One for my homies

 

Our alarm clock goes off at 07:15, every day, from Monday till Friday. An orchestra of grunts and yawns fills the room, and we hear our dog Beatnik’s head banging against the closet as he stretches noisily before settling back on his bed with a satisfied groan. I fumble around for the snooze button for about a minute, and then snuggle back up with my man. The same thing happens at 07:30. And then again at 07:45. This time, the scent of bitter sweet anxiety hangs in the air. The day tears through the silence that had enveloped our peaceful slumber, the rhythm of my man’s breathing, minutes ago so soothing, now picking up in pace. As he stumbles out of bed still chasing buildings and killing zombies, Spaz does her morning stretches before following him into the kitchen, snaking her way around his legs, ensuring he cannot possibly forget to feed her.

I take the opportunity to occupy the entire bed and enjoy a few more minutes of warm comfort before really facing the day. Neither of us are morning people; the man only knows how to communicate with snorts whereas I transform into a Miss Über-Sensitive version of myself and any wrong move, noise or comment can bring forth the raging bull or the hormonal hysteric in me. I don’t get up until he’s gone about his morning ritual and comes to kiss me goodbye. This is how my perfect morning begins.

I swing my legs out of bed and wait for Beatnik’ sleepy face to greet me. He too goes through a very specific day break routine. He’s the second man to kiss me this morning, only he’s far less smooth, rather sloppy if you ask me, but appreciated nonetheless. He then lays his upper body on the bed and starts nudging me, which is basically his way of motivating me and trying to boost my energy level to match his. Getting dressed these days requires a lot of skill, seeing as my little pony is like an impatient kid dancing around me, stepping into my pants just as I’m trying to pull them up, causing me to topple over repeatedly. I sound like a broken record, Chill out! Chill out! Chill out! But what can I say, this guy has his hours down, and with walkies and food in his immediate future, there’s just no calming him.

As I make my way to the bathroom he’s shimmying his back up and down along the wall. The tiny patch of white wall left in our apartment now has a black strip of…well, Beatnik, running all the way to the door frame, where he has repeatedly performed his Baloo-the-Bear scratching routines. While I’m brushing my teeth and while my hair is shaping into a presentable idea, Beatnik is slaloming. Just remember, Beatnik is not a kitty. Beatnik is the size of Giant Schnauzer. I know its absolute torture for him to sit through my cup of tea and he often reminds me by moaning like a teenager and sulking in his chair, throwing me accusing looks. The moment I lock the terrace door, chaos erupts in our digs; Beatnik chases towards the door and all I can see are dust clouds flying up into the air. Then he’ll come racing back towards me, barking his high pitched I’m-so-excited-and-I-just-can’t-hide-it bark at me. Every time he moves, my arms are shooting out left and right in rescue of the objects I foresee crashing to the ground.

I have about ten seconds of calm as I open the door and gather my keys and his leash because Beatnik has already turned the corner and is waiting by the elevator, out of sight. Now once I close the door, timing is crucial, because at the sound of it Beatnik will come galloping around the corner at full speed and then bounce, literally, bounce off of me with some kind of demented kangaroo kick. It’s fucking hilarious, but at the same time, painful. More than once he’s hit me right in the gut and as I’ve mentioned already, I’m weak in the mornings. So in order to avoid some kind of pre-breakfast vomit feast on the way to the elevator, this ritual has developed into a warped, strictly timed and perfectly calculated, slow-motion martial arts dance; very Tai-Chi, very in tune. He’s bursting in anticipation as we ride up in the elevator, his nose pressed against the doors, waiting for them to slide open. He’s already out of there before the doors have even opened properly.

Our moment begins once I’ve tip toed myself through dog shit paradise and into the open field. The closer we walk to the overgrown areas, the damper the air. We both appreciate the morning dew kissing our cheeks, as we tail-wag and cheek-stretch our way up the hill. It’s still quiet out, only a lone car passing by in the distance every now and then; the day’s hassle still seems far away. The further we walk, the further our feet float from the ground – I can feel it in my legs, the weightlessness, I can see it in his stride. We’re off now, we’ve gone to our own worlds, breathing it all in and letting it take us higher. Sometimes we have nice little encounters with nature’s inhabitants – a special bird, a hurried snake or a curious weasel. These moments leave me feeling elated for the rest of the day. When we turn back, Beatnik has finally chilled out somewhat and remains mellow unless we pass the bins. That’s where he gets greedy. There’s a lady who passes by all the bin stations in the neighbourhood and leaves a big handful of dry food for the twenty something cats that live in the big community bins. Her dogs may be decked out in the latest “Dogidas” gear, but she has a heart of gold. I keep having to remind Beatnik of his orphan days, when he had little food to live on.

Beatnik and his brother were dumped at some bar and brought to the local shelter. I’d been checking the shelter’s site regularly once we’d decided to get a dog and fell in love with him when I saw his picture. He reminded me of my former dog, Schröder. At least when he was a puppy. He was just this tiny ball of black fur with a patch of white on his chest. The day we finally went to the shelter, ready to take a dog home, we got him and another mutt out and played with them in a separate pen for a while. The other one hardly stood a chance, Beatnik kept pushing him away with his massive paws. He was completely disproportionate, his body seemed too small for those big paws, his face was that of a three month old puppy, but he was just huge. It was love at first sight for me. And when we got into the car and he climbed up into my lap like a Chihuahua in the car, that was it, he had me wrapped around his little finger.

The first few months with us, Beatnik was pretty quiet. He hardly ever barked, he wasn’t interested in playing much and was incredibly well behaved. It took a while for him to get confident, to really grow in to himself. The one thing he did from the very beginning and still does, is talk. He’s a very communicative dog. And I don’t mean in terms ofbarking; he really talks, well, yodels, but you know by his tone what he’s trying to tell you.

