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Dog-Sitting in a Family Commune

Buttons, the Martinez home's unwitting "pillow" dog.

I realized the other day that it was going to take time to adjust to our new commune-style of living when I sat on a pillow and it yelped.

The reason it yelped is that it wasn't a pillow at all, but a white, curly-haired French poodle named Buttons, property of our daughter-in-law, Lisa. Curled up and sound asleep, he resembled something to sit on; one can only imagine his surprise when someone did.

My son Marty, his wife Lisa and their three kids, Jeff, Josh and the 2-year-old pixie Gracie, have moved in with us until Marty is secure in a new career and they find the right place to live.

Meanwhile, they came aboard with the aforementioned Buttons, a larger dog of questionable pedigree named Kita, two cats, Danger and Señor, and a dove named Pearl that never stops cooing. They add to our own menagerie: dog Sophie and cats Colfax and Ernie the Assassin.

Señor, a gray cat with a shifty look, made it instantly clear that he subscribed to the U.S. prisoner-of-war policy that mandates, if captured, a soldier make every effort to escape. Our group had hardly moved in when someone noticed that a door had been left open and Señor was gone.

It was assumed that the animal's lust for freedom had overcome his docility and he was out there now where coyotes and owls regard cats as entrees. Thankfully, he turned up hiding in a corner behind large boxes of clothing and kitchen ware. The coyotes and owls would have to hunt elsewhere for their feline cacciatore.

Our house is loaded with boxes and, well, stuff, that M&L have brought with them, forming narrow aisles from room to room, as though it is the abode of an eccentric old lady who has saved everything she had ever owned and has piled it up throughout her house, leaving only tight aisles of passage. In our case, thank God, the boxes will be gone in awhile and everything properly stored.

Different sounds have been added to our lives. Buttons goes nuts yapping and running in circles when woodpeckers peck on the side of the house, sounding like someone knocking at the door; Gracie laughs and cries as the mood strikes her; cats fight as they vie for territory, meowing and hissing; and Pearl coos like a bird gone mad.

The soft sounds that characterized our home before it became a commune are gone, but you know what? These are family sounds, and there is a comfort to them, reminding us of when our own kids were young, when our own dogs barked and our own babies laughed and cried as they strode upward through the years.

We are privileged to have it all again and it will work. Even Buttons didn't seem to mind all that much when I sat on him. What's a little yelp from a pillow?


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