Saturday, September 17, 2011

A little on the wild side

As featured July 9, 2010 on

When my boss asked me to write about pets I blanched. While I smiled and issued glossy, noncommittal responses, on the inside I was thinking most of my pet stories are far from cute.
Quite the contrary, they range from the odd to the disgusting and the macabre.
Oh, I know why he thought to come to me for such a thing. My desk and work space are cluttered with stuffed and metal and plastic critters.
I even tried keeping live critters at work until a policy was ironically issued forbidding animals in the office. (I am still considering a praying mantis for a desktop pet since it’s technically not an animal.)
It’s no secret I am a sucker for a damp nose, hairy back, retractable claws, extraterrestrial eyes that point in different directions, long hairless tails and just about anything with scales.
But I’m no pet expert with endless wisdom, nor do I have a bank of cute Kodak pet memories to share.
What I do know is living with pets is nasty business.
A cat lover will eventually slide their fingers across their pillow in a sleepy stretch and encounter a warm, slimy hair ball.
Dog pals will smell wafting odors in the middle of their favorite TV show, a reminder that dogs, like people, fart more as they age.
Rat keepers will discover that for whatever reason when rats don’t like cage mates, they kill them and make little headless rat-skin rugs (I’ve seen them in assorted colors — brown, white and a variety of spotted patterns).
Lizard enthusiasts must learn how to mush live crickets into a baby-food consistency and shove it down the back of an ailing herp’s throat in a last-ditch effort to make the little guy thrive in captivity.
And snake keepers learn that the food comes out looking like it went in — furry, smelly and with bones, just not in the same order it was in when you gave it to the snake.
Another thing I know is while sharing your life with pets may not always smell good, be convenient or even comfortable, we can learn from them.
Amidst the hair and the muddy paws, the piles and the puddles, we can find joy and companionship.
I am reminded of a proverb of two little boys put in separate rooms, one filled with toys the other with horse poop. The boy in the toy room sat listless and bored after a few minutes, while the one in the room of poop dug and frolicked happily.
When asked what he was doing, the little boy grinned from ear to ear and said, “With all this poop there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”
And thus is my life.
Somehow, I don’t think my boss knew what he was asking for when he suggested I write about pets.

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