I have always loved being a Nanny…to human children. It’s their pets that I have a problem with. It may be my upbringing. We never had any pets, save for the goldfish that we were continually flushing down the toilet until we moved and my Mother insisted on giving the tank away, and I was left to lead an entirely pet free childhood. I have a theory that pets must be introduced into your life while you are still young and impressionable otherwise you lose your window to ever really enjoy having animals in your midst. Take me, for example, I can’t stand household pets. But I have to work with them, because it seems every family other than the one I grew up with insists on keeping a virtual zoo in their homes.
My first Nanny family got a puppy after I had been there 2 months. He was an adorable Welsh Springer Spaniel named, appropriately, Dylan Thomas. Dylan was an adorable little guy, but completely refused all training lessons, even from the professional who ran the swanky pet store down in Laurel Village. Dylan would not submit to anyone’s authority, and I was completely clueless on what I might do to get him to behave. His one passion was running away, and during the summers on Long Island he would constantly slip out of his huge fenced in area and take off. I would be all sweaty in pursuit of him, running down the beach screaming his name, only to find him lying on a blanket surrounded by large breasted women in bikinis sipping chardonnay on Sagg Main Beach.
“We love him,” They would say, stroking his rust colored fur while he smiled broadly.
“Keep him,” I would mutter, and drag him back home, hunched over gripping his collar, because of course, clueless dog caretaker that I am, I had forgotten his leash. Again. For Dylan there were also endless visits to the vet to take care of all the injuries he would inflict on himself while digging out of his fence and foraging garbage pails on the beach. Dylan was a total character, and I suppose in my own resentful, begrudging way I did harbor some affection for him that was in some way among the smallest shades of love.
Following Dylan was a host of families that included pet care on their contacts. Namely, walking their dogs, (why don’t people ever want to walk their own dogs?) picking up their poop and cleaning out cages of numerous rodents with names like Twinkle and Muffin. I wore gloves and held my breath. There is nothing quite as vicious as the smell of mouse pee, this fact I learned in the early days of my current job, whose menagerie included an aging neurotic poodle – mutt named Tweeny, a puppy named Rocky, and a mouse named Rocky. The five year old had named the latter two. Rocky the Mouse always tried to bite me when I cleaned his cage, even though I was making things all nice and spiffy for him every week – and even brought him presents of little mouse chew toys to brighten up his goldfish tank existence in the basement bathroom. He was a forgotten little mouse. I was the only one who visited to make sure he had food and water, because I was contractually obliged to. I noticed his swollen eye and brought him to the vet in a shoebox. I donned gardening gloves and applied ointment to his eye twice a day for a week as he chewed at me. I discovered him dead in his fish tank, paws up, and actually felt a pang as I tidied up his little body in a tissue box with flowers suitable for a family viewing. Honestly though, my biggest emotion upon the death of Rocky the Mouse was sheer relief at not being subjected to mouse pee soaked newspaper every week anymore.
With the tragic death of Rocky the Mouse we were left with Rocky the Dog, a Crack-a-doodle, as we like to call him. Rocky spends his time destroying the house and barking. He has taken apart custom-made cowboy boots, baby chairs, doorknobs, fences, friendly neighborhood relationships and a greater part of my sanity. He goes into frenzy with the approach of any deliveryman. His only saving grace, and the reason that I have not yet taken out a contract on him, is that he is great with the kids, and will allow the baby to poke at his eyes and pull on his tail while lying perfectly still. Tweeny, like Dylan before her, is an escape artist that drives me insane in my attempts to track her down. I finally got her a tag for her collar with my cell number on it, and in spite of my diligence to close every door and keep every fence in tidy repair, she slips off roughly about three times a week. I get these very sweet messages on my cell that my dear dog has been found wandering, and when I go to pick her up I am greeted with a look of remorse from her and a stern lecture from the kind stranger who has rescued her. I should keep a better eye on my dog, I am scolded. If I feel I cannot handle the responsibility of such a dear creature, they, the kindly stranger, would be happy to keep her.
“Keep her,” I long to say, but I hold my tongue.
About a month ago, my boss came home with a baby bunny to add to the mix, and seeing my wide-eyed look of pure terror assured me,
“Don’t worry. Bunnies are the best pets ever,”
The little boy bunny was soft and black and fluffy and the kids wanted to name him carrot. I overruled, insisting on Cole. (Get it? Little black bunny? Cole.)
When it was my turn to hold him he snuggled down in my lap like a little baby and nibbled at my fingers, gently. When he is brought into the house he hops around and nuzzles up to the children and they exclaim,
“Cole is kissing me.”
I remain skeptical, given my track record with pets, but I must admit, you can barely smell his pee on the newspaper of his cage. I’ve actually brought up the notion to my housemates of getting our own Bunny. We’re seriously thinking about it.
Rebecca Nelson Lubin is a writer and Nanny who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. You may read more of her articles at http://www.abandofwives.ning.com/
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