Carol Shwanda chronicles her blended family's lives and experiences offering hope, guidance, wisdom, inspiration and humor to anyone who is in or about to enter into a blended family.
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Believe it or not, the pets had a much harder time adjusting to the family blending and move than the kids did. When Paul and I got engaged we had four cats, three dogs, two fish and a bird between us. I had two dogs, Joey a Lab Retriever mix and Tina, a yappy little Schnauzer mutt. I also had two cats, Kyle, very friendly and lovable, and Rosie, a skittish “scaredy cat” who never went outside. Luna, my Cockatiel rounded out the assortment. Paul had a Lab Retriever named Louie, two cats, Zip and Flip and two fish. We are now down to three cats, one dog, one fish and a bird. Our intention initially was to combine all the animals, but it became immediately clear that that was not going to work out.
When I put my house up for sale, we thought it best to bring Joey over to Paul’s house so that my house would be easier to show. Since we had not yet moved to our new home and because it was under construction, Joey had what could be considered a dog breakdown. Feeling abandoned and confused by his surroundings, he refused to eat, shuddered in fear and hid under the house. We consulted our vet who said there was really nothing we could do. He was depressed and would eat eventually. We visited him often, which perked him up a bit and fed him fattening cheeses and really expensive wet dog food. He eventually came around.
Once we moved in, we brought Tina, our little dog into the house. This caused some drama when Tina, frisky little thing that she is, scared off Paul’s cats who ran away and were missing for days. Mark cried which made me cry. This called for a supreme sacrifice on my part because I loved that dog, but I felt I had no choice but to find a new home for Tina. Luckily, Jared and Keith were happy to take in Tina so we feel like she is still in the family. Sophia and Eva get to see Tina when they are at their dad’s house. Jared and Keith are very good to Tina. They bought her a special bed and sweaters and even went so far to purchase a Flowbee so they can give her hair cuts themselves. ( I know what you are thinking. How did I not know Jared was gay?)
Rosie, my skittish cat, was the next casualty. She was so freaked by all the jack hammer noise that she ran away and we could not find her anywhere. Three weeks after she went missing, Sam found her under the house. She must have been there the whole time because she was starving and severely dehydrated. I immediately took her to the vet who put her on an IV and luckily she recovered. I was afraid she would only run away again, so I found her a new home with my sister who lives a few miles from us. Once again, we felt OK that at least Rosie was still in the family.
All the other cats, Kyle, Zip and Flip, managed to get along. There’s some hissing and occasional moodiness, but at least they are civil. I could say the same things for the kids on some days and sometimes that is the most you can hope for.
Louie, Paul’s lab, died of natural causes. He was really old. Paul took it the hardest.
Last but not least, the Cockatiel, Luna, probably had the most trauma adjusting to the change. One morning, a few days after we moved, I noticed her cage was covered in blood. At first I thought the cats must have gotten to her until I realized that she was picking out her feathers. Sophia, who had done a report on Cockatiels when she was in 6th grade, which is why we got the bird in the first place, informed me that Cockatiels pick at themselves when they are distressed. Another trip to the vet ($100 later) we were back home with a stiched up bird and a vial of antibiotics, and I kid you not, tranquilizers, which had to be administered down its peak. Twice a day, Paul swaddled the bird in a dish towel, while I pried its mouth open. The first time we tried Paul almost killed the bird. He squeezed her so tight she bit his finger so hard he instinctively flung the bird across the room. I screamed, “What are you doing? You’re killing the bird!” I could see the blood dripping from his thumb. “It bit me!” he said in his defense. This was our first night alone in the house since we moved, the kids were with their other parents, and this is how we spent our evening, tending to an ailing bird. It was at that moment that I realized… I had to write a book.