Pet peeves


My dictators plot together

Let me share with you a day in the life of our little ménagerie. The word finds its roots in ménage, which means household, so perhaps it’s normal that a collection of animals is part of ours.

I am a dog person. There is no translation for this expression in French. You can say you like dogs, or that you are ‘plus chien que chat.’ You can choose to like neither although you will not be typical of the French who love their pets and generally have one or the other.

Which is to say I am not a cat person. My daughter is a cat person. We got her a kitten for her fourth birthday. Over the years the feline population in our household expanded to two. Madeline moved away to attend university a few years ago and we kept the cats.


Bianca and Leo hanging out

The current pair (I’m tempted to say culprits but let’s keep this polite) are Bianca and Leo. Leo was foisted upon us by a former cleaner who saw a window of opportunity when we were momentarily down one. These cat people stick together. He had been rejected by his mother, she explained in a poignant tale of woe, and she’d tried to place him once already but after a week the woman had changed her mind. That person clearly was smarter harder hearted than I. Leo came to stay, although he almost got ejected after doing his business on my bed.

His younger cohort in crime is Bianca. A bit of a princess is our little girl. Or perhaps a white supremacist. In any case, she does not like to mingle with any Tom, Dick or Harry. So she hangs around the house a lot, requiring two litter boxes and frequent displays of worship.

I’m not sure what possessed me to agree to add two puppies to our ménage after the kids left home – put it down to empty-nest syndrome. Our last dog had died in tragic circumstances a few years before and we were feeling, well….outnumbered by the cats. So it really is all the cats’ fault.

My husband and I have always been suckers for dogs. Our preferred breed was chosen before we married, when we met our first French bulldog at a friend’s home in Normandy. A snorting, smelly, impertinent fellow he was – proving the breed to be well deserving of its name. We got our first Frenchie a couple of years later, then a second shortly after. Edouard and Dorothée were our first children. They taught us that, yes, we were capable of taking care of beings other than ourselves, going for walks, picking up poops. We passed our first caretaker tests with flying colors.

Sadly, the dynamic duo did not live long, whether due to problems of the breed or medical back luck. A few years (and one failed adoption of a stray) later, a third Frenchie came to stay. By then our own children were center stage (or almost, as they will tell you.) Mooqs was with us for ten years or so, until he became blind and stumbled into the swimming pool. Frenchies are not good swimmers.

HH sleep

H&H snore fest

Higgins and Humphrey now rule the roost. They are adorable dictators, who have me flying out of bed in the wee hours in the hopes that they will not have weed theirs. I let them out in the backyard first thing, while keeping a close eye on Higgins, who likes to search for truffles (left by the cats) while pretending to relieve himself. I also check the mat in front of the door to make sure that Leo hasn’t left one of his trophies – frequent offerings of mice and bird remains that the dogs are only too happy to devour as an apéritif.

Then it’s breakfast for the dogs while I go down to the basement and let the cats in to the laundry room where their food and litter boxes are kept. Let’s be very clear: cats are nocturnal beings and I am not. We live in the country so the cats are out at night (both are chipped and sterilized, so we are good citizens).

Leo's leftovers

Leo’s leftovers

Should any cat people be about to protest: the cats have access to shelter in the cellar via a cat flap with a chip reader. This innovation has paid for itself in that we do not now feed half of the neighborhood cat population when we go away and leave their food out.

Then begins the daily ballet of my life as a cat and dog concierge. Imagine these scenes being played to the music ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ from The Nutcracker.

Take the dogs for their morning walk. Stoop and scoop on as-needs basis (i.e., if on sidewalk, private property or when someone’s looking…). Return home, wipe their feet before letting them in (2 dogs X 4 legs = 8 feet). Make coffee. Leo pussyfoots by kitchen door indicating a desire to go back out. Open door, let cat out.

Take coffee upstairs to office. Remove dogs’ bed from workspace as Higgins snores so loudly I cannot hear myself think, never mind hear clients on the phone.

Bianca then comes by for a cuddle. Give her a scrub and close the door. Start in on work. Urgent mewing from downstairs. Open door and remove dead mouse from doormat. Leo comes in. Bianca goes out. Return to work. Ten minutes later, faint mewing from basement where Bianca has come in through cat flap but now wants in to the house proper. She can wait, I tell myself. Focus on work for ten more minutes.

