We moved to the suburbs not long ago. One of those brand new
McMansioned, cul-de-sac'd, dropped-in-the-center-of-a-cornfield,
suburbs. Along with the huge mortgage, we heard rumors that there was a
memo explaining the accoutrements of cul-de-sac land. We didnt get it;
an oversight on the part of the Welcome Wagon lady, Im sure (a real
person who showed up on our doorstep while I was rooting through
packing boxes searching desperately for the coffee pot; a perky blonde
with bright white tennis shoes, bearing maps of our new suburb and
coupons for the Doggie Bag).

So, we didnt get the memo, but we
heard rumors of what was in it. In order to be a true, card-carrying
suburbanite, you needed the following: a three-car garage, an SUV,
preferably foreign and barely able to fit into the three-car garage, a
riding mower bigger than my first car and a large dog (something Golden

My husband hates dogs. All dogs. He thinks
theyre loud and messy. He thinks they smell like wet, mildewed blankets
and, contrary to the belief of dog lovers everywhere, he thinks dogs
are not very smart. Not like cats.

Theres no shlepping a cat
through soggy grass at 2:00 a.m. to potty train it. You plop a kitten
in a litter box a couple of times and voila, its trained.

Sure, theres the occasional hairball episode, but thats nothing
compared to what is ejected from the hind end of dog that has ingested
grass, crayons and the heel from a BCBG pump.

And not even the stuffiest subdivision Ive ever heard of has an anti-meowing ordinance.

Our new neighborhood was over run with dogs. Not the motley, mixed
breed, bad hair day mutts that populated my city neighborhood, but big,
beautiful silky haired animals: Huskies, Italian Wolf hounds, Collies
and naturally, Golden Retrievers. And they had cooler names than my
kids; Mia, Charles, Sasha.

From the back of our turbo-charged
riding mower, we watched our boys wrestling with these beautiful,
silken haired canines (who, with their starched bandanas and classy
leather collars were also usually better dressed than my kids).

My husband hates dogs, but he is not a heartless man. He eventually
allowed as how a boy might need a pet and on our first Thanksgiving in
the new house, reluctantly admitted that he might be able to tolerate a

The boys and I scurried to the animal shelter before he
could change his mind. It was the holidays, and most of the cages were
empty. The few that were occupied held full- grown cats, not kittens.

I nudged the disappointed boys along. A grown-up cat was good thing, I
told them. There would be no clinging to the draperies, no clawed necks
and arms.

The first cat we came to was a long, skinny animal
that kept hurling itself onto the mesh of its cage. We hurried past
that one. The next cage was empty and the third held a nondescript ball
of fur that appeared to be playing dead.

I think.

the end of the aisle, in the last cage, a beautiful cat with long,
white fur and huge blue eyes, huddled in the center of the newspaper on
the cages floor . My older son crouched down in front of her and cooed.
Even my younger son, who is truly his fathers child and thinks that
pets are an incredible waste of toy money, was impressed.

We brought her home, named her Amy and didnt see her again for a week.

Despite their many positive attributes, cats are not dogs. They will
not wrestle with you. They will not go for walks on a leash. And no
amount of coercion will get them to catch a frisbee in their mouth. But
even by cat standards, we knew fairly quickly that Amy was a peculiarly
disappointing pet .

We rarely saw her. For days it was easy to
forget we even had a cat, which suited my husband perfectly. The boys
and their friends swarmed the house, making a game of Amy sightings.
She hid in the back of the guest closet, emerging only to glare at us
from the doorway, her white fur matted into something resembling

She clawed a hole in my sons box springs, forcing
us to pound the mattress with a shoe every night to dislodge her before
he could go to bed. Worse, Amy refused to use the litter box. She
insisted on doing her business in front of the downstairs toilet. We
had managed to find the most psychotic cat in the county.

for a dog became louder, grinding inexorably against my husbands
resolve. Finally, after one-too-many times of shaking the cat out of
the box springs, I cornered Amy, shaved off her dreadlocks and tossed
her in the back seat of the car (having not yet acquired the requisite
SUV). I found her a good home with friends who had more patience than I.

A week later, we had a dog. Not a regal, silky-haired dog like the
neighbors, but a stumpy, thickly-built Basset Hound that the boys named
Cosy. She trips over her ears when she chases a frisbee and tangles
herself hopelessly in her leash on walks. But she follows the boys
everywhere and doesnt seem to mind that they tie her legs together and
pretend shes a steer or reach down her throat to see what shes eating.

My husband rolls his eyes and tries to ignore the dog, especially when
were wrestling her to the kitchen floor, forcing Benadryl down her
throat for her hay fever. I keep telling him hell appreciate all this
when we get our Official Suburban Family Membership card. He only
mutters under his breath and rides away on his power mower.

thereve been some nasty rumblings in the subdivision of late about
amendments to that memo. Something about in-ground pools.