Before my brother drove us into his driveway, he warmed us that his fox terrier, Edie, could get so tense about new people in the house, that she would suddenly attack the big, old lab, clamping with her jaws that it was hard to pry her off. Said that once she had done so much damage, the lab had to have dozens of stitches. So we were all nervous that we would not cause that much of a stir. And a little worried for myself and my daughter about all those teeth in that alligator gar-shaped mouth.
We pulled in, unloaded our luggage, and my brother went ahead to the house, saying he’d “release the hounds.” Out they poured: Jack the quick, low-running border collie, who licked and adored, jumping up lightly to get more skin; Nellie, the lumbering, white retriever with big, watery eyes, thick tail swinging back and forth, and little Edie, short, pointed tail up and waving rapidly and tightly–a good sign, and circling. It was a go, so far so good.
Over the next few days there were more signs of harmony: Edie would follow my daughter and me around, wagging and watching our faces, very alert, as if asking, “Everything good? Need anything else? Okay, okay.” Up and down the 45 degree sloped wooden stairs, checking at our bedroom doors, accompanying us, along with Jack, down the lane for a walk. My sister-in-law said these were all good signs, that a rare quick acceptance had been given and that she showed no signs of her prior psychosis. I wondered if our having some of the same DNA as my brother could have something to do with it.
Jack was always there, too, and if either of us sat, he would lay his head, and sometimes a paw, on our knee, gaze into our faces and offer as many kisses as we would tolerate. When we started up a trail by the side of the house, we found one of his stuffed toys, and he made clear signs he wanted to play fetch, which he did joyously down the trail and then again in the pool, leaping with abandon and always asking for a redo.
Then the cats, in succession, made their various communications. Not including Mouse, who was recovering in a spacious pen from surgery for a car accident, each made contact. Steve and Lola, right away. Steve, an old, gray cat with a hoarse, melodies meow that tended to forget he had been fed and was continually asking for more. Lola, a pretty yellow and cream big-eyed girl who vocalized constantly until petted. Mud, the back male outdoor cat, came in after a day or two to check us out and became affectionate. Of Stella, the orange and white tabby, we only caught glimpses until the second to last day, when she cam ever to me quickly as I sat on a bench outside, gave me a quick sniff, and ran away. Then on the final evening, as I was reading on my bed, there she was, up on the bed, purring and rubbing.
These animals are an important part of my brother and sister-in-law’s household. That they have been unable to have children is one reason, I suppose. Plus all but Nellie have a story of rescue and recovery, and as a result have become even more cherished, since no one else apparently wanted them. My sister-in-law, a vet, had a hand in the care and cure of each, and both she and my brother, in their different ways, have a soft spot for underdogs (and cats). All the animals have bonded with one another also, and with the exception of moments of high tension for Edie, get along very well.