Tonawanda News

April 22, 2013

HAYNES: What empty nest?

By Danielle Haynes
The Tonawanda News

— It’s a little surprising how often my parents find a menagerie of animals hanging out at their home.

And I’m not just talking about the ordinary, run-of-the-mill pet kind.

I once received a text message from my mother with an attached photo of a baby goat she found chill-ing on their front porch. (The neighbors behind them didn’t tie up the kid because they foolishly believed it wouldn’t stray too far from its tethered mama.)

Their old neighbors to the left had a couple of usually pretty quiet chickens. We always knew one of our more adventurous cats was up to no good when we heard the ruffling of feathers and clucking of some upset hens. (Don’t worry, he was always too chicken to get close enough to hurt them.)

There was once a turtle one of our other cats diligently followed — slowly — throughout the yard one day. He just wanted to be friends.

We’ve come across lizards, snakes and birds near the front and back doors, though most of them were of the dead variety. Cats again.

My stepdad, James, has a soft spot for animals, especially the babies, or ones in need of his help. He feeds a handful of neighborhood cats out in his barn, which has resulted in more than one litter of kittens being born out there.

It was another litter of kittens they thought they had on their hands about 6 weeks ago when they heard some soft crying coming from under the floor in the barn.

After two days of non-stop crying, mom crawled under the floor to see what was up.

These were no kittens. They were puppies. Four of them, so young their eyes were still closed.

They were hungry, dehydrated and alone.

Dogs. Now that was a new one for them.

My parents didn’t realize it then, but at that moment they just became parents again and were in for one hell of a ride.

My mom and stepdad got married when I was 15. It was James’ first marriage and he didn’t have any children of his own. Mom tells me she was open to having more kids if he wanted, but they ultimately just stuck with me.

I can’t blame James especially ... suddenly having a brooding, angsty 15-year-old daughter was no treat. I wasn’t exactly a shining endorsement of the prospect of parenthood.

Of course, it was a mere decade later that my mom started in on the “When will we get grandbabies?” conversations.

I think the last six weeks of taking care of completely dependent puppies may have made my stepdad realize he made the smart decision of sticking with just me. (And yet puppies aren’t even as difficult as human babies and I’m reasonably sure my mom has handled most of their upkeep.)

For the first few weeks, she had to feed the pups special formula every few hours, even in the middle of the night. At one point my mother complained to me that by the time she had each of them fed, pooped (they need help with that at first) and calmed down and back to sleep, it was time for them to eat again.

Now that the puppies are more mobile, my parents are cleaning up accidents — I heard James exclaim over stepping in some poo while I was on the phone with mom the other day — and making sure they don’t get into anything they shouldn’t. The pups have to tag along or go to a babysitter — my grandmother’s — anytime my parents need to be away from home for more than a few hours.

Each day I get a slew of photos updating me on the growth and progress of Col. Mustard, Maj. White, Sgt. Carter and Capt. Peacock — collectively referred to as the Super Troopers. They’re cute — ridiculously cute — and the snaps always put a smile on my face. Is this my mom’s own version of posting proud photos of her babies on Facebook?

They recently found out the pups are a Great Pyrenees mix, making them a very adoptable and desirable breed. A Great Pyrenees rescue organization has even offered to take them off my parents’ hands, promising to give them good homes with lots of space to run around.

It’s exactly what the Super Troopers need. My parents don’t have a big enough home for a dog that could weigh 100 pounds or more. But I think mom and James will miss the little guy and girls despite all the hassles.

It’ll be a sad day when the daily photos and updates on these little pups stop streaming through my phone.

Plus, I’m not too keen on the return of the request for grandkids that have mysteriously been absent these past six weeks.

Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.