Roll Call

Before we dive in to the day-to-day fun here on Planet Josh, there is one last bit of Planetary business to catch everyone up on, and that is the current team roster.

As you might expect and as is the natural course of things, the Planet has seen some changes in its population over the years.

With one straight trade, three retired jerseys and two rookies signed, the overall population is down one, and the ratio of fur to skin has increased.

The trade: When I began this blog low those many years ago, I was separated from Toad’s dad. By the last time I wrote here in 2013 before the big “real job” break, the divorce had been final for a year. On Jan. 2, 2016, I married an ex-boyfriend from my college days. His name is Richard, but we’ll call him ‘Migo here, because that is what Toadie calls him. Why? Well, back in those aforementioned college days, Richard used to spend holidays with one of his best friends’ family. The best friend always referred to his grandpa as ‘Migo, abbreviated from “amigo,” as that’s just what his grandad wanted everyone to call him, including Richard when he would visit. Richard thought this was awesome, and always wanted to be someone’s ‘Migo himself some day. So when he came to live with us, especially since Toad has difficulty pronouncing his “r”s, he became ‘Migo.

Just a couple of cool dudes on a mountain.

Just a couple of cool dudes on a mountain.

Toadie and his ‘Migo

Toadie and his ‘Migo

Toad, sporting his best dress Crocs with his Calvin Klein suit, made his own seating arrangements at the wedding. Complete with iPad playing a Blue’s Clues episode. It was expected, and it was perfect.

Toad, sporting his best dress Crocs with his Calvin Klein suit, made his own seating arrangements at the wedding. Complete with iPad playing a Blue’s Clues episode. It was expected, and it was perfect.

Retired jersey #1: My mom, who we lost in 2012 to colon cancer. Devastating in so many ways, as she was my best friend for much of my adult life and both Toad and The Elder Spawn adored her. It was fast, we only had seven weeks from her diagnosis to her death, but true to form til the end, she maintained her humor and incomprehensible grace. She named her tumor George, since something named George is, presumably, less frightening and terrible than a grapefruit-sized ball of death in your gut. I was going to write about those seven weeks on another part of this big blog, Along Came George, but it ultimately proved too hard. Maybe some day.

Miss you, mom.

Miss you, mom.

Toadie loved his grandma, and we had many adventures with her. I had no idea how to explain to him why we weren’t going to be able to see her any more. Blue’s Clues never made an episode about death, and developmentally it’s just not a concept he can understand. He asked for her a lot in the year after she died, and I resorted to simply telling him she was very sick and that we couldn’t go see her. He eventually stopped asking for her, which made me as sad as when he would ask. I know him well enough to understand that he has not forgotten her—Toadie does NOT forget. Anything.—but clearly at some point he realized that asking was in vain.

Retired jersey #2: My dad, who we lost last year. Dad was 83, and had spent the better part of the last decade dealing with significant health issues. Though that would not have been obvious to anyone but those who knew and loved him best. In a series of events that really are worth writing about some day, we very nearly lost him at the same time as mom in the fall of 2012. No joke. Divorced parents who didn’t live super close to each other, dying at the same time. This was … well, like I said, it’s worth writing about some day because WTF MOM AND DAD, SERIOUSLY??? But my dad, fairly miraculously, pulled through eventually—in no small part, I believe, thanks to his wife’s unwavering care, belief and support—and we had him for another six years. During which time we got to spend a wonderful couple of weeks in France with him and, he was able to walk me down the aisle when I married Richard and gave a toast at the wedding that people still mention to me as one of their favorite memories from the day.

Probably one of my favorite pictures. Dad with The Elder Spawn, I think around 2002 ish.

Probably one of my favorite pictures. Dad with The Elder Spawn, I think around 2002 ish.

Retired jersey #3: Buddy. Our dear, strange but lovable former Toad service dog. Pretty sure Buddy even wrote a post back in the day. The Buddy story is long and complicated, and if you search “Buddy” or “Service Dog” here you’ll find all the posts that tell it.

Buddy was a sweet boy that was trained as a service dog (an actual service animal, trained in various tasks but most importantly, tracking) that we got from an organization called 4 Paws for Ability in Ohio in 2006. He was only a year and a few months old when he came to live with us, and our best guess is that he was Catahoula mix. We were told he was a hurricane Katrina refugee, whose family was displaced and couldn’t keep him. He allegedly bounced around between foster homes until one family decided he would be a good service dog, and took him to 4 Paws.

Our road with Buddy was interesting and, as I said, complicated. He really was a sweet dog (unless you were a cat or a bird), but ultimately too needy himself to be a very good service animal. He did a great job at Disneyland the couple of times we took him, and I will say, you haven’t really experienced Disney unless you’ve been on Pirates of the Caribbean with a dog the size of a skinny Lab riding shotgun in the front seat.

Buddy loved running fast, sleeping by a warm fire and barking at all the birds in the yard. He also loved terrorizing The Rookies, who you will meet in a moment. He was full of his crazy Buddy energy right up until the last couple months of his life, when he had slowed down a bit, likely due to arthritis.

The end came this past March, when he was 14, with help from the vet after we believe he had a stroke. The Elder Spawn, ‘Migo and myself were with him.

