Before Baby E was even an idea, there were two furry critters that we welcomed into our home. In August of 2010, our Chocolate Labrador-Retriever cross into our lives. A year later, our peaches and cream Manx cross.
Our Chocolate Lab is one of the quirkiest dogs I've ever met. He came from a family that had three female dogs (two "purebred" Chocolate Labs and one Australian Shepherd), and one male Chocolate Lab, all unfixed. All three of the females ended up pregnant, and had huge litters. So we went to see all 18 of them, figuring that with that many little wriggly, chubby little furballs, we'd have the best chances of finding one right for us. All of the puppies seemed to have a lot of energy (one was even barking, chasing, and pestering all the others)... except for one. This one little puppy sat smack down in the middle of all the puppy madness, and just observed us. He was obviously a little tired, but that wasn't all. He was just different. Calm. Calm in a Lab puppy is, well, kind of strange.
My husband was instantly drawn to this little pup. After playing with him for a minute, he was certainly impressed by his attentiveness and awareness. He called me over to look at him, as I was admiring the little, adorable runt of the litter. Jay and I stood there looking at this mellow pup, who happened to be the largest in the litter. The puppy just sat there on the ground, looking up at me with his little round eyes. I picked him up, and he melted into my arms, content to lay there without any objections. I had already tried to pick up several puppies, and they had all wriggled right out of my arms. When the little puppy was still happily laying in my arms ten minutes later, we were sold. That was the little guy we were taking home.
We thought at least half of the mellowness would wear off once he had had a nap. But it didn't. He is still an extremely mellow dog, with very rare, very short outbursts of excitement. After some short brainstorming, we decided to name him "Copper" after the dog in "The Fox and the Hound," one of my childhood favorites.
Copper became instantly attached to us. He couldn't stand being kenneled his first night in our home, and, concluding it was too hard for him to go from dog-piling with 17 siblings for the night to being in a kennel, we allowed him to sleep in the bed with us. He curled up at our feet, and didn't fuss again. I had put up a gate to keep him out of the kitchen, but he'd have none of it. He'd sit at the gate and whimper at me, even though he could clearly see me, unable to stand being separated. Eventually I couldn't bear hearing the whimpering any longer, and I'd pick him up and try to balance him on my hip while making dinner. In hindsight, a baby carrier would have come in handy with that one!
Our mellow puppy grew into a mellow dog. Copper, who had been deathly afraid of water as a small pup, decided at 8 months that he could swim, and just jumped into the ravine of Hawrelak Park, and that was that. We now take him there regularly, as he loves to jump around, playing with other dogs in ravine, and going for a swim. The one thing that always baffled me about Copper, however, was that he looks almost purebred, but his hair is much too long. And despite looking so much like a Labrador-Retriever, he failed to live up to the last half of his breed's name: retriever. He certainly knew how the game worked. If there were no dogs around, he'd entertain us by fetching a stick or a toy once or twice, only to decide on the third throw he was done. I'd watch others at the dog park with their Labs, chasing a ball (or stick, or anything, really) endlessly, throughout the whole duration of their park visit. But not Copper. He preferred romping around with other canines, and wandering towards their owners for some generous pat on the back.
Well, a few weeks ago, he surprised us. It was his first real swim in the ravine this year, and we threw a stick in for him like always, well aware it would probably be abandoned and left to float away downstream. But he caught it, and brought back. So we threw it again, and he went right after it. He loyally retrieved and returned the stick probably twenty times, before we got tired of it and stopped. We can only guess that he's a late bloomer!
Copper's always been a funny dog, a lot more like Merle (from "Merle's Door" by Ted Kerasote) and a lot less like Marley (from "Marley & Me" by John Grogan). He's smart, and can figure out things, but he's well aware of things that will get him in trouble, and he'll avoid them. I know he know how to open the trash can, but he just doesn't. Occasionally, he'll decide something is so irresistible it's worth a scolding, such as sneaking down into the basement and skulking around down there. But I know he knows he's not supposed to do it, since he went from traipsing up and down the stairs like a rock slide, to tip-toeing down there silently when I'm not looking. He somehow seems to differentiate from off limits things that will get him in a little trouble (going into the basement), and things that will get him in a lot of trouble (taking food off of our plates or digging in the trash). This makes him perfectly compatible with our lifestyle, since my husband and I are good at tolerating the little stuff, but too many large quirks would drive us mad.
