Thursday, July 21, 2016

Are "Semi-Pet People" Possible?

So for the umpteenth thousandth time this year I have been asked for another puppy.  Those who know me I already live with an awesome dog named Otto.  “Otto the Hammer” as he is known is a bizarrely smart, bizarrely athletic member of our family.  He has the ability to clear a six-foot privacy fence, an ability he uses a touch more frequently than I would like, but as dogs go, he is a good little man and a valued member of the household.  For clarifications sake, we call him “the Hammer” because of his willingness to butt his head, full speed, against our backyard fence as squirrels run across the top.  The effect is a disoriented squirrel dropping to the ground and a disoriented dog.  He’s damaged the fence, and caught a few varmints that he had absolutely no idea what to do with.  All members of the canine and rodent community have survived to date. 

Lately, Adrienne has begun to drink the Kool-Aid that the kids are serving.  I am the stand alone in my house denying the kids their new puppy.

Here’s the thing.  There are more than two types of people in the word, most people see “pet people” and “non-pet people”.  Personally, I fall in the middle.  I like the pets I have (besides Otto, we have a cat named ‘Phoebe’ that barely falls under the category of pet…being un-pettable and all).  I like having a pet that is well behaved, lovable and again, well behaved.
Of the “pet people” in my life, I have my children who love animals in all capacities, except for their pet fish, Skeletor, who has eaten all of his roommates.  All three kids have offered to flush Skeletor themselves in order to clear the way for different sea life.  I have my wife, who due to her rancher upbringing, sees pets as a lovely addition to the family but hardly equates them with an actual member of the family.  I think that this comes from raising and naming pigs only to eventually see them on the breakfast table.  I suppose this gives her a cognitive distance from any four legged member of the team. 

As you extend the view beyond our little home, the nearest member of the family is my Mother.  She is a “semi-pet person” like yours truly.  She had a cat we grew up with named Conan.  He was a great cat but after he shed his mortal coil, she went pet -free for a decade or two as it was prohibitive to travel.  She recently decided to get another cat and adopted one from the daughter of her best friend.  Oliver quickly became a favorite of my children.  When she dove back into pet ownership she went full bore, including all appropriate check ups and shots.  The single best part of the ‘Oliver’ experience was the fact that a few months after ‘Oliver’ moved into my mother’s house, ‘he’ had a checkup that necessitated the name change to Olivia.  I guess it’s fortunate that my Mom never bought gender specific cat toys.

Beyond that are exhibit ‘A’ and exhibit ‘B’ in my life.  My sister is simply put, a pet-person, my brother Steve is not.
Jennifer, my sister, has two cats, Frank and Roger.  It is not fair to say that they rule the roost, but they have about the best living situation that pets could find.  She is careful with their diet, their health and who watches them while she is away.  At one point, years ago, she owned a pet who literally saw her through the biggest transitions in her life and Jen reciprocated as Bill got ill and eventually left.  Her willingness to extend herself for Bill as his condition lessened was inspiring but as a ‘semi-pet person’ was more than I could have done.  She deserves a ton of credit.   Honestly, every pet should have someone who cares about them the way she did Bill. 

Annnnd then there’s my brother Steve.  I remember him owning a couple of cats (but may just be one cat with multiple names).  The names were P.I.T.A, and acronym for Pain In The Ass and Burlap, because at times it was asking to be put into a burlap sack and tossed into a river.  Pita/ Burlap was never tossed into a river but my estimation is that it probably didn’t see the same care that Bill, Frank and Roger has seen.  He now has a dog named Bentley who is certainly is key member of his family and, because of his adorable face, because of my brother’s maturity or more likely, his wife’s and children’s influence, seems to have transitioned Steve from ‘non-pet’ to ‘semi-pet’ ish. 

I certainly fall between Steve and Jen.  I like what I have, but am scared of buyer’s remorse on the next one.  Otto is a good dog, not without his flaws, but a good boy.    I worry that we don’t get as lucky with the next one. 

