Caught red handed.

I am pleased to announce wonderfish Blackie is home at last.  No he did not DIE!  He’s back in his tank.  I spent the bulk of this morning scrubbing it, and by lunchtime he was happily swimming round his decorative pagodas once more.  Upon closer inspection, however, his filter looked suspect.  So we decided to go to the pet store to see about buying a replacement.  Whilst there I noticed they had a large array of hamsters.  Male & female, several different varieties, ALL VERY CUTE.  So while my husband took a gander at filters, I kept watch on the rodents.  And OH MY GOODNESSS!!  They had Teddy Bear hamsters! Which looked jusssst like HAMMIE.  My daughter’s most beloved pet.  Next thing I knew I was squatting down beside the cage, slipping up the lid and reaching right in.  Most of them were asleep, so they didn’t know any different.  But the one who was mostly awake didn’t much like the proximity of my hand to his head.  He started snarling at me in that hamster way, bearing his long gnawing teeth.  Fortunately he got scared and ran into a plastic tube, leaving me free to pet his semiconscious friends.  I’d barely touched one of them when a voice rang out beside me.  A sales clerk stood a couple feet away, gazing down quizzically.  It was clear I was the first adult she’d ever caught in an unauthorized petting situation.  She asked whether I’d consulted a sales associate about handling.  I played dumb.  Ooooh, I was supposed to??  She gave me a look that clearly conveyed OF COURSE YOU MORON.  I continued squatting in front on the cage, mostly b/c I didn’t know what else to do and wanted to appear as nonchalant as possible.  She just stood there, looking at me.  I think she was afraid as soon as her back was turned, my hand would be in the cage grabbing one of the hamsters and making a run for it.  She asked if I was interested in one of the hamsters, whether I wanted to purchase one of the hamsters.  I answered noncommittally.  Then I fixed my gaze on the cage, hoping she would just walk away.  Finally my husband approached, asking me to come check out the filters.  I stood up and never looked back.

Lord of the Flies

When we returned home from the Midwest, the first thing I did was drag my sorry self upstairs to crash out in bed. After nearly 15 hours in the car, it was all I could do. But the first thing my husband did, being the amazing soul he is, was go through the entire house to make sure everything was just as we’d left it. And everything was fine. Save for the flies.

When we left John says he noticed one lone fly bzzzzing round an upstairs room. No big deal. He figured it’d be dead by the time the weekend was over.


Remember Cutie? My daughter’s runaway hamster?? Yes, I know I haven’t written about him in weeks. But that’s b/c we thought he was still on vacation. Well… he is, except it’s that reeeeeeeaaaalllly long vacation that never ends. Ugh. we can now state w/ fair certainty that Cutie has become banquet to 50,000 flies. So we’ve spent the better part of two days shooing, swatting and otherwise casting out these winged creatures from our happy home. And in tackling this new and vexing challenge, I have noticed something truly profound.

When a fly gets trapped inside, they follow a particular pattern. First, They zoom from room to room looking for an exit. Second, they find a window. They fly back and forth past the window, assessing the possibility of escape. In a last-ditch effort, they begin to fly into the window, over and over, as though their feeble crashes will at last force the glass and they will be free. Eventually, the exhausted fly succumbs to the inevitable, either crawling up into a ball and breathing its last, OR conversely, overcoming its initial aversion and fear and FINALLY allowing me to gently scoop it up and release it out into the world.

Having watched this scenario play out OH SO MANY times over the past couple days, I have been struck by the similarity between humans and flies. These flies leave you wondering. WHAT THE HELL??!! ARE YOU REALLY SO DAMN STUPID?? I AM HERE – ARE YOU BLIND?! MY HAND! It is GUIDING YOU OUT – SEE THERE!! THE OPEN WINDOW!!!! IT’S RIGHT THEEERRRRRREEE!! I AM TRYING TO SAVE YOU, YOU MORON!!!

