the kittens that eventually pushed Bear over the edge.

Kittens by their very nature are stressful creatures; they get into everything, they destroy things, they demand so much attention and time, especially when there’s six of them unable to feed themselves.

When they were still tiny balls of fur that peeped inside their cardboard box, Bear was mildly curious about them, but after a good sniffing she seemed to dismiss them as uninteresting and nothing to do with her and that was that. But then they started to grow and found Bear endlessly fascinating. For a while they thought she was their mother and would traipse along behind her, a little fuzzy mob of determination, while Bear bobbed and weaved in a vain attempt to lose them.

Bear found solace on the couch where she could hang her head over the side and watch the circus play out on the floor around her. Then the kittens learned how to climb and Bear wasn’t safe anywhere. I didn’t really notice the effect all of this was having on Bear until one day she just couldn’t take it anymore.

Almost a year to the day after we gave Bear her Baby - her beloved purple gingerbread man stuffed animal - I walked into the living room and my mouth dropped open, allowing a gasp to escape. My eyes flicked so quickly around the room I thought they had spun right around in my head. There was Bear, lying on her blanket with a scrap of purple fur hanging from her mouth and all around was a sea of white fluff, as though a freak snow storm had blown through. She looked positively triumphant at having located, at last, the plastic bubble that was the source of her beloved Baby’s “voice”, and puncturing it between her sharp white teeth.

“Bear,” I said, somewhere between a gasp and a hiss. “What did you do?”

Bear’s eyes were bright with the spark of a frenzied-obsession and in response to my incredulous exclamation, her tail thumped against the bare wood floor.

Within a month we had to rescue Fishy from a similar fate. Bear had taken to pulling viciously at his rubbery green body with her teeth while holding the rest of him securely against the floor with her front paws. She tore a hole in his back before we got to him.

Fishy lives on top of the fridge now. He’s still our mascot, but Bear’s not allowed to play with him anymore.

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