Monday, July 7, 2014


I just finished reading The Glass Castle. I loved it. There is a comradery between those who have grown up in eccentric/dysfunctional families. There is also a dark sense of humor. Things that others might find upsetting or shocking we sometimes find them funny. I loved the humor Jeannette Walls was able to see in her life. I also loved that she knew there was always love. I could pontificate upon the topic of eccentric families, humor, and love for hours, but that is a post for another time. Today's post is about my legacy: pets, lots and lots of pets.

My paternal grandfather, aside from being the best man I have ever known, was our town's animal control officer. This was back in the day before tons of paper work, rules, and silly litigation. It was a time when a man could own a donkey in the middle of a suburban town. A time when said man's wife (in her robe) could be often seen chasing that donkey down the street when she (the donkey) staged early morning escapes. This was also a time when this man's son could bring his young bride home to meet his family along with their pet baby alligator, standard poodle, four toy poodles, and two spider monkeys (the donkey had moved to a farm at this point). That young man was my father; his bride, my mother. My mother grew up in South East Asia, you would think nothing could surprise her. Well, the alligator and monkeys did.

Stories about all of the crazy pets we've had and the equally crazy things they have done, have been one of the driving forces behind our family stories (the other force would be the equally crazy things the humans in our family did). All of my life we had tons of pets. Before my brother was born, we had two dobermans (one was a runaway show dog who had been so spoiled by his short time with my mother, his owners couldn't keep him after they found him), a black cat, two parakeets, tropical fish, a rabbit, and multiple gerbils (my poor teen uncle had no idea he was giving me a male and a female). This was all in a small rental house.

When I met Rob, he'd never really had many pets. He'd had farm animals in his teens, but had never met a family who treated animals like parts of the family. I brought him home to meet my Connecticut family for Thanksgiving. I had already warned him about the copious amounts of drinking and tomfoolery. I even warned him that my father would put black olive in his eyes and sing "Tomorrow" (he thought he looked like Annie from the comic). I warned him that everyone would talk over each other and joke and laugh,and it would all be insanely overwhelming. I had forgotten about the animals.

At this point my grandparents had two toy poodles, a macaw, and a cockatoo. After years of being attacked by the "demonic cotton balls" that the four toy poodles turned out to be, two was nothing. I really didn't think the animals would factor into our visit. My family was not a subtle bunch. If they thought something, they said it. Case in point: we all sat down to dinner and the cockatoo started screaming. My grandmother yelled "God dammit, shut up before I put you in the oven and cook you like the turkey!" The bird wasn't scared a bit. As a matter of fact, she unlocked her cage, walked out into the dining room, climbed up on my grandfather's shoulder, and spent the rest of the meal rocking back and forth and screaming. Later, Rob got to meet the macaw during "happy hour." Barney got his own shot glass full of vodka and tonic while Papa had his. After his vodka tonic, Barney's pupils would dilate while he screeched "Wheee!" Papa would make the bird a tin foil cape and he would lift up his wings to be the "Budweiser Bird." After that, I am surprised that the boy still decided to marry me.

Truthfully, he loved my crazy family. He understood that even when they unintentionally hurt each other and me, there was still a lot of love there. Rob himself has always had a ton of love to give. He couldn't wait to get our first dog. She became our practice baby. From that moment, we decided that our house couldn't be a home without pets. Currently, we are the keeper of Buffy, the terrier with ADHD; Tuck, the daredevil turtle; Trixie, the insomniac rabbit, and Jacques, the friendly Beta fish. We are notorious for keeping animals alive waaay longer than their life expectancy (we kept a dwarf rabbit alive for 10 years), raising animals with special needs (our Dobie with a brain disorder gets her own post), and spoiling them all rotten. They keep us me busy, but also give us so much joy. Many nights are peppered with the exclamation of "Look at the dog!" (or if you're me "Look at the turtle!").  Sure there are drawbacks (it is very hard to find someone to watch that many animals, so we can go on vacation together, and my house smells a little gamey), but they are worth it (I have invested in an awesome steam cleaner for starters). I have no doubt that both of my daughters will grow up to have a house full of animals. Really (in my humble opinion), there is no better way to teach children to love, than to fill their lives with furry and scaly siblings.

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