Archive for the 'Pets' Category

Rockford Ignacio

“Dad, we just bought a rat!” Eli exclaims on the phone.

“You bought a what?”

“A rat, Dad. His name is Rocky and he’s white and I’m going to feed him cheese and I’m going to hold him and he’s totally awesome!”

“Well, that’s, um, well. A rat? Really? Hey, put your mother on.”

“He’s very sweet, honey” his mother explains. “And just wait till you see his testicles. They’re so big they drag the ground.”

“A well-endowed rat,” I say and exhale deeply, loudly, deliberately. “That’s just we need.”

“See, that’s my thinking, too. I’m glad you understand.”

“Wait. Hang on. That’s not really what I meant.”

And that’s how it happened, how Rocky—full name: Rockford Ignacio Lesley, but only when he’s in trouble—became the family rodent:

I’d include a picture of his testicles, but this is a family site, and all the shit here is G rated.


The cat we feed

You might remember Snurp, our cat who we called dumber than a donut on this very blog. Snurp is still with us. And he still hasn’t gotten any smarter.

Of late, Snurp has become wary of strangers. When other people visit the house, he either hides outside or howls at the top of the stairs.

“What is that?” a neighbor asked one afternoon standing in the living room.

“It’s our cat,” Sally replied, making quotes with her fingers when she said cat.

To be fair, Snurp has improved some. For instance, he rarely does his business in the dining room. He’s also tolerant of Slade, who spots Snurp, booms, “Hi, itty cah,” and pats (read: pounds) or hugs (read: tackles) Snurp almost every day.

Gentle, we remind Slade.

“Geeee,” Slade babbles, sometimes smiling like he gets it. Then he tackles the cat again.

And Snurp? The cat takes it. In fact, Snurp never acts irked by the indelicate toddler yelling and yanking on him, which is impressive, actually, even if it does reaffirm our belief that the cat is brain damaged.

Snurp used to bite people, but he’s grown out of that.

Okay, not really. Not completely.

He still attacks Sally, and only Sally, for reasons we can’t figure out. She’ll be lounging on the couch or walking down the driveway or sitting on the toilet, and Snurp will pounce and chomp. Snurp’s favorite time to attack is when Sally is dead asleep. I’ll hear Sally swear in our dark room, and Snurp will bound off the bed, and I’ll look at the clock, and it will show 2:15 or 3:37 or 5:15.

“Snurp?” I’ll ask, even though I know.

“The jerk bit my toe.”

A couple of weeks ago, lying in bed after downing four pumpkin martinis at Apache Shores movie night, Sally retaliated.

“Hurts, doesn’t it?” she snapped after she bit the cat’s tail.

“Okay, I think someone had one pumpkin martini too many,” I said, acting like a grown up or maybe an asshole. And then I had to ask: “What exactly does Snurp taste like anyway?”

“Like terrible cat,” she said.

You’d think we’d learn by now. You’d think we’d leave Snurp outside at night to tangle with the coyotes or that we’d at least shut him out of the bedroom. But we haven’t. And we won’t. The truth is Snurp is part of our pride, and we want him to be around, even if he is half feral and chuckleheaded and insane.

When I grow up, I want to be a ninja

This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun.”
Clark Griswold

We logged 2000 miles on the family vacation in August, driving first to New Mexico to see family—good people, strange people—then road tripping it in the station wagon to Port Aransas, the epicenter of the Redneck Riviera, with our old pals the Tubres.

On the road, both the kids threw up, the dogs had the squirts, Slade—21 months old then—talked and yelled for hours that felt like weeks, and Eli, when not playing videos games or watching movies or vomiting, asked lots of questions:

Eli: How many roads are there in the world?

Me: 300.

. . . . .

Eli: What if you couldn’t ever go pee ever again?

Me: Uh.

Eli: I bet you’d die. Everybody has to pee and poop.

Me: Except butterflies. They don’t poop.

Eli: No, Dad, you’re wrong. Everything poops. Ever. Eee. Thing.

Me: Except butterflies.

. . . . .

Eli: You know what I want to be when I grow up?

Sally: What?

Eli: A ninja.

Sally: A ninja? You want to be a ninja?

Eli: Totally, dude. I’d kill all the bad guys. Pew, pew, pow, pow. That’d be awesome.

. . . . .

Eli: What if everybody in the whole world moved to Texas?

Sally: Um.

Eli: It’d be crazy, dude. Everybody would be fighting everyone all the time.

Sally: Good thing you’re going to be a ninja then.

Family vacations aren’t about relaxation and fun. I learned that as a child, and I see that still as a dad. They’re about busting up routines, seeing people who matter, experiencing the world beyond, and surviving. Most of all surviving.

Or maybe most of all connecting with the kids and Sally who I see so little of.

Whatever they are, I believe in family vacations, even if they’re expensive and the car smells like spilled milk for months and my ears are still ringing from the ruckus in the back seat.

