I can really relate to Noah.

Recently I posted about the locust plague of 2004 and how I was apprehensive that more plagues would come. Now I’m scanning the skies worriedly for signs of ominous rain clouds.

It all started when Mona, who is Not Our Cat although you wouldn’t know that just by looking, had 3 kittens under the flamboyant tree on New Year’s Eve. Mona is a pretty black-and-white stray who lives in our yard and lets us hold her and comes in the house every opportunity she gets. Mona is our beautiful compromise—we don’t have to feed her or spend money on her, but those of us who like cats get to enjoy her, and those of us who don’t get to enjoy the official status of Not Owning a Cat.

Mona hid the kittens under a bush round the side of the house, safe from children who wanted to hold them, until their eyes opened last week. Then she moved them to the corner of the porch right next to the door, where they are sheltered from the wind and can infiltrate the house at every opportunity. The cat-lovers among us are thrilled of course; the kittens are adorable! Two are black and one is tabby-striped.

Then, last Saturday night, we came home from the beach and our guard, Abdellahi, walked up to Ilsa and said, “Do you like puppies?” (only in Hassiniya-Arabic, which my keyboard can’t do, not to mention my brain) and plopped a wriggly squirmy bundle into her arms.

It was all over from that moment.

“Aww! Isn’t it the cutest thing?” “Can we keep it?” “I love it!” “Can we keep it?” Donn made the mistake of saying he’d think about it overnight. By morning, it was firmly installed as a member of the family.

I’m not a dog expert, but this guy seemed too little to be away from his mother. His eyes were open, which I believe is the local standard on age to wean, but he couldn’t feed himself initially, and slept most of the time. I spent the first few days feeding him with a syringe, and even did night feedings. I still can’t believe I got up in the middle of the night to feed a dog. Ilsa wanted him in her room—after all, Abdellahi gave him to her—so I agreed that first night. About 4 a.m., I was awakened by howls and yelps and very sad whines. I staggered out of bed and fed the thing to get him to shut up. Everyone else in the family slept right through it. Oh the joys of motherhood.

Once he figured out how to drink from a bowl, I figured he was big enough to make it through the night and things went more smoothly. In the meantime, we seemed to be doing something right—he was fat and roly-poly when he came to us, and every day he’s a bit bigger, into something new, and still roly-poly.weston01.JPG

Thursday morning, we got a call from another family. They were going out of town; could we dog-sit their fully-grown German Shepherd? Since we’d already agreed to this before the arrival of the kittens and the puppy (named Weston after a famous photographer), we merely arranged a time for drop-off and wondered how it would go.

It’s going ok. Mario, the German Shepherd, is a really nice dog who likes children and digging. In an effort to save our garden (which is looking fabulous these days), we chained him in one corner of the yard. Mona the cat was not happy about the situation, and stared him down all afternoon from her corner of the porch. Finally to assert her mastery, she went over and gave him a sharp swipe across the nose. Then she reverted into Halloween Cat mode, arching and hissing for several hours, basically telling him not to even think of her kittens as a delicious mouthful. Now there’s sort of an uneasy truce between them, coupled by a weird sort of sibling rivalry which has currents going all over the yard; wherein all the animals are jealous of the attention the others are getting, and all obviously feel the yard belongs only to them. I refuse to get out my parenting books though.

Plus we still have the rabbit, which we had to move out of Mario’s line of sight. And, presumably the turtle is still there although I haven’t seen it since spring. His kind live long and prosper, though, and in a big green yard like ours, I’m sure he’s munching away contently under some leaves somewhere.

I took Mario for a walk this morning and my hands still hurt. Africa is basically a Dog’s Paradise of nasty things to smell and pee on. Other dogs aren’t chained, and there are many interesting goats and chickens, and he’s a big dog with a lot of pulling power.

It’s very strange. We are not really animal people, and suddenly we find ourselves basically running a zoo for domesticated and semi-domesticated animals. Which is why I find myself relating to Noah, and worrying about floods. We had a sort of fog this morning. Do you think it means anything?

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