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Saturday, October 15, 2016

My Menagerie - Plus Tips for Yours

I lived in a petless household until I moved away from home - unless you count fish who died quickly and two miniature turtles who didn't last very long. My mother didn't like cats and only liked tiny little dogs -- though mainly I think she didn't want animals messing up the house.

Once I left home, I started collecting cats and letting roommates move in with dogs as much as I (reasonably) could. When I got married to a man who has a lot of allergies, I realized my son and I would need to be judicious, which meant finding weird pets that wouldn't make my husband sneeze.

Our first pet was a salamander because it had no fur and we thought it would be pretty easy. It was mainly my fault we got him, because I found a wonderful book at the library about a salamander who comes to live with a family and my son didn't want to let go of the idea. When we went to the reptile store (and yes, there is one in the neighborhood), we discovered the salamander would need to eat crickets, which we were supposed to buy weekly. 

"I have to get my mind around this, Josh," I told my son.

"No, mom, you don't," he said. "My mind is already around it."

A week later, we brought a salamander home and named him Scully. Occasionally we'd take him out and let him crawl on our arms, but he needed to stay wet, so we couldn't do too much of that. He loved eating crickets and was generally a sweet little guy, though I felt guilty about his life in a glass box, even though it was a large-ish one.

At first we thought he might only live for a month or two, but he lived with us about six or seven years and it mostly fell to me and my husband to clean his digs, so my advice to you is: DON'T get a salamander, but if you do, make your kid practice cleaning out a cage for a month before you get one. Then get a contract signed that he/she will do it for the rest of the salamander's life.

As it turned out, our salamander had a really neat trick. If something irritated his skin he simply SHED it. This happened only once, when my son put him into the sink during a cleaning and he accidentally got toothpaste on his body. The next thing we knew, the skin was lying in the corner of his environment and he'd grown a completely new one--making me wish all of us could do the same thing.

Alas, we are stuck with our skins for life. I do think it's a metaphor for something... maybe you can help me figure out for what?

Meanwhile, Josh brought Scully to science class for a few months one year, but when he brought him home for the summer, Scully died, and no one at our house was ready for another salamander. By this time Josh was 11, and when we visited friends in New Jersey he met a hamster and began agitating for one. After a bit of research, we found a lady named Martha who adopted and rehabilitated hamsters (and I'm still not sure where she found them).

Martha enticed us with a hamster named Dex who was exceedingly gentle and had a few fingers missing on one of his paws. Dex came to live with us and, to give him a life outside of his cage, we let him run around nightly in a wading pool in the living room. He once scared all of us to death by crawling under the porch door, but luckily did not make it outside.

Dex kept my son awake at night by running around in his wheel, but Josh said he didn't mind, and overall we had a lot of fun with him until he expired, nearly two years later, on the eve of my son's bar mitzvah. SO... if you get a hamster, prepare your kid for the fact that they don't usually live much longer than a couple of years.

Both Dex and Scully are buried in our back yard. This chore always fell to my husband, though it took a toll on him. On the other hand, neither Josh or I was up to it, so I'm very grateful for husbands (both conceptually and in reality).

At this point, I think we were all ready for less animal stress, and my husband said we could get a cat. I knew he was highly allergic, and reader, as you know, I married him, but was unable to turn down the prospect and we have had Sydney for about 11 years. She completely rules the house and has turned all of us into her servants, but somehow, no one minds this and we would like her to live forever.

My husband takes daily Allegras to keep her, but he does let her cuddle with him every night on the couch, and in spite of his allergies he has metamorphasized into a cat lover. What I learned from all this is you should probably start with the pet you want -- allergies or no, and give your cat a bath if you have to. Because animals make life more fun, ma, even if they're messy. 

Go on and tell me if I'm wrong?


Salamander: Aah Yeah
Hamster: Cliff
Cat: Jenna Zark