When a human becomes trapped – and here I am speaking rather metaphorically – so by this I could mean a myriad of things. But when a human becomes similarly “trapped” w/ no hope of escape, their response is very much like the fly. We are stubborn. We are STUPID. We do not want Help. We don’t NEED HELP. Instead we rush round looking for a means of escape. OH! And there it is. But it’s not, not really. No, it’s an impenetrable hurdle. So we bang out heads against the proverbial glass, frustrating ourselves and every conceivable attempt at freedom. And when that *Great Hand from the Sky* reaches down to help, what do we do?? We fail to see it. Or if we do, we RUN THE HELL AWAY.

Sometimes life presents you w/ a metaphor that you just can’t help but notice. I do not profess to be any more in tune w/ the great Cosmos than the next guy, but I can tell you this whole FLY THING has gotten my attention. The past several days have been pretty hard for me. I do not like vertigo. Yes, it is BAD. Having to steady myself constantly against the rotational force of the planet, whilst everyone else goes about their daily business blissfully unencumbered SUCKS. Feeling shitty always puts me in a slightly philosophical frame of mind. SO. Feeling this way, I would just like to say HEY. HEY BIG GUY. If you are up there, pitying me or watching me with amusement, FEEL FREE TO HELP. I am here, just smacking my head against the glass, so You just FEEL FREE to stick that big ol’ mitt out for me already. As long as you’re not going to smash me dead, I_am_YOURS.

How to Catch a Runaway Hamster

Monday night we made the new hamster purchase. And since my husband had not only caved but had CAVED, said purchase actually involved 2 brand new hamsters. He’d decided the best way to quell fighting between the girls over the hamster issue was to allow each of them to get one. Good idea, right? YES and NO. Sure, they were not fighting, except perhaps over whose hamster was superior. But now our younger daughter had full-out 24 hr access to her magical new friend. So by yesterday morning he had of course disappeared. You see, our younger daughter used to do this with dearly departed Hammie, she would take him out of his cage and bring him into the family room to watch TV with her. But a 4 yr old doesn’t understand that a hamster could care less about TV. So while she’d become engrossed with Arthur, or Cyberchase, or Clifford the Big Red Dog, the hamster – instead of sitting quietly beside her on the couch as she was imagining – was beating feet to the nearest hidey hole. We lost Hammie so many times I actually lost track. Fortunately Hammie’s golden fur worked greatly to our advantage each time he went on “vacation.” But as they were fresh out of fluffy golden hamsters at Petsmart, this new guy Cutie is a Black Bear – meaning all BLACK. He is was IS ADORABLE, but his soft black fur blends in just perfectly with our dark wood floors. Meaning we have no hope in hell of ever finding him.

We have been employing all of the usual tactics, and I have additionally read up on How to Catch a Runaway Hamster. We have secured and sealed off the room, we have left food out to entice him, we have left his bed and igloo out to entice him, we have done everything to entice him. But now that he’s tasted freedom, do you really think he’s coming back?  Fat chance.

For the Love of Pets.

Here at the palatial West Philly estate, there has been much recent discussion on the subject of PETS. Specifically, whether or not our soon-to-be 8 year old can have a new hamster for her upcoming birthday. As you can see from the photo, her dearly departed Hammie was the cutest cuddliest lil puffball on the face of the planet. HARD TO TOP. But I am game to try. My husband, however, is slightly less inclined. Mostly he doesn’t want to deal with 2 screaming daughters fighting over who gets to hold the new hamster, who gets to play with the new hamster, but never of course the ever-important WHO GETS TO FEED/WATER/AND CLEAN THE CAGE of the new hamster. And yet, he’ll give in. And I’ll clean the cage. Who are we kidding?

As a child I had a LOT of pets, and would regularly take in new ones. Like when my perverted 6th grade teacher had us raise mice, then told us he was going to feed them to his pet snake. The 2 mice I brought home quickly reproduced into 100, and my mommy soon shipped them all off to the Great Pet Store in the Sky (really the pet store down the street, but you know they got fed to the whole department of exotics, so what’s the difference.) BUT I was not thwarted. My parents, the big-hearted mushballs, would inevitably give in to my begging on the condition that I first learn all there was about whatever animal I wanted before bringing it home. I therefore spent many hours glued to HAMSTERS or GERBILS or RABBITS or [insert name]. I must have read every “How To” pet book in our library. I just couldn’t get enough. And Now as a grown-up, I am still the same way. Reading pet books geared towards 9 yr olds and adopting every stray that steps on my path. I’ve even managed to marry a man who works at a vet school, who constantly forwards me emails about Free horses and puppies and MORE. And whether nature or nurture, or more likely both, we have passed this fascination onto our equally animal-obsessed offspring. B/c in this house, we simply live and breathe pets.