Again I found myself at a loss with how to handle this with Toad. I knew he’d be aware that Buddy was gone, Toadie is aware of EVERYTHING. But for all the same reasons as when mom died, it just didn’t seem possible to explain it to him. So I didn’t. This makes me feel terrible, because I know he misses Buddy in his way (when he talks to himself, which is somewhat regularly, in the first couple of months after I would hear him talk about Buddy). But I honestly believe it would upset him more to talk about Buddy being sick or gone and not coming back. So once again, it’s a loved one disappearing from his life that I don’t know how to help him cope with. Also, I worry that associating “sick”, which I believe he has a very basic understanding of (thanks Blue’s Clues!), with disappearing is not a good thing. So here we are. Just one of life’s happenings that is enormously complicated on Planet Josh.

The Bud-man.

The Bud-man.

In Ohio, August 2006, when we went to 4 Paws to meet him and train.

In Ohio, August 2006, when we went to 4 Paws to meet him and train.

For a dog that loved the heat as much as Buddy, he certainly had fun in the snow :)

For a dog that loved the heat as much as Buddy, he certainly had fun in the snow :)

The Rookies: We’ve covered the losses, now let’s talk about our new arrivals.

If you have read the post titled “So this one time, at the auto mechanic”—which if you haven’t, I highly recommend—you will know that we moved to an island the summer of 2012. Everybody adapted pretty well, except my car (read the post) and Buddy. Not sure why, because there was a lot of wildlife where we lived before, but after we moved here, he became a barker. He just started barking at EVERYTHING. And then I got the job and he was alone during the day, which was new for him, and seemed to make the barking issue even worse. I decided he was lonely (my interpretation of some of his behavior, but honestly, who knows?) and I thought that maybe having a friend around would help.

I knew we couldn’t get another dog, although I entertained the idea briefly. With me working that just wasn’t feasible or appropriate. So, as I am a pretty big fan of cats, and have had experience with having a dog and cats together before, I started looking for kitties.

‘Migo and The Elder Spawn were not enthusiastic about this plan.

Especially after I told them I was likely coming home with two.

They were kittens. I rationalized to my husband, son and myself that Buddy would be more likely to bond with babies. Tiny, helpless … I envisioned Buddy developing almost maternal instincts toward them. Protective, nurturing. I imagined he would be so happy to cuddle up with a couple of teeny floofs as his new friends.

So, in August of 2013, about a month after starting my job at the paper, I brought home these two:

Cosmo and Izzie at 7 weeks old, and just arrived in our home.

Cosmo and Izzie at 7 weeks old, and just arrived in our home.

Brother and sister. I really wanted the little tortie girl but she was extremely shy, so I thought having one of her siblings come with her would help. As expected, ‘Migo and The Elder Spawn quickly moved from “don’t get two cats” to “these are the best cats ever! We love them so much” :)

Unfortunately, my fantasy of how Buddy would react to them was blown up fairly quickly when he came running over to the carrier just after I got them home and promptly started snarling and growling. Poor baby Izzie was permanently traumatized, teeny floof hissing and spitting with all her itty bitty might. We tried again, trying to keep Buddy calm and relaxed, but every time he saw them he essentially tried to eat them. I really never thought he’d react that way. He used to watch Elder Spawn’s chinchilla, Chewy (still with us!) playing in his big playpen and never tried to chase him or even bark at him. But he hated the cats. Chased them, snarling and growling the whole time. It ultimately worked out in an Upstairs/Downstairs fashion: Buddy, who liked sleeping by the wood stove anyway, slept downstairs which essentially became “his” zone. The cats slept upstairs. Buddy would come up of course, but never to sleep. And the master bedroom became the cats’ safe haven, because for whatever reason, Buddy just never came in our room. But if the cats tried to go downstairs … well, when they got big enough I figured they could take their own risks.

Cosmo, the brother and big fella (we believe the kitties are half Maine Coon), seemed to enjoy taking those risks, and purposely ran downstairs while Buddy was watching leading to much chasing, barking and general chaos. Izzie, on the other hand, avoided Buddy as much as she could. Maybe it was her fear but he seemed to like her less. Maybe he kind of enjoyed Cosmo’s games. More on this later.

Toad doesn’t pay much attention to the cats, as expected. They run when he gets noisy … Izzie runs even if he’s just walking around and not making noise … but generally they settled into life on Planet Josh pretty well. They do like Josh’s bed:

Izzie doesn’t so much any more, but Cosmo will sleep on Josh’s bed whenever he gets the chance.

Izzie doesn’t so much any more, but Cosmo will sleep on Josh’s bed whenever he gets the chance.

Caught them hanging out in his room when they were still teeny.

Caught them hanging out in his room when they were still teeny.

And sometimes, even hanging out with him:

Toadie and Cosmo, kickin’ back.

Toadie and Cosmo, kickin’ back.

I suspect things would have gone better between the cats/Buddy had the cats been here first. Back before the boys were born, I had two cats and a dog. But I had the cats first, and then brought Jake home when he was a puppy. The cats didn’t find the pup threatening, as he was smaller than they were, and he just grew up thinking he was a cat. Worked out really well. So maybe down the road if we are thinking of getting another dog, it might work out better that way.

For now, we all miss Buddy. Especially Cosmo, which may sound surprising, but I’ll save that for another post.

So now that you’re pretty much up to speed on the players, we can just get back to all the strangeness that is life on Planet Josh.