In fact, Sally and I started scheming about our next outing almost as soon as we returned, and then the other night, Sally said she and I and the boys should leave the country next summer.

“You’re not right in the head,” I told her. “You realize that, right?”

And then I told her I was game. I suppose that means I’m not right in the head, either.

This rock star life we lead

This is 6:30 in the morning. Slade, who awoke at 5:00 to nurse, is on the bed, kicking and cooing.

“Oooh. Oooh, ” the nine month old says. “Oooh.”

Snurp, our cat who is dumber than a donut, has found his way to the bed, too. He’s curled up and purring in my armpit.

Eli shuffles into the bedroom and climbs on the bed.

“Dad, dad,” the five year old whispers. “Can I watch a cartoon?”

“Not now. Your mother and I are still sleeping,” I tell him.

A few minutes later, with Slade smacking, Snurp meowing, and Eli rolling around on the bed, I give up on sleep.


It’s not even 7:00.

As I creak out of bed, Chuck, one of three dogs in the bedroom, rolls over on his back and his tail goes thump, thump, thump on the floor. Ella—a sweet and submissive Rottie mix we’re taking care of—goes “rrrrroohh,” her tail making happy circles. Snurp meows.

With Snurp strutting in front of us, his tail straight up in the air, I tote Slade into his room to change him. The dogs and Eli—thumb in mouth, favorite blanket in hand—follow behind. Every morning it’s the same, these friendly stalkers lurking close by as I wander from room to room.

I lug Slade downstairs, Snurp dashing ahead, the dogs clattering behind on the wood steps, Eli bringing up the rear.

I scoop up Snurp, drop him outside, and fill up his food bowl. That’s one down. A couple walks by on the street as I’m pouring cat food into the bowl. They wave. I wave back. I remember I’m wearing nothing but underwear. Hell.

I order Chuck and Wiley outside, and they slink through the door. That’s three down.

“Let’s go, Ella. I know you have some business to take care of, ” I command to the one remaining canine. Ella doesn’t budge. Damn. I plead, I coax, I offer treats, and finally, fed up, I grab Ella by the collar and drag her out. Ella pees on the floor as I slide her along the tile. That’s four down.

“Dad, I’m pretty sure Ella peed,” Eli shares, pointing at the yellow spots, trying to be helpful.

“Uh,” I grunt.

I clean up the mess. I turn on a cartoon. I toast bread for the boys. I make coffee. I sit, still in just my underwear, staring out the yard, unsure if it’s Wednesday or Thursday.

A few minutes later, Sally comes down the stairs.

“Thanks for letting me sleep in,” she says. “Hey, it smells like urine down here.”


This is 11:30 that night. Slade is crying. I listen for a few minutes in the hall outside his room, hoping he’ll settle himself, but sniffles turn to wails turn to screams. So I go in.

“It’s okay, little dude,” I reassure him. “Mom and Dad and Eli are here.” He’s silent for a few seconds, then he screams again.


I pick him up and carry him out of the room, accidentally kicking Chuck who is sacked out on the floor.

“Damn it, Chuck,” I mutter. “Move.” Chuck rolls over on his back. His tail thump, thump, thumps.

Holding the baby, the dogs and Snurp at my heels, I make my way down the stairs and outside to the deck.

I lie down on the plastic lounger with Slade sitting on my stomach. The evening is warm, the temperature in the 80’s, with a whiff of damp wind coming up the canyon off the lake. The baby and I stare up at the sky, me looking for shooting stars, Slade kicking and cooing.

“Oooh. Oooh. Ba-ba-ba,” he babbles.

“You’re right,” I reply. “It is a perfect evening.”

Chuck growls at something unseen, and the dogs explode into the yard, yipping and barking and eventually howling.

Slade goes, “Ooh. Aaaaaah.”

“You’re right. Those dogs are terrible, but they’re family, which means we have to love them anyway.”

We lounge outside for a few minutes, seeing exactly one meteor streak across the sky.

I shuffle back inside—the dogs and Snurp following again—and amble up the stairs with the boy. I put him back in bed.

As I walk into our dark bedroom, I bump into Wiley.

“Damn it,” I blurt out, and Wiley’s tail thump, thump, thumps.

How we almost poisoned our cat

Our cat Snurp, who is probably mentally retarded, received his first bath yesterday after Sally unintentionally dosed him with the Frontline for 88-pound dogs, instead of the cat stuff for wormy 10-pound Snurps. As you might imagine, applying that much flea medication to a cat’s skin is bad.

Like causing-seizures bad.

Like going-into-cardiac-arrest bad.

Like finding-a-dead-cat-on-your-bathroom-floor bad.

Fortunately, Sally realized her mistake almost immediately and knew from her vet tech days what to do: Scrub Snurp raw. If we cleaned him well, she informed me, Snurp would likely not go into shock and die, which is, you know, nice. The cat living, that is.

