In the months preceding my daughter’s departure for New York University, I repeatedly asked her to box up the things she wanted and to get rid of the clothes she no longer wore because I was putting the house on the market.
“But I don’t have any clothes I don’t wear,” Morgan said.
“You haven’t cleaned out your closet in several years. There’s got to be stuff you don’t wear.”
She cocked her head to the side and said, “I’ve been working out. I just tried on a pair of jeans I had when I was twelve, and they still fit.”
Fair enough. But what nineteen year old wears clothes she had as a middle schooler?
Especially my girl, with her taste for Prada, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton?
I quit asking her to clean up that room and started warning her that I would do it for her after she left. Anything not in a box was subject to being given away or thrown away. I was encouraged by the fact that she took four large suitcases full of clothes when she left for school. Surely there wouldn’t be that many left at home. But I never actually entered her room to see what I would be dealing with.
So this morning, I rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, and went straight upstairs to her room to begin the job. My little eight-pound dachshund, Laverne, followed me, eager to see the room she’d never been allowed to enter. That place looked like downtown Baghdad. Or, more specifically, like Abercrombie and Fitch had somehow begun reproducing at the rate of spiny water fleas. Her walk-in closet, which is, incidentally, twice the square footage of her new dorm room at NYU, was literally six inches deep in clothes. I piled them up and dubbed the pile Mount Rushmorgan.
It was as tall as I am.
Laverne, who had been rooting around in the closet, started barking. She was under that big pile of clothes, probably looking for some underwear to chew, and couldn’t get out.
I was in that room all day long. And by the time I’d finished, there were thirteen large black garbage bags full of trash in the hallway waiting to be carried to the street. Below is a random sampling what I found in her room:
1. Sixty-two empty perfume, shampoo, lotion, and self-tanner bottles.
2. Three sets of fake eyelashes
3. A soothing cucumber eye mask
4. A half of a bra (I’m not sure I want to hear the story behind that one)
5. Approximately 100 pounds’ worth of old magazines, most with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on the cover
6. Four SAT preparation books that I’m pretty sure were never opened.
7. Ten boxes of contact lenses. Apparently, she hadn’t really “run out” of lenses the month before when I’d paid for a new supply. She just couldn’t find them.
8. An old diary that started with the words, “I write in this book when I am stressed out and pissed off. If you are not Morgan, quite reading about my life and go get your own.” The rest of the pages were torn out.
When I was finished cleaning her room, I went downstairs to check my messages. I had a text from her telling me I needed to Fed-Ex her passport to her because she’d lost her driver’s license.
I wonder how that could have happened.
My dachshunds, Laverne and Shirley, actually brought me the paper the other day.
“Read it! Read it out loud!” they barked, their little tails wagging in anticipation.
“Why the sudden interest in current events?” I asked my dachshunds. Then I spotted the article on animal rights in Switzerland.
Voters in Switzerland would be going to the polls the next day, the article said, to vote on a referendum that would compel every town in the country to provide legal representation for animals.
Switzerland, more commonly known for its cheese and tight-lipped bankers, is also the most pro-animal-rights nation on the planet. For example, prospective dog owners must take a four-hour course before being allowed to purchase a pet. By contrast, new parents in our country don’t get that much instruction before leaving the hospital with their infant.
In addition, “social” Swiss animals – birds, pigs, fish, and yaks, to name a few – cannot be purchased alone. They must be provided a companion. Every a sole needs a soulmate, I guess. And get this: sick fish cannot just be flushed down the toilet. Swiss law dictates they be quickly bashed in the head or placed in a mixture of water and clove oil dissolved in alcohol.
Bella, our crazy Bengal kitty cat, piped up: “Send me to Switzerland. I’d love to get away from these stupid dogs, and I could make a nice living taking care of all the sick fish.”
“Here’s something you would like, Bella,” I said to the kitty, “In Switzerland, it is illegal to deprive a pussy of human contact for more than 24 hours.”
“Whatever.” Bella jumped on my head and dug her claws in. “That law is written to benefit humans, not cats.”
If the measure passed, the article went on to say, animals in Switzerland would be guaranteed the right to an attorney. And if they could not afford an attorney, one would be provided at the expense of the government.
“The only animal I know that can afford an attorney is Trouble, the Maltese who inherited $12 million when Leona Helmsley died. And I’ll bet that dog has a rich lawyer,” I said.
Laverne and Shirley ignored my snide remarks and howled in joyous support of the referendum.
“What would you two possibly need a lawyer for?” I asked.
The first complaint filed by their attorney, they explained, would be for my failure to provide proper nourishment.
“Your bowls are never empty! How can you say I don’t feed you?”
The key phrase, apparently, is “ proper nourishment.” According to Laverne and Shirley, dachshunds require fried eggs at least every other day to maintain the shine in their coats. Dry kibble is the equivalent of feeding my kids Cocoa Puffs for every meal.
“Okay. I’ll try to do better,” I promised. “Is that all?”
They were just getting started. The shock collars had to go. Air conditioning in the summer would be a new requirement. They needed crushed ice, not cubes, in their water dish on days when the high would be over 80 degrees. But their biggest beef? Recently, our vet recommended that I purchase health insurance for my dogs, citing a dachshund’s propensity for back problems and the age of my dogs. Laverne and Shirley are pissed at my refusal to purchase medical and dental insurance. They’re scared I’ll just put them down and buy a $400 purebred replacement the next day.
I decided to change the subject and went back to the Wall Street Journal. The biggest proponent of the Swiss referendum, according to the article, is a 51-year-old Swiss attorney named Antoine Goetschel, who is the animal rights public defender in Zurich. In February, he took an amateur angler to court for abusing a 22-pound pike. The fisherman had to fight the fish for ten minutes before reeling it in, and that, according to Goetschel, constituted prolonged fish agony that could be considered cruel.
“I could’ve popped that pike in two minutes,” the 7-pound Bella boasted.
I continued reading. “Goetschel is a vegetarian who has no pets and avoids taking medication because of his opposition to research on lab animals. He became interested in animal rights at the age of 23, when an accident left him unable to speak for 10 days, helping him understand the plight of animals who can’t express themselves.”
“I have no use for vegetarians,” Bella sniffed.
“A lawyer who can’t talk is kind of appealing,” I pointed out.
“We need someone like him!” Laverne and Shirley yapped in unison. “A voice insisting on equal rights for all, starting with mandatory health insurance.”
Wait a minute. Lawyers, government, and mandatory health insurance. Where have I heard that before?