Monday, September 27, 2010

Adventures in Dogsitting: Rikki

Since I do not, at present, have anything more urgent to occupy my time, I'm spending the evening at my parents' house.

If you were a smallish girl during the 1980s, like I was, you very possibly either had the Barbie Dream House yourself or you knew someone who did. My parents basically live there now, except that unlike the Barbie Dream House, their home does not easily split into three sections and it does, in fact, have a staircase.

(Sidebar: The lack of stairs always bothered me about the Barbie Dream House. How were the Barbies supposed to get upstairs to the lavish bedrooms? It made no sense. My sister and I, after spending some time being perplexed by the lack of upper level access, finally hit upon the solution: Malibu Barbie was capable of flight, and whenever one of the other dolls wanted to go upstairs or downstairs, she was responsible for ferrying them. Why could Malibu Barbie fly? For that you would need to ask my sister, because that was her favorite doll, and the logic employed by her five-year-old mind was beyond even my seven-year-old comprehension. In any case, this was a much easier dilemma to solve than the others, namely the lack of a bathroom and the fact that we had ten dolls of mixed gender and the house had only one bed. As I recall, we decided that the bedroom closet was really a bathroom filled with invisible plumbing, to fool Barbie's enemies, and the dolls slept in shifts so nobody had to share the bed. End sidebar.)

Anyway, I often go to my parents' house, but not always to visit.  It's just as likely that I'm going there on a particular day because they aren't home as because they are.  I'm the designated dogsitter, you see.

My parents have three dogs. The youngest one is just a year old, and the only boy. His name is Rikki, although he answers just as readily to "Rikki, no!" or "Metronome Butt," which I named him because when he wags his little stubby tail he looks like he's keeping time to someone's erratic piano playing.

Rikki and Sheela, the oldest dog, are both toy fox terriers. Sheela's main personality trait is a preference for moving as little as possible. The majority of her existence is spent repining on the sofa, like a Southern woman with a permanent case of the vapors. Between them in age is Molly, the world's largest golden retriever.

There's also a cat. She's older than all of them, but they seem to think she's the interloper.

To the dogs, for reasons that have never been adequately explained, I am "Aunt Laura." When my parents are going to be gone for more than a few hours at a time, I hang out with the canines and then they're happy because they think someone's home. I love them dearly, don't misunderstand me, and they are wonderful dogs; but dogsitting is, almost without exception, a recurring adventure.

Rikki, being a puppy, is hyperactive, wicked fast and almost impossible to catch. Don't blink because he'll disappear. The best way to keep him amused is to give him a plush animal, which creates an immediate and highly important project. In case you weren't aware, the most effective way to kill a stuffed animal is to rip out one or both of its eyes, then lobotomize it by removing all of the stuffing inside the head. Not only does this assure everyone that the animal is dead, but you can redecorate the living room at the same time by strewing the cotton innards all over the carpet.

Another great way to entertain Rikki is his favorite game, tug-of-war. Sometimes he will bring me the plush animal, and push it into my hand until I attempt to take it away from him. We then engage in an epic struggle, human versus beast, and I have to say that for a small dog weighing less than ten pounds, Rikki is strong. It's like playing tug-of-war with Bamm-Bamm Rubble. There's no logical reason why you can't pull the toy away from him; you just can't. After a minute or so, if brute strength isn't enough to rip the toy from my hand, he starts shaking his head violently, causing my elbow to rotate in its socket in directions that I'm almost positive it was never intended to go. Letting go doesn't necessarily work, since about half the time he promptly comes over and pushes it into my hand again.

Eventually, he deems me boring and wanders away to eat the dry cat food.

He comes back after a while and tries to jump on my lap.  This would be fine if he actually wanted to be held, but he doesn't.  What he wants is to play keep-away.  I'm going to make you want to hold me, and then when you try, I'll run away!  Oh, this is a great game.

Sometimes I'll catch him and we sit down together.  This is when I spontaneously develop large quantities of...something...on my face.  I don't know what it is, but it must taste fantastic, because Rikki can wash my face for an hour at a time.  Unless, that is, the cat dares to enter the room.  Then all bets are off because that cat has no business being anywhere near Rikki, and he will tear my arms off in the effort to get to her and send her packing.  The poor cat takes off running, grateful for the baby gates which barricade Rikki into the living room, and he comes back looking excessively proud of himself.  And then he wants to play tug-of-war again.

And Sheela watches the entire thing from the sofa, not moving an inch, wearing as derisive an expression as a dog's face is capable of making.  I just can't figure out if her disdain is directed at Rikki, for giving their breed a bad name, or at me, for humoring him.


  1. Congratulations on starting the new writing blog! :)

  2. Would you believe Barbie has a last name? It's Roberts.


Photo contest! Check it out! (These are mine.)