Anyway, Snurp’s first bath.

Sally, after realizing her mistake, told me we needed to wash Snurp immediately. She picked him up, and Snurp purred. Snurp loves to be held.

Sally carried Snurp to the garage. Snurp continued to purr. He could handle this, being held, being petted. This is the life.

Sally stuck Snurp in the garage sink. Wait a second. The floor is wet! What in the hell. . . Snurp stopped purring.

I turned on the water.

Snurp moaned and tried to escape and descended into cat hell.

But there was no getting out. We held him down, soaked him, and worked a half a bottle of oatmeal dog shampoo into his fur and scalp. And to his credit, he didn’t bite or claw or bound for freedom. Snurp just stood in the water—his back arched, his ears down—and took it, miserable, defeated, and now howling.

snurp bathing himself When we finished, we put Snurp outside on the deck. After a few minutes, I looked out the window and noticed Snurp was cleaning himself. When I looked out half an hour later, Snurp was still slurping away. In all, he probably spent an hour licking himself.

Eventually, Sally noticed Snurp had stopped the cleaning. “Snurp just raced up the big oak tree,” she noted. “Looks like he’s going to be okay.”

“Okay?” I asked. “I’m not sure Snurp has ever really, truly been okay.”

Snurp came tearing back down the tree. “Good point,” said Sally.

That night Snurp sauntered into our bed, curled up in my armpit, and purred noisily. He’d already forgiven us for the bath. Considering all the vacant space in his brain, he’d probably already forgotten, too.

Remind me, again, why we keep feeding the Snurp

Snurp might be the worst cat we’ve ever owned. His latest? Leaping onto Chuck’s neck, digging his claws in, and chomping down.

Snurp does this at least once a day.

Sometimes Chuck, 100 pounds of canine who wants to be everyone’s buddy, yelps. But most of time, he just takes it, panting, suffering without a whimper, pleading with his eyes for the cat to be removed from his neck.

There’s more to Snurp than just being terrible, of course. He’s also fearless and stupid.

Take garage door chicken. When the garage door closes, Snurp waits till the door is inches from the ground before blasting under. It’s a fun game, unless Snurp doesn’t make it, which has happened, Snurp howling, me frantically pushing the button to make the door go up, me impressing the neighbors with the creative ways I take the Lord’s name in vain.

You’d think the cat would learn. You’d think that a garage door slamming into his back would make a lasting impression.

But it doesn’t. Time and again, the door inches down, and Snurp flicks his tail, and we know another last-second dash is imminent.

When we first brought Snurp home, I often fantasized about tying him to a tree next to the road with a sign that advertised, “Free Cat.” Sally, who was often attacked on the chin and nose in the dead of night, had her own dreams: “Can we feed Snurp to a coyote?” she asked.

But we didn’t give him up. We kept filling him up with kitten food and cleaning up the Tootsie Rolls he dropped in the dining room and tolerating him drinking toilet water.

I’m not sure why.

But I have to admit that we’ve kind of, sort of come around on ol’ Snurp. He’s affectionate for one, curling up with us every night and purring when he’s held.

Plus, he no longer attacks the humans, saving his aggression for his stuffed mouse, his dog Chuck, and his other dog—Wiley Bucket—who was chased across the yard with Snurp whacking at his tail just yesterday.

Plus, Eli loves Snurp. He proudly tells his friends: “This is Snurpy. He’s feisty.”

Our infant Slade is oblivious to the cat. Slade’s thing is ceiling fans. He lies on his back and coos and smiles while staring at those magical, whirling machines. The littlest dude just can’t get enough of them.

And here’s something else. Slade rolled over twice this very morning. Given his premature arrival, we know he’s at an elevated risk for all kinds of stuff. So I can’t help but exhale when the boy does what he’s supposed to do.

It’s what I want for Slade, for him to be healthy, to develop as he should, to find mystery in this world, even if that mystery right now is a fan turning in circles.

Addendum: Snurp just peed on the floor. Those nice things I wrote about him? I take them all back. Anybody want a cat? We have one with lots of personality.

Picture dump

I was going to write something about something, but then I decided that the something was boring and that even I wouldn’t want to read it. So I’m sparing you—because I’m nice like that—and posting a scattershot of recent pictures instead.

Here’s Eli and his favorite hat. He likes wearing it to bed.



Here are the brothers just before Easter.



Here we are at the Tax Day Party. We left well before things got rowdy, so I can’t give a full report. But word is, nobody was arrested, beaten up, hospitalized, or accidentally blown up.



Here’s the Pedernales River at sunset at the same party.



And finally, here is the obligatory kids-in-the-Texas-bluebonnets shot. Notice how the boys look displeased about the whole deal. I’m pretty sure that means they’re smart. Or at least cool.