I grew up with lots of animals around. I don’t remember a time when my family didn’t have a pet of some kind. Dogs, hamsters, horses, cats, lizards, fish, rabbits – you name it, we probably had it at some point. I was also lucky enough to have an awesome fifth grade teacher who kept a Florida King snake in the classroom. We fostered baby snapping turtles that year too. I love animals of all kinds. So, not being able to have one around on a daily basis for almost three years was rather cruel. Where I lived before heading south didn’t allow pets and there wasn’t a lot of options in the apartment market there. So, when I knew I was moving, finding an apartment that would let me have a pet was essential.

Now, I think I am naturally more of a dog person. I think that is because my first best friend was a dog. Luk was the best friend a girl could ask for – I could do anything to that dog and he’d let me with this very patient, slightly pained look in his eyes. However, my mom put her foot down about another dog and it took me a few years to talk the parents into a cat. Me being me I chose a cat breed that grows to the size of a small dog (do you see what I did there?) I love big animals in general – I always have. Make of that what you will. However, I couldn’t see bringing a dog into my tiny apartment and then making it be cooped up all day while I was at work. A cat is more self-sufficient; more willing to be queen and rule the roost than a dog so a cat fits into my lifestyle better now.

After a series of delays, I finally brought home a cat at the beginning of April. I got Brie, my adorable little black shorthair, from the shelter. I’ve never actually been to one which I think was a good call. About five seconds in there was heartbreaking. Little Brie was just waking up from her spay surgery earlier in the day but she came right over to the cage door to say hello to me. She was tiny – they think she is about 7-8 months old and hasn’t quite grown into her ears yet. I took her out and played with her for a bit. I had to try to keep her from jumping or being too active since she was just out of surgery but I liked her and I decided to stick with her. Taking another cat out just would have made things worse for my decision making skills.

Brie has adjusted well so far; it’s clear she’s never been inside a house before and trying to teach her to not jump up on the kitchen table or kitchen counters isn’t going that smoothly but she’ll get the hang of being a house cat. When I first got her, she was by far the most zen cat I’d ever had. She rarely startled or jumped at things and just always wanted attention. She then fell ill with a massive cold. Poor thing just slept constantly and sniffled and sneezed and coughed if she was awake. I am happy to report she is definitely feeling better and acting much more like cats I am used to. She is playful and haughty and wants attention only when it is her idea and even then she might suddenly decide your hand is more fun as a toy than something to pet her. We need to work a bit on not using Krystal’s feet as toys whenever she walks but we’ll get there. I am just happy that she is adjusting well. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more exploits in the future but in the meantime, everyone meet Brie!


I Was Always One for a Good Cry

A friend recently sent me this blog posting at Blue Rose Girls where they were discussing sob inducers they read when they were kids. The one book they discuss that I remember sobbing over was Where the Red Fern Grows. In fact, Mr. Clark, my fifth grade teacher, let the girls go and read the last chapters out in the hallway to avoid the teasing from the boys. We sat surrounding a box of tissues and worked our way through the heartbreaking ending. My favorite memory of that day? Coming back into the classroom and seeing the guys trying to hide their red eyes and runny noses. Apparently it was a book we all could have cried over together.

Honestly, Where the Red Fern was a fairly typical book for me to cry over though. Put an animal in peril and I will be sobbing about three words in. I am the girl who freaked out over killer whales eating seals (my poor father…explaining the circle of life to a distraught three year old who didn’t get that Shamu had to eat too). The streak has continued. Mom cried me through the end of Shiloh, one of the few books I can remember Mom reading to both my sister and me. My younger sister wasn’t one to sit and listen to stories.

We had a reading program in elementary school called PARP, Parents as Reading Partners, where we had to read so many hours and so many books with our parents to get our rewards. Dad had a rule that he got to choose one of the books I would read. He chose some doozies over the years (I came late to the wonders of science fiction. Have Space Suit, Will Travel was excruciating to try to read in 5th grade). But none quite got to me like Call of the Wild. I think I’ve blocked most of it out if I’m being honest but I remember the first chapter. There is a dogfight. That was it; Dad found me with tears streaming down my face fifteen minutes into the book. I don’t remember him recommended another animal book after that. Apparently he’d finally learned his lesson. (Until about 12 years later when he thought watching Eight Below was a good idea. I think I cried the last 40 minutes of that film. I had a husky growing up; I think this makes these stories even worse for me to try to read.)