When you take an animal into your home, it typically isn’t too long before they make themselves an inextricable part of the family. Even if they are snarly and/or slovenly, as in the case of our former 3rd hand macaw. Somehow these captivating creatures work their way into your heart and they become a part of you. I know there are people out there who hate animals, those sick bastards, but being on the opposite end of extremes, I just cannot imagine my life without them. I spend the bulk of each day with a crazy ass bird perched on my shoulder, I cannot get her off. And yet, I adore her. We talk, and smooch, and preen each other like a couple of loons. We live with a dog so large people refer to him as livestock, and yet I refer to him as my 3rd child. YES, having such close physical presence of shedding, squawking, smelly animals DOES WEAR THIN AT TIMES, but more often than not it simply soothes my soul. A steady loving constant in an otherwise chaotic world.

And just because a pet dies, doesn’t mean they leave you. Not really. My husband plans on taxidermy-ing our dog when he passes. But I don’t really mean THAT, more like As any close friend, the times you’ve shared remain in your heart. If you ever need reminding of this, read Dog Heaven. AND for Heaven’s sake, bring tissues.

This is my old cat Sammy. YES he does looked thrilled, doesn’t he? What a patient soul. He lived to the ripe old age of 18, and up until the end people never could believe just how ancient he was. He was just SO PERKY. Sammy had been a stray with the unfortunate luck of being hit by a car and brought to a local vet for mending. His car accident had left his one lip hanging perpetually open, displaying a whole lotta gum and an enormous protruding fang. People always found his appearance comical at first, but his winning personality won him a legion of adoring fans. One of the funniest stories about Sammy revolves around his relationship with my other cat at the time, Nectar. Although Sammy was a neutered male and Nectar a spayed female, Sammy was always trying unsuccessfully to GET IT ON. YES I told you he was one perky cat. As you can imagine, Nectar was NOT APPRECIATIVE of these untoward advances. They were pals, sure, but enough was enough. Soon I was calling the vet to see what I could do about the weird little situation, growing uglier by the day. Before bringing Sammy in, he advised me to check and make sure Sammy was indeed neutered. This would be accomplished by AND I QUOTE: “Squeezing them.” Yep. I am no fading violet, but the idea of having to give my cat’s empty nutsack a tweeking really didn’t appeal to me. at all.

But ask any pet owner and you will hear a million such bizarro stories, all done strictly for the love of a pet. People do not treat other human beings this good. And it’s a sin. But it’s the truth. Like the recent weeks I spent syringe-feeding our rabbit Prudence. Or the THOUSANDS we spent saving our dog last New Years after we discovered he’d swallowed a golf ball. Which of course we proudly display since it’s worth far more than most of what we own.

My husband and I were talking yesterday – and for the life of me I cannot remember exactly how we got onto this topic – but we started talking about what we would do if we were starving. He said that I would do whatever it took to eat, which I believe to be true to a certain extent. But I told him that in no uncertain terms would I ever kill and eat our dog. Now I know this whole thing must sound odd, in oh so many ways, but it just brings home my point. If I were literally dying from lack of food, there are things I just could not bring myself to do. I could not cannibalize my own family – including my pets. Though I did not give birth to them, I’ve raised them very much like my own children. In the case of our dog, from age 7 weeks to now 7 years. When we he was a tiny puppy, we lived in a 2nd floor apartment. Our older daughter was then only a year old, and while housebreaking I used to have to carry both of them upstairs/downstairs simultaneously, one in each arm. It was truly a PAIN IN THE ASS, but I did it. Why? B/c of love, pure and simple.