Strange hacking and gagging sound comes from next door. Humphrey has just vomited his breakfast, along with several other unidentifiable objects. Curse, cover nose and clean it up before Higgins does. Return to work. Mewing becomes more intense. Go to basement, let one cat up as other goes out. Make another coffee. Return to work.

Flash forward to late afternoon, several door openings later. Dogs begin to circle in growing impatience as the time for their second walk gets closer. Go lie down, I order. Click click click, toenails on the floor. Grumble. Groan. Snort. Snore. Snore. Snore. Then click click click. Two pairs of feet, two wet noses. Take H & H for second walk. Clean eight feet again.

Refresh water bowl. Feed dogs. Leo circles impatiently by the stairs. Go down to basement, replenish already half-full cat food. Bianca watches from upstairs.

Evening settles in and it’s time to let dogs out for final utility run. Cats nowhere in sight. Get ready for bed and hear mewing from below stairs. Go down and let Leo out. Bianca nowhere to be seen. Come back upstairs and look for her. Check under beds, behind curtains, no cat. Settle in to bed with book. Eyes grow heavy. Begin to nod off. Plaintive cat call from basement. Go downstairs and let her out.

There are moments when I feel less like a concierge and more like a happy pet owner. When Bianca nestles in beside me and goes into ecstasy as I stroke her. When I look deep into those Frenchie eyes and see love.

The dogs sleep in the upstairs bathroom. There are several practical reasons for this. Our house is open plan and does not have many rooms with doors that close. Once I left them the run of the house and they got into their food. Came down in the morning to find two sausages about to split their casings. What followed was a purging session (both ends) that lasted 24 hours and almost made me split mine. Never again, I swore.

The French bulldog is an uppity breed with delusions of humanity. Basically it does not accept the notion that it is a dog. Therefore, any attempt to house them in inferior accommodation will result in a trashing of the premises that is simply not worth it. Also the bathroom is tiled which is easier to clean.

Finally, in one of those lovely synchronicities of translation: the word ‘pet’ means fart in French. ‘Nuff said.

How about you? Do you have any pets – or pet peeves?


  1. Marc-André · February 19, 2015

    Oh I love the look of those thingies they are napping in!

    • MELewis · February 19, 2015

      Yes, they’re great! Keeps the cats elevated and out of dogs’ reach. We found them at a pet store in France.

      • Marc-André · February 19, 2015

        Darn I wonder if I can find them in the UK :o. Otherwise it’s a Eurostar trip! Haha

  2. cheergerm · February 19, 2015

    It’s always the cats fault. (Sorry, not the biggest cat lover, by no means a hater though, I tend to like cats that belong to people I like. Arbitrary, I know.) When I show my boys your doggers, they will swoon. They are totally adorable. We love our Moodle (cross Maltese miniature poodle), named Elvis and yes, he does sing. Really.

    • MELewis · February 19, 2015

      Thanks for your support – my daughter claims I treat the cats like second-class citizens so I need backup. Would like to hear your Elvis sing! I also know a Frenchie named Elvis who ain’t nothing but a hound dog. 😉

  3. davidprosser · February 19, 2015

    You’re going to keep me chuckling for ages now.I’m so glad I’m not the only person to find he was not master in his own home because someone else wanted a cat which they left behind when they moved out. I was a mere useful tool that provided food and door opening on demand and that included at night. Oscar has passed away now but he was worth a book. Obviously the fish don’t have the range to rule the roost.
    For Marc-Andre, yes radiator beds are available all over the UK now.
    xxx Massive Hugs Mel xxx

    • MELewis · February 19, 2015

      Funny, our first cat was called Oscar. In retrospect, he was the best of the bunch. They say that when you have cats, you must accept that you live in their house and not the other way around. As for your fish, I’m not so sure they don’t have secret powers….Big Al at least. Thanks for the tip on the beds – had no idea they were called that! Biggest bises xx

  4. Osyth · February 19, 2015

    Haha! One diva of a doglette is enough for me … you have my total respect and I am in stitches as I imagine you balletically manouevering through you daily dogly and catly duties! 😀

    • MELewis · February 19, 2015

      I try to do it with grace, dear Osyth, but rarely manage without a cuss or – as my husband so eloquently puts it: helping them out the door with my foot! Glad I made you smile!