Me giving Luk, my husky a bath. Heavens, look at those bangs. This is circa the mid nineties…

But I have to admit I am hard pressed to think of a book that has made me cry that doesn’t involve animals. I am apparently heartless when it comes to human characters in my books. I’ve been thinking about this since I read the aforementioned blog post. I think maybe there were tears when Matthew died in Anne of Green Gables in sixth grade. I was more interested in that series that I devoured that year than Bridge to Terabitha that I was supposed to be reading for class. I know I didn’t cry in that book; I just found that girl annoying. In fact, she was the first character I was sort of actively gunning for. A new phenomenon for me. It wasn’t until I encountered Dora Copperfield many years later that I rooted for a character to mercifully exit the narrative (and heavens did I laugh when I found out Jasper Fforde shared my view of the situation).

OK, I shed some tears in the Harry Potter series, notably the fifth and seventh books where Rowling just decides to blindside you several times. I also shed tears in The Hunger Games but made it through its two sequels without nary a tear in sight. Maybe I just don’t usually read tearjerkers? They aren’t usually my style. I will be the first to admit I enjoy “chick-lit” as much as the next hopeless romantic and there aren’t usually tears to be found in what is essentially a romantic comedy film in book form.

Or maybe I just don’t have the same sympathies when it comes to humans that I do to animals. Actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t. I wonder what that says about me? I will always send money to the ASPCA or the World Wildlife Fund over anyone else. I would rather volunteer at an animal shelter than a homeless one. Maybe I feel safer with animals? Or maybe I am more on a footing I can handle? I am not always the best people person, I’ve worked hard over the years to get over a shyness than makes me want to hunker down with a movie rather than go out to a bar (let me tell you, that was especially not fun to handle in college). But I’ve always been good with animals. Dogs, cats, rodents, and the odd exotic one I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with. I volunteered during a demonstration at The Raptor Project a couple summers ago to feed a bald eagle. It may have been the highlight of my summer that year. Right before they let me have an awesome picture taken with an Eagle Owl. That completed my life.

Well, for whatever reason, the books that make me cry usually have an animal that I want to reach in and save from the clutches of the author. So whatever that may say about me, I leave to the reader’s discretion.

Photo: Scott Thomas, check out his blog! That is a scanned slide that had been stored in our basement for years. I did the best I could with color correction. The archivist in me cringed…

I shared my lunch with a squirrel today

I perhaps should start with an explanation of the squirrels on UM’s campus. They are large and unafraid. Blame it on the Squirrel Club I suppose. It’s a club that meets once a week and gives out peanuts to the squirrels on campus. It’s become quite the tradition on our campus – it’s also pretty funny to see people spreading out over the Diag trying to find squirrels who will take the peanut right from their hand. However, I think perhaps that hunt shouldn’t be too hard these days.

It’s is beautiful out today – sunny and in the 70s so I naturally decided to eat my lunch outside. I grabbed Wendy’s from the League and sat myself down outside across from the Bell Tower and the League. I was eating away and then a girl who was walking by warned me that I had two squirrels coming up behind me. My first thought was I was about to get jumped by gangster squirrels. Gangsters they were not but they were certainly getting ready to jump into my Wendy’s bag and make off with my fries. I put the bag between my legs and thought that would be the end of it. Oh no, they jumped down onto the sidewalk and crept closer and closer. So I shooed them and it seemed to work. Off they bounced into the shrubs where I heard squeaks and squeals a few minutes later. Once I finished my sandwich and focused on my fries, one of them crept back up along side of me. Maybe they were gangsters as this one seemed to have off’ed his buddy – I never saw him again.

So, this little guy (and he was pretty little by UM standards to be honest – meaning he could definitely beat the squirrels at home and back at GBurg to a pulp) came up and sat along side of me and just looked at me and of course, I am a sap and figured, he’s already corrupted by other stupid people so how could one little fry hurt? To my credit, I did try a bit of onion left from my sandwich first thinking that would be a bit better for him but to no avail (in fact, he looked at me like I had tried to offer him rat poison) so I handed out a fry. He took it from me easily and settled right down next to me and started to eat. We proceeded in this fashion, each time he kept getting a little closer to me, coming up over my jacket and even reaching onto my leg for his next fry. I know this was bad – I know – the environmentalist in me was up in arms but he was so adorable and like I said, I don’t think this is the first time he’s shared a medium fry before. So, I ate lunch with a squirrel today. One more experience to cross off my list of life to do’s.

Oh, and PS, you know how there is that joke that you give a man a dog or a baby, every female in a five block radius descends upon him? Apparently, if you give a girl a squirrel a similar phenomenon happens. However, note to self, the guys attracted by squirrels are not quite what I am looking for. What woodland creature should I try next?