Spaz has been with us for a lot longer. She was an alley cat, when my friend found her and schmoozed me in to taking her. She’s tri-coloured and bat shit crazy but entirely loveable. She has a very special character and a strong obsession with lighters and pens and, as of late, insists on drinking from a glass. She’s a bit spastic, doesn’t really know how to react to certain stimuli in anything other than a schizophrenic way, but when she has her calm moments you could almost think she’s a lazy, cuddly cat. She’s recently lost a bit of weight since she has left behind the caged apartment and embraced the golf course, but when she was carrying a bit more around the midriff, she was my little multi-coloured potbelly kitty.

Sure, Spaz constantly brings me chewed up lizards, half a mouse head and bird guts. Whenever we move, her housewarming gift to us is a piss on the couch. She makes lighters, pens, keys, rings – pretty much anything that’ll make a noise – disappear on a regular basis. She insists on having her belly rubbed while eating. When I pet her, really giving it my all and trying to please her, she’ll turn on me and bite and scratch and jump off the couch in a huff, with her ears back and her eyes wild, a bit like a crackbrained owl. Beatnik has almost broken my nose with fierce head butts, nearly gauged my eyeballs with his nails and has sent me flying on several occasions; fortunately I have a tendency to land in Twister-like positions. He breaks in to the kitchen and empties the bin and he’s a suicidal eater.

Last weekend, we came home to find him lapping up the remainders of marmite from shards of a jar I had broken earlier that morning. He’s eaten an entire plastic bottle with 40+ pills of Spirulina and was shitting green for about two days after. A week ago he came out of the woods swelling like a balloon. His eyelids were shut, and his snout three times its normal size. He puked then proceeded to walk like a drunk before giving up altogether and lying down in the middle of the street. My world caved in at that moment, and if it hadn’t been for one of my “doggy friends”, I think I would have lost it. But then of course, by the time we got him down to the vet and my heart was lodged in my throat thumping nauseatingly fast, Beatnik jumped from the back seat of the car like nothing ever happened. They’ve both cost us a small fortune in Veterinary bills – and have I mentioned, they never stop eating, shitting or shedding? With the amount of hair I sweep up in the apartment on a daily basis, I could make two furry wigs a week.

Yeah, life was cool when our clothes were free of hair and rainy days didn’t mean a few days of stink. But it was nothing compared now; now that opening the door means being greeted by Beatnik’ definition of a smile (flashing his teeth) and his clumsy hugs. We laugh harder over Spaz’s Kong-Fu-Kitty jumps and her lopsided crab walk, than we do over any sitcom. Thanks to Beatnik’s long speeches at bed time, we have one last giggle before we go to sleep. We shake our heads in bemused amazement when we see Spaz drinking out of vases and glasses; roll our eyes lovingly when Beatnik emerges from the water sporting the latest trend in algae-beards.

We’ll do anything to make sure they’re safe and warm, happy and healthy. Because ultimately, that’s what they do for us; they put a smile on our face, even when we’ve had a bad day. Their loyalty, company and friendship get us through the worst of times. They are home. They are family. Things don’t feel right when they’re not around. They light up our world, make our household just that little bit more adventurous, spontaneous and harmonious. They can be a pain in the arse and eat a hole in to your wallet, but they’re worth every damn penny and they’re the best friends you’ll ever have.

I can’t understand these twats who adopt a dog from the shelter only to feel like the local hero for a few days, before bringing it back because it shat in the garden one too many times. I am enraged by people who dump their dog by the side of the highway, the people who leave their cats behind in urbanisations, just because they can’t be arsed to deal with the complications of moving a pet across country or finding them a new home. Don’t even get me started on the people who simply have their animals put down when the going gets tough. What about the kind of folk who beat their dogs to death, just because it won’t do as it’s told? Or the douchebags who keep their dogs chained to a tree, living in their own faeces? We would live on dry cereal for days if it means Beatnik and Spaz are fed. We’d drop anything and anyone to get home to them if either one of them wasn’t feeling well. Our hearts break when we see them poorly and burst with love when they look up at us, tail-wagging or purring and full of devotion. Some of these attitudes towards animals...they’re beyond my understanding.

Every day, as we go through our morning routine - Spaz’s purring and meowing, Beatnik’ dancing towards the door – I think myself the luckiest person in the world. Their personalities have made our home come alive with even more laughter, love and harmony. I wish I could protect all animals from the cruelty some people put them through. Wish I could take every single one of them home, nurse them back to health, de-flea them, give them a good old scrub and offer them a happily ever after. I hope they understand how thankful I am to them for making my home feel complete, for bringing me up when I’m down, for distracting me with their parasites so I don’t get the chance to focus on the ones in my brain and for giving me a reason to shower every couple of days.

I fantasise about locking people into the same tiny, rancid cages they had their animals locked up in. I wish all the stupid, horrid, ignorant, vile people who have contributed to these problems, would walk a mile on cracked paws, a spiked chain embedded in their necks, dehydrated to the point of complete and utter disorientation; I would stand before them and demand them to sit, lay, jump, fetch, sit, lay, jump, fetch, sit, lay, jump, fetch, until they truly understand what they have become.

Waking up to reality – this gruesome reality – can be disheartening. But the minute I feel Beatnik’ cold wet nose on my cheek and am tickled by Spaz’s content purr in my ear, I know, I have all the support I could possibly need to get me through the day.

...Oh, and my man’s pretty cool too.

 

To all my homies lost, hurt, lonely and hungry – you’re not forgotten.