Tuesday, August 02, 2011

lizards and other things

I know there is something sacred in every living thing, but this week has me trying desperately to figure out just why we have decided that it's a good thing to have six pets in the house.

Here's the thing. I was never really a pet person. Perhaps it's because most of my childhood pets were not the kid-friendly type. They didn't, as far as I can remember, wag thier tails when I came to the door. And it wasn't all their fault. I suppose my very first pet, Jaime the white mouse, just wasn't equipped to do that sort of canine thing.

The other problem was my mother, who was the farthest thing from a pet person. It was definitely a strong-arm sort of thing when my cousins brought Jaime to the house as a gift for me. She grudgingly gave in after unending begging on my part, and let me keep the mouse. Poor Jaime didn't last long. One day I came home from Kindergarten to find that he had been baked "accidently" when my mom moved the smelly cage outside to clean it, and conveniently forgot that mice don't last long in the hot sun.

Next came Prissy the Chihuahua, the offspring of my Tennessee cousins' dogs Inky and Chocolate. She too was a gift. A neurotic, yappy, nervous gift. Prissy was not allowed to venture far from the kitchen and its linoleum floors. She didn't cuddle with me in my bed at night, or lie on my stomach as I watched television on lazy afternoons. Mom didn't trust her to be a good dog. It didn't take long for my mother to find her a new home, at least that's what she said. I was skeptical and not happy. I had been somewhat fond of the pretty little blond, but we never really had a chance to bond in the ways that kids and dogs usually do.

Enter devil dog. It was a few years before Mom gave in and let us adopt dog number two. Pierre was a poodle whose first owner was...you guessed it...my cousin. She got married and her husband was allergic to pets. Pierre was pretty cute, but for a miniature poodle, he had an attitude. That dog was fierce when in came to uncovered meat. He once pulled two steaks off the kitchen counter which landed him, pardon the pun, in the doghouse. He was know to corner people with fast food, growling and snarling until they dropped the goods. The only thing that helped to control Pierre was the vacuum cleaner. When it was running, he cowered under the kitchen table trembling. The last straw was when he chewed up my Dad's wallet and all the contents including currency. Goodbye, Pierre.

It was years before I really felt any need to get a pet. I was in my early thirties, and all my friends were pregnant, which I claimed didn't affect me. With my biological clock ticking, I suddenly wanted something to cuddle and care for. A puppy seemed the perfect answer. I chose a name for my would be pet, and began to search for the puppy that suited this carefully chosen name. It wasn't long before I fell for a rather large 10 week old Dalmatian with a huge black spot growing around his left eye. When I met him in the Safeway parking lot, I dashed to the ATM and drew out the cash that would allow me to take him home. Bailey was my dream dog and soulmate. He erased all of the bad pet feelings I had from my past and accompanied me on many of my life's adventures during the 12 years we spent together. Because of Bailey, I was officially a pet person.

Which brings me to how I happen to find myself with six pets. Elmo (who the vet says is a "bad groomer") and Chaz (gentle and sweet) are our cats. Along with Buddy the Sheltie, they are fringe benefits that I inherited along with my husband when I said, "I do". Three seemed like a good number of pets, until I met Dori, a miniature Cocker Spaniel with a big personality. She's an in your face and in your lap sort of pup, that will take all the affection you're willing to give. I believed we rescued her from a less than pleasant life with Steve's cousin, and she couldn't be happier.

And that was enough. Until we had a baby boy.

Scout is now almost four, and loves all creatures great and small. From beetles and toads, to flies and frogs, he thinks all of nature's children should live with us. In tanks and jars and cages and aquariums, they come and go. A tadpole named Tad is now growing into a frog in a small tank on his dresser. Toad, the toad, which he rescued from the women's bathroom at the river, was humanely released back into the wild after tough negotiations. He won, and earned himself a bearded dragon.

Dragon is probably the most needy of all of our pets. He lives in an aquarium in the sunroom and dines on crickets, worms (that must be stored in the refrigerator), some sort of pellets, and various fruits and veggies. Dragon's home is equipped with a heat source to replicate the warmth he would feel lying in the sun on a rock in his natural habitat. Despite luxurious living conditions, he didn't seem happy. He was looking a little rough and was not eating the delicious crickets that we coat in calcium powder before serving. After a consultation with a lizard expert, we learned that bearded dragons can become constipated without warm baths. He now owns a hot tub. I am happy to report that his bout of irregularity has passed, and he is again enjoying mealtime.

As I clean the kennel, fill the dishes, and turn off the heat lamp, I must admit that maybe my mother was on to something. What I thought was an aversion to animals was actually self-preservation and a plea for a little down time.

I would like to say that things will change and life will get simpler, but I'm a sucker for a cute kid who thinks our house would be cooler if it were a zoo.