Katie Marsico is a proud mother of 3 human children— Maria, 5, C.J., 3, and Thomas, 18 months. She is also the happy guardian of several furry, finned, and scaled pets.
Marsico has happily written for Tails since its inception in 2000 and is the author of more than 60 children’s books. She works from home, which is located in Elmhurst, Illinois (though she hopes that address will one day be changed to a location in southwest Florida).
I have always felt that a critical part of being a halfway decent parent is honesty with oneself and with the world in general. As a mom and the innkeeper at Elmhurst’s version of Noah’s Ark, I have come to realize that this dogma also applies to good pet guardianship.
Case in point: I love my pooches more than the words of this blog could ever describe. But, just like “those days” I complain about with my human kiddos, I have my not-so-great moments with my animal family, as well. I can be honest with myself and others and attest that there are those fleeting episodes when I forget I write and edit for a nationally distributed pet magazine and could easily lapse onto the ASPCA’s list of most-wanted criminals.
Today marked one of said episodes. At about 11:00 AM, I had scrambled to start browning ground beef for a taco dinner. While I listened to my 80-20 pound of meat sizzle, I coached Maria on a reading assignment and broke up fights between my croupy, unhappy four-year-old and my cranky, “I’ve decided I don’t like naps anymore” 18-month-old.
While I cooked, tutored, and refereed, I listened to our Chihuahua’s constant yapping in the background and our Poodle’s growling at the bevy of squirrels she spotted outside our living room picture window. Boomer, our Beagle-Bassett mix—and the culprit around whom most of this tale of woe and furry fury inevitably centers—lay quiet in a sedentary heap under the kitchen table.
Amidst all this chaos, however, I downed a Red Bull and achieved success. I helped Maria get her work done, fed two unhappy boys, and even forced them to giggle. Bridget stopped yapping, and Isetta gave up her sofa stalking. The world was at peace, and so we left to drop Maria off at school, visit my mom for a few hours, and enjoy ourselves knowing that we’d return to a calm, clean house where dinner was basically already prepared. Sadly, Boomer and a swarm of flies had other plans.
When I got back at about 3:00 P.M., I had the distinct sensation that a movie studio had decided to reshoot Amityville Horror from my basement. I am normally not a violent soul, but I slaughtered at least 15 large flies today. No furry member of our family has passed away, no food is lying out, and there are no holes in the screens. So why I’m being plagued remains a mystery. Readers, ideas? But—as you can imagine—this scenario only added to the general chaos that reigns at the post-school/pre-dinner witching hour.
Then, one of my lovely little nymphs (I’m thinking C.J. or Thomas) apparently opened the fridge door in search of sustenance during our fly massacre. Not only did two or three of the God-awful insects make it inside the fridge; so did Boomer! Standing on his rather large haunches, he had devoured the pan of taco meat by the time I found him and was (hmmm, how can I put this delicately?) leaving evidence all over my floor that Mexican food does not agree with him.
3:30 P.M.: Children are crying and screaming, noses are running, diapers are being yanked off, dogs are pooping and barking, and flies are flying. I felt like I was living that old Carly Simon song in which the lyrics go, “Then you burn a soufflé, break a window, scream the lullaby . . . .”
But I can be honest with you, blog fans. I can admit my imperfection. I wanted nothing more than to pack my children and their pal Boomer (and whatever winged creatures chose to join them) in a little box for their father to retrieve on the doorstep at 6:00 P.M.
Alas, however, I didn’t. Why? Well, I’m afraid the neighbors would call animal and child protective services for one, and then I’d have to explain why there was a mess on my hardwood and flies in the fridge. And I’ve seen too many episodes of Hoarders to know how that goes down.
So, I instead took a deep breath and held onto my happy visions—Boomer snuggling with my autistic son, him sitting patiently while the baby scales his back, and my daughter proudly walking him to school each day like Mary’s little lamb. The tactic worked, and we are all still here. How does my success at not having a breakdown equate to this week’s little chestnut?
Simple: Be honest with yourself and your kids and your pets. You’re not perfect. None of us are. And other creatures’ imperfections or the curveballs that life throws at us can exacerbate our flaws. That’s okay. Just always keep the perfections— the irreplaceable memories of compassion, love, and humor— somewhere in the back of your head or at the end of the leash. They’re more powerful than all the not-so-great things combined . . . and any swarm of flies and half-eaten pan of taco meat.