Then there's our other animal companion. He came from a litter of 7, born in a barn on a farm a few hours from where we live here in Edmonton, Alberta. The family had a Manx as a barn cat (since they have a reputation for being great mousers), and since they had a fairly large property and no other cats, they didn't think it was necessary to fix her. And, well, anyone that knows a lot about cats knows how far a tomcat will venture to visit a female in heat! So the litter of 7 was born. I first heard of the Manx breed when I was 12, and I was instantly in love. Having always been a fan of bobcats, this seemed the closest you could get to owning one, without having your eyes torn out and being scratched to death.
My husband insisted we didn't need a cat, but, persuasive as I am, he eventually caved. When we saw all the little kittens, only 7 weeks old (their mother had weaned them early, a week before), I knew exactly which one I wanted as soon as I saw him. Peaches and cream, being mostly cream from his mid-belly down, with eyes to match. He was a little furball, with just enough tail that you can see a little twitch when he wags it, but still technically a "rumpy" (no tail). He went home with us, and I named him Jasper, after Jasper National Park, which I had just been to for the first time a few months before.
He was a cuddly little fuzzyball from the start. Unlike a lot of cats, always indifference to our presence, Jasper, if neglected too long, will wander over to rub up against you and demand attention. When I was pregnant, I took a lot of naps, since I had a hard time sleeping through the night. While we always keep the door closed to the furry little ones during the night (we tried to let Jasper sleep with us before, and he ends up walking all over us all night), I'd let Jasper nap with me. He'd hop onto the bed, purring, look for the top of the blanket, and wait for me to lift it to let him underneath. He'd proceed to curl up next to my belly and nap with me.
The only thing with Jasper, is he hates to be confined. He refuses to be contained against his will in any way. When he was a little kitten, he screamed the first time I trimmed his nails. I know I didn't hit the quick (the nerve that ends close to the base of the nail). He just didn't like being held down. Every trimming after that was exactly the same. He sounded like he was dying! Eventually, after a year of having his nails trimmed weekly, he finally decided it wasn't all that bad, and he'd wriggle in protest, but not make a sound.
His first trip to the vet to get neutered was no better. We took him in when he was five months, and even then he was a big cat. I bought a hard shell cat carrier, since my family had always struggled getting cats into the soft shell ones. It was quite evident he was stressed about being in the carrier. He hadn't even been in a carrier when we'd brought him home that one day when he became ours. I had just held him in my lap. About five minute into our drive to the vet, he started meowing very loudly, and trying to get out. He started by scratching the hard plastic of the carrier, and when it did not succumb to his efforts, he extended his claws into the slots meant for him to look at, and then pulled with all his might, trying to create an opening through which to escape. He was doing this with so much force, and so much determination, that he ended up splitting two of his nails open, hitting the quick and causing a small amount of bleeding. As soon as I saw the bleeding, I knew I couldn't leave him in there the remaining 15 minutes it would take to get to the vet. So I took my chances, and let him out of the carrier. He settled down on my lap, purred contentedly, and didn't try to move to inspect any part of the car at all. My eyes started to water a bit. I felt pretty guilty at that point. There he was, so content on my lap, after splitting two of his nails open (which must have caused at least moderate pain), and we were about to leave him at a clinic all day to be put under anesthesia and have his testicles removed.
Despite my guilt, Jasper was very happy to see us at the end of the day. We were instantly forgiven, and he didn't even bother to punish us by snubbing us for at least a day. All went back to normal.
If there's something really cute Copper and Jasper have in common, it's each other. These two, while they didn't always see eye to eye, are now two peas in a
pod. Although they spend a lot of time apart, they can often be found
cuddling in the same pool of sunlight streaming in through a window, or
curled up on a huge cushion throughout the night.
Are there any furry companions in your family? A dog, a cat, both, or multiples of one or the other? Tell me all about them in the comments! I have included pictures of both Copper and Jasper below, taken throughout the years. Enjoy!