  5. lonewolf · February 19, 2015


  6. sesame&me · February 19, 2015

    Amazing! I love how your cats stick together and your frenchies do! My Frenchie is called Sesame. He’s still a puppy – only 10 months old going 11 months. The vomiting that Ses does is horrible. However it’s usually only when he’s had too much water too quickly. I’ve learnt to take the water bowl away after a giving him some water which seems to do the trick. Sesame is my first pet and even with all the sleepless nights from potty training days and having to drag myself out of bed due to his upset stomach I wouldn’t want it any other way. It doesn’t surprise me that you’ve had many frenchies to keep you company. They are just the best 😍

    • MELewis · February 21, 2015

      Ha, ha…checked out your blog and Sesame looks like he could be Higgins’ brother! Funny how Frenchies drink – they guzzle gallons at a time. I also remove the water bowl, especially at night, to avoid extra accidents. But you’re right – despite their foibles, you gotta love ’em. Thanks for your comments!

  7. wanderingcows · February 21, 2015

    Those are two contented cats in the picture! And I laughed when you said the French Bulldogs are an uppity breed. I imagined them sniffing at anything considered below their station.

    • MELewis · February 23, 2015

      They will sniff at anything – above or below their station! Glad you enjoyed the post and merci for your comments.

  8. peakperspective · February 22, 2015

    Cats, dogs, sheep, cows–I am open arms to all of them. And I so wish I could find those nesting beds you’ve got pictured with the kitties. They are adorable.
    It sounds like you’ve got yourself a beautiful, but busy little family of furballs. Lucky animals, Mel!

    • MELewis · February 23, 2015

      Thanks, Shelley. I will leave the sheep and cows to my daughter, who is studying to be a vet 😉 Having pets keeps us human, somehow…not sure how that works but I fear the day my house is fur-free. As for the cat beds, they are indeed lovely. David refers to them as ‘radiator beds’ and says they’re commonly available in the UK which should mean you can find them state-side. Bises xx

  9. Mélanie · February 23, 2015

    even though I’m a catlover – à la vie, à la mort, I love doggies, too… so call me to cat or baby sit any time, O.K. 😉 your “radiator beds” are super-cool! 🙂 friendly thoughts and have a sunny day, Mel!

    • MELewis · February 23, 2015

      Cheers, Mélanie! I must admit that cats for me are an acquired taste…but they have grown on me over the years. Glad to hear your passion extends to both! Bises xx

  10. Albert the Dog · February 23, 2015

    Hello! So glad I found you through Osyth’s blog. We have a lot of Frenchies here in New York, and I must say I do not always get along with all of them, as they can be rather bossy at the dog run. But I’m sure yours would not push me around so. Perhaps they would even look down a bit at their American cousins, being as they are actual French Frenchies?

    • MELewis · February 24, 2015

      My pair are two typical macho males, and very much need to be taken down a peg or two. We don’t have dog parks where we live but I wish we did – it would do their social skills some good! As for the Frenchie American cousins, I’m sure that H & H would find the accent rather sexy, as the French often do. Nice to meet you, Albert!

  11. Pecora Nera · March 3, 2015

    I am impressed with the way you organise your pets.So impressed that I would like to offer you the opportunity to adopt our scabby cats. I might keep Mishmash as she is naughty and winds up Mrs Sensible, especially as she won’t sit on her lap (the daft cat loves me!!)

    The other two cats, Ruthie, who is a very lovable but is a but-ugly cat and Toby who is a ginger and loves Mrs S to distraction.

    I am prepared to send them to you by Fed ex or even to drive them over..

    All the best PN

    • MELewis · March 3, 2015

      Haha….almost marked this as spam! You can keep your kitties, ta very much. My two already wind up the Frenchmen in my life! Cheers ;

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  14. acflory · July 5, 2016

    Soooooo funny! And yes, I haz pets, or should I say they have me. One day I’ll post a pic of me in recliner with dog next to me and assorted felines draped over the edges as we all watch TV. I have simplified my life though – we have pet doors suitable for both the cats and the dog. They come and go at will except the dog who must be locked in my office at night or she will spend the whole night barking at possums. Oh and I’ve also learned to wash the floors once a week and live with the muddy pawprints the rest of the time. Not ideal but I’m stil sane so that’s something… 😦

    • MELewis · July 5, 2016

      Ha, ha! Would love a dog door but the Frenchies would likely need special needs access.

      • acflory · July 6, 2016

        lmao! I have a Chihuahua cross that’s smaller than any of the cats – easy. 😀

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