Okay my little ladies, this time’s lesson is more of a lecture.  I’m probably not ready for another dog and I guarantee Phoebe is definitely not ready for it.  Our non-pettable pet would die if we brought your little bundle of joy into our home.  Despite her abrasive nature, she has been with us twice as long as any one of you have and deserves consideration too.  She is above the “Burlap” treatment and above the “Skelator” solution.  Let’s all let her bid her own adieu before we look into another adoption.  And frankly, in spite of her 18 years on earth, she is merely a kitten, so we should be able to revisit this conversation just about the time Avery is heading off to college.  That should be about the time when Old Man Otto is ready for a playmate and Daddy is ready for another puppy.  I can hold out that long assuming Mommy never weighs in, so admittedly, I’m screwed.  

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Chris Jacobson: Tourist Firefighter

Today’s episode is based on something that my daughters said to me a week or two ago.  Considering the event’s in Dallas this last week, the subject matter seems apropos. 
Last week my oldest daughter saw a firetruck as we were returning home after a soccer tournament.  She asked a question about when I went firefighting. 
A little backstory is probably in order.  My father-in-law Mick was a fire chief for a number of years and was a firefighter in his home town for decades.  He trained new firefighters and also fought wildfires all over the western states during the summers.  A few years ago Mick asked if I would like to get certified and help out during the summer.  I swallowed hard and nervously accepted the offer.  I helped my father-in-law fight fires for one summer and the way kids schedules and jobs work, it was the only summer I would fight wildfires with Mick. 
So my daughter asked “do you remember the time you were a fireman?”
“Of course I do sweetheart, I missed you girls very much.”  I responded. We talked about it for a little while, she asked, I answered, until finally she asked if I would ever do it again.  “Probably not,” I told her, “I’m getting too old and I would miss you girls.”  I elected not to tell her that most jobs don’t appreciate you taking three month breaks every summer.  My job at the time allowed me to do it, but added that the next time would be my retirement, message received. 
“Good” she said.  “I don’t want you to go be a fireman anymore.”
We talked about her not wanting me to go and I found out that she had been afraid when I left.  I told her that I had been afraid, too, but that Poppy needed the help.
The conversation turned to Mick, or “Poppy” as my daughter calls him.  We discussed that Poppy is a bona fide hero.  That Poppy had helped people, saved their homes and even protected their lives.   We said that despite the fact that he is a huge goofball, other firefighters really look up to him.  I got to see it first-hand a couple of times.  When Chief Poppy walks onto a scene, the other firefighters just sense that he knows what he’s talking about.  On a side note, Poppy also uses this trust in the real world, which is why my kids believe that his mustache is an 'angry caterpillar' and God knows what else. 
The conversation had me reflecting on the summer I spent firefighting.  For a little while, I got to live out a childhood dream.  Like anything else, there are things you don’t hear about it, like every meal on the site is two thousand calories or that the fire retardant pants you wear will take so much hair off your legs you wind up looking like an eight year old from the waist down.  They don’t tell you about the smell your clothes take on after two straight weeks of limited outfit changes and no washing machine.  All in all, it was great.  I wasn’t a firefighter per se, I was more like a firefighting tourist.  Frankly, it was as close enough to the real thing as I need.
All of this seems scattered, I’m sure, but it really isn’t.  Here’s the point, girls.  There are tons of heroes in this world.  Your mom is a hero for keeping our house together despite our crazy schedule.  Your teachers are heroes for the time and patience they show as they try to jump start the grey matter between your ears.  But there is another kind of hero, too.  Those are the bona fide kind.  These are the people who put themselves in harm’s way to make your lives better or safer.  I got to work with some of these types of heroes for a summer.  They enjoy what they do, sure, they talk about it with a pride that most people dream of having in their jobs.  They laugh in a way I’ve never seen people laugh while they work.  It’s hard to put a finger on but I suppose if I were to try, I’d say it has something to do with knowing your job makes it very easy to sleep at night.  The double whammy of knowing that you’re helping people and that you have nothing left in the tank after a work day.  It’s enviable to love your job the way they do, but it entails a lot.  It’s physically demanding, it’s mentally draining, its long hours, it’s being away from your family and it’s doing all of it while working a job that has its fair share of peril.  Firemen, police men, EMTs, soldiers, and plenty of others give gifts to you that it is impossible to repay.  The point is this, “just don’t forget it”.  When you see a firefighter or a police man, say ‘thank you’ or at least give them a smile, I bet they could use it.