Growing up the closest thing I was allowed to have as a pet was a fish. Now, not to rile the fish lovers out there, I, too, love fish but I have a harder time counting them as pets. Yes, they must be fed and their environment prettified and cleaned, but that about covers the bases of their needed care. Leaves little to be desired in the cuddle department, is what I'm saying, and darn it if I don't want pets that can be cuddled!
I believe the combination of my incredible love of nearly all members of the animal kingdom and the inability to own a furry creature of my own helped direct me towards my veterinary technician degree. Mid-way through my 2-year program I scored an externship at Pender Veterinary Clinic. If you haven't heard of Pender it's a pretty substantial place, full of lots of doctors and techs and a bazillion appointments per day. It's busy.
One day one of the vets came back to the treatment room with the most beautiful cat I'd ever seen, I was drawn to her. I drifted over to hold her while the vet tried to determine a course of action. The reason for this stunning feline's visit? The man who brought her in stated it was his ex-wife's cat and it was peeing on his 2-year-old's blanket. While that might have been true I think her obvious lack of welcome-ness at living trapped in a back bedroom, away from the other house cats that she did not get along with, may have contributed to her displays of displeasure. This man had not had such considerations, however, and wanted to put her down.
Did I mention Pender is busy? The vet who was treating Fen (the cat's given name) spoke briefly with the head receptionist about getting her into the clinic's kitten adoption program. As Fen was 1) overweight 2) peeing inappropriately and 3) not a kitten, the receptionist confirmed the adoption program would not be in her future. It may have been my immediate magnetic attraction to Fen that colored my perspective, but it looked to me like the vet might have been starting to lean towards the man's wishes to put her down. My heart shattered and I spoke up, at least three times (each with increasing volume) that I would take the cat and foster her myself. An impressive offering considering I was still living with my sister in her no-pets-allowed home for another month. I asked the owner if he could keep Fen for just a few more weeks so I could take her when I moved into my own place.
Right on schedule a month later I met him in the Pender parking lot where he all but thew the cat carrier into my car and sprayed gravel several feet high as he peeled out. I looked at Fen and took her home wondering how on earth I'd begin trying to find her a forever place to stay. Turns out that was the easy part. She and I quickly fell head over heels in love and I realized I was at a position I my life where I didn't need anyone's permission to decide to keep her for myself. Not long after we booted the F in her name and she became my Zen, in most senses of the word.
Zen was the beginning of a line of animals that would come and go from my life over the next few years. Turns out I seemed to be good at fostering pets and became a transition for a lot of great animals. The strangest thing, though, was how each time one came to me it was like they entered a vortex to crazy town! Wherever I lived the animals I housed displayed quirks and behaviors that baffled me to no end. Still, I loved all of my fur children, no matter how off the wall their crazy was. Below are the ones who left the biggest paw prints:
Zen (female muted calico/Siamese mix, age: over 10, not completely sure)
Berko and Luna (male grey cockatiel, female pearl cockatiel, age: unknown)
I have no idea what possessed me to get birds other than I love birds. Honestly, I don't even remember how I got Berko but I found Luna at a pet expo as a companion for him. This proved to be my most brilliant and fatal plan. Berko lost all interest in me but became Luna's champion. Luna would perch at the top of the cage and any time I came by to chat with her Berko would run, hissing, from wherever he was in the cage to her defense. The problem was in an effort to get between her and the "threat" he would inevitably end up shoving her off her perch to land in a heap on the cage bottom. Luna got pretty familiar with the cage bottom on her own as she would like to hang upside down from her perch, wings spread wide and head swaying back and forth. I don't know if she would get dizzy or just not have a good enough grip but she'd always end up in the same place. She was very blonde (I'm allowed to say that, I was once blonde, too.).
Spud (male miniature pincher, age: 2 years; deceased, 5 lbs full grown)
The last clinic I worked at was in a strip shopping center and shared an internal wall with a pet store. Because Fate can find torture amusing we treated all of their new puppies. I managed to resist the wide-eyed charm of an incredible number of adorable creatures that I just wanted to gobble up. Accomplishment! Until one night I was taking out our trash at the exact time a new batch of puppies was coming off the truck next door. The owner of the pet store stepped off the truck with a furry potato in his hand and I knew the little fella was meant for me. I thought about it overnight and next day took home my new little man. Spud was 1.6 lbs when I got him and fit in the palm of my hand. He looked like a land strider from Star Wars. He learned to fight from Zen, who ultimately wanted nothing to do with him, and therefore seemed to think he was a cat. I fastened little black felt bat wings to his kitten harness when he outgrew the ferret sized one I started him in. While itty bitty in size he was gargantuan in personality. One time on a walk around the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms he ran right up to the mouth of the biggest bull mastiff I have ever seen. That dog could have swallowed Spud like one might accidentally swallow a gnat but I think he knew Spud would make him regret it. When he wasn't causing mayhem he would shimmy me like a monkey in a tree and settle for a nap in the crook between my neck and office chair. Spud passed away suddenly when he was 2 years old on the one night I didn't come straight home after work. I wasn't there and didn't get to say goodbye but I hope he knows how much I loved him and how much I miss him still.
Thayer (male, silver tabby-ish, age: roughly 4-5)
Teva (female, black lab, age: around 7-9-ish)
Clif and I hadn't been dating long when he told me he wanted a dog. His desire for a yellow lab became the hunt for a black lab and before I knew it we were pouring through websites trying to find a perfect fit to our dynamic. It would be his dog but since I was hoping for a long term relationship I wanted the chance to have a little input in the decision. We found a listing that sounded perfect and ended up meeting Ms. Tootsie and her foster dad half way between DC and Richmond in a restaurant parking lot. It was pretty much love at first sight so we transferred her meager belongings to our car and took her home. The details are fuzzy but I'm pretty sure I had to work that day which meant I was absent for those first crucial bonding hours. There were several weeks that I resented Teva (Ms. Tootsie had to go) and I'm sure she resented me. I am convinced she viewed Clif as her mate and me as competition. This broke my heart as all I wanted was to love and bond with her and she was not having it. It took time but eventually we settled in. She is our emo girl, inclined to sit in a corner and watch the world go by from under her eyebrows. Just about the only time I can actually get her to come to me is if I'm holding cotton balls, she loves it when I clean her ears. She is sweet and gentle, unless you are feeding her a treat, then make sure you check all your fingers are in tact. She is a great cuddle buddy and my heart lifts when we let her off leash to run free on our trips to the country. Her doggy smile is beyond infectious.
Kenya (female, German Shepard/Catahoula Hound mix, age: 4-5-ish)