Now that summer has set in, my legs are covered with claw-marks. Just as they start to fade, I pay my weekly visit to my grandparents and come home with a whole new set.
My grandparents have a Boston Terrior named Tippy. Over the years, I have known and loved a dog who ate an entire can of Crisco and then pooped white for a week, a Great Dane who let himself be lorded over by a yorkie, and a golden retriever who is so obsessed with his stuffed toy of the week that he forgets to put it down to eat. In spite of this cast of characters, Tippy might be the strangest dog I have ever known.
He is the king of carpet butt-scooting. He doesn’t bark, just chuffs and snorts like a piglet. He has learned some tricks, but puts his own spin on them. He’s too awkward and clumsy to roll over, so he does a little half-somersault kind of thing. He does this move my grandmother calls “The Stevie Wonder” where he sits up on his hind legs and sways in time to the music between his furry ears. And he is always thrilled to see me.
We usually bring dinner when we visit grandmom and grandad, so I’m always walking in loaded down with food. Before I can free my hands, Tippy barrels at me like a fat little tank, leaping in glee.
In the jeans seasons, I don’t even think about it. The Tippy-Tank move is heartwarming in its own way. After all, how often do you visit something that loves you so much it throws itself at you? But in the summer, when I’m wearing shorts and my legs are unarmored, I wince at the weekly collection of Tippy-welts.
The other day, he got me really good. I had to bite down on my lip before an f-bomb came flying out of my mouth in front of the grandparents. It only hurt for a minute, and then we were all seated and enjoying our dinner while Tippy chomped contentedly on a bone at Grandmom’s feet.
I often wonder how Grandmom can handle him, when she uses a motorized wheelchair to get around. I imagine his excited squat fat butt plopping right in her lap as she goes. But she adores him. He helps her wile away long days and longer nights. He makes her laugh. When Grandad tries to correct him, she defends his butt-scooting honor.
So I pretty much just suck it up and let him maul me with love once a week. Besides the fact that I could never stay mad at something that makes my grandmother so happy, I have learned that payback is a bitch. And when it comes to crazy critters, my grandparents owe me big payback.
Today, Lee and I just have Sly and Vin Weasel. But there was a time that I had a menagerie of ferrets. Around the same time, my ex-husband and I spent a summer vacation taking my niece to Disney. My wonderful grandparents were much healthier and more mobile back then, and they signed up for the dubious honor of coming to my house each day to take care of our weasely crew so we could do this.
Trust me, that’s no small act of kindness. If you’ve never lived with ferrets before and suddenly find yourself surrounded by six of the little buggers, you’re in for an adventure.
With the exception of the litter-box cleaning part, they actually enjoyed their time with my weasely crew. At least, they did until the pants escapade.
My grandmother knew I worried about the gang, so she would call me each day while she was at my house and let me know what each of them were doing. “Callie’s snoozing on your bed. Brooke, Robyn and Joey are curled up in the hammock in the cage. Stewie’s eating, as usual. And Weaz is playing with your grandfather.”
My ferrets were creatures of habit, and that’s pretty much how the report went every day. Weaz was always the one who would be dancing around Grandad’s ankles, engaging him in a game of tug-the-sock or find-the-ferret.
One afternoon, my grandmother got a full-on giggle fit while giving me the report. “They’re so cute, Weaz and your grandad. Weaz is just war-dancing away and grandad is … oh! Oh!” The laughter stopped.
“Grandad is what?” I was getting a little worried.
“Oh, shit (you know things are bad when your grandmom says ‘shit.’)! Weaz just ran right up his pants leg. Your grandfather has a weasel in his pants! Wait … oh, he’s taking off his pants!”
I had an image of poor Grandad, forced into dropping trou in my living room to get one of my ferrets out of his pants while my grandmother gave me a play-by-play on the phone. I, in turn, had to share it with the friends we were staying with in Florida. Because, you know, it isn’t bad enough to have a weasel in your pants. Your grandaughter has to tell people a thousand miles away about it, too.
Grandad was a trooper, and survived the remainder of his weasel duty week. So when the Tipster gets a little too frisky and leaves me with a claw-mark or two each week, I just pat his snorting fat head and show him a little love.
Their Boston Terrior may be a lovebug menace, but he’s never crawled up my pants and made me drop them in the middle of their living room. I’m thankful for that. He’s a hell of a lot bigger than a ferret.