Sunday, August 5, 2012

It is a Far, Far Better Thing

I think it’s one of the nobler aspects of human kind that we, without so much as a begrudging thought, make sacrifices for our pets. 

I know of a couple who hasn’t traveled together for years; they don’t feel they can leave their six cats.  Personally, I have the suspicion that they never really liked traveling together in the first place, and this makes a handy excuse.  (I know I’ll get emails about that comment…)  For John and me, there is no point in traveling without the other unless we absolutely have to for work.  Besides, there are wonderful pet sitters in the world.  I’m even a little jealous of just how much Cleo loves hers. 

My sister gave hours of each day to caring for her aging cat Perdita.  Though shriveled to the weight of a kitten and completely incontinent, Per wasn’t in pain and clearly wanted to hang around with my sister and her family.  She didn’t care much for any other humans, but my sister had bottle fed her and her brother Raoul when they were found abandoned, days old at the most.  Raoul was a hale-fellow-well-met kind of guy, but Per was able to expand her heart only enough to love Jan’s husband and daughter because Jan loved them.  Everyone else was suspect, and one felt lucky to be graced with a rare Per sighting when visiting the family.  Jan helped Perdita to a dignified exit with all the love and patience she had helped her to a hopeful entrance.

A dear friend of ours takes her Labs to a doggie swim-gym several times a week so they can have no-impact exercise for their aging joints.  Finnegan and Merlin may be the best traveled dogs I know, having gone walk-about with Jen and Anth in their converted van, spending four years or so traveling to Alaska, New Orleans, Boston and back to the Central Coast.  I can’t imagine two adult humans and two adult Labs in a van or tiny apartment for all that time, but they couldn’t imagine life without the dogs.  What I thought of as a sacrifice was a no-brainer for them.

John and I detest DIY projects, the converted backyard notwithstanding.  Our watchwords are “Hire the professionals.”  We are full of admiration for all those who can build, carve, tile, pave, install and refinish.  We stand amazed at our brother-in-law who built an entire cabin by himself.  And I use the quaint word “cabin” only because it is located in the mountains.   But John and I have neither the talent nor the inclination to master home improvement skills.  He is fond of paraphrasing Dr. Bones from Star Trek, “Damn it, Jim, I’m just a country guitar player!”  That would be a lowercase country, given that he’s built his city on rock and roll.

So it may come as something of a surprise that our Sunday went to installing a patio pet door in the sliding glass door off our kitchen.  It may not come as a surprise that it took us something in the neighborhood of six and a half hours to complete this home improvement.  Now, Cleo has instant, ready access to the backyard any time she wants it. 

The journey to ending up with a pet door to the outside was fraught with any number of wrong turns.  To begin with, it took us months to settle on just the right one.  We had to compare the permanent installations with the semi-permanent, those with the temporary.  Did we want aluminum or vinyl, double or single-paned.  Should the flap be rigid, flexible, jointed?  Magnetic?  Automatic?  Who knew there were so many options? 

We finally settled on one a couple weekends ago (semi-permanent, vinyl, double-paned, jointed) and placed the order on a Saturday.  On Sunday, our credit card company called to ask if we had magically made simultaneous multi-thousand dollar purchases in southern California, Northern California and South Carolina.  Um, no.  What had initially alerted them to possible fraud was a $3000 plus purchase at a Bose outlet in San Matteo and a $2500 charge at a Macy’s near LA.  At first they were confused by a posting from Walmart in Charleston for $500 in groceries, but quickly decided that it was unlikely that was us.  The upshot was a canceled credit card and an email on Monday morning from the pet door people asking if there was some problem with our credit card.  I now had the choice of giving the new card number out over the phone to a complete stranger or canceling the order and starting over on the secure website.

The nice fraud department adviser counseled me that as long as a payment site was specifically labeled “secure,” chances are nearly infinitesimal that your information will be stolen online.  The real problems, he said, were restaurants.  “The minute you let your card out of your sight, you have no idea what’s being done with it,” he told me.  He described small apparatuses that wait staff can attach to their belts that allow them to swipe a card and obtain all the information necessary to make a perfect duplicate.  “Any time you take your card out of your wallet in a public place, assume that someone nearby is snapping a picture of it with their phone.”

I canceled the order and started over.

So our nice UPS man delivered the door mid-week, and John and I tackled the installation today.  Let me just say, John was great—a creative problem solver, an indefatigable driller, measurer, sawer and screwer (though that sounds a bit wrong).  “Power tools!” he would announce in a tone of deep appreciation every time a screw went into its intended destination (especially the couple of times we had to reverse our steps and do something over again). 

For the first hour or so, Cleo observed from a safe distance.  Eventually, she decided that the whirring noises probably weren’t life-threatening and came over for the up close and personal, occasionally providing help with a paw to the knee or an encouraging lick of the nose.  About 7:30 this evening, we all stood back to admire the finished product.  A little caulking here and there will seal the deal, so to speak, and keep us warmer this winter, but all in all, it looks pretty spiffy.  Cleo thought it was most elegant.  She just had no idea what it was for.

A half dozen times luring her inside to outside, out to in with hotdog slices and she was beginning to get the idea.  It was a moment of triumph for all of us when she magically appeared by our sides as John and I put the tools away in the shed.  The return trip back into the house is still problematic, but she seems to have mastered the in-to-out route.

In fact, just as I typed that last sentence, I heard the swish and smack of the flexible door as she made use of our gift to her.  There is a remarkable sense of joy in hearing that simple sound.  It suddenly seems small, the sacrifice of the last Sunday before school starts.

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