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A Llama Walks into a Dentist Office . . .

January 9, 2012

My heart is an ooey, gooey, stewy mess of blood.  It bleeds for nearly anything with a pulse.

It’s true.  It even says so on my voter ID card — Registered Bleeding Heart.  Despite my parents’ best efforts.

I sniffle through the morning paper.  I pull over to hear NPR’s StoryCorps — in fear that I’ll crash my car.  I sob during movies like Overboard.  It’s a comedy starring Goldie Hawn.  She gets temporary amnesia and then designs a mini golf course.  A real tear-jerker.

And when it comes to animals, my heart operates at full throttle.

Dare I say it, my love for animals is primal?  Yes.  Because I like the word primal.  Because primal makes me think of living in the jungle like Tarzan — with a pet lion.

I want to have a pet lion.

In the 1980s, Sesame Street frequently ran a video segment that led me to believe it was normal for a child to have a pet llama.  Just like I’d always dreamed.  And, not only that, it was normal to take him to the dentist.

I want to have a pet llama.   I want to take him to the dentist.

I grew up watching 60s movies and reruns.  As such, I wanted a horse like Mr. Ed, a dolphin like Flipper, a bear like Gentle Ben and a Monkee like Davy Jones.

While other kids were collecting stamps, seashells, model airplanes and boogers, I was the kid collecting animals.  Cats, dogs, fish, rodents, birds.  My list would continue had my parents been open minded.

I was always saving money for something toward The Cause.  A hamster mansion, a cat castle, a bird gymnasium, an iguana, two horses (minus all necessary overhead costs) and an African Grey parrot.  I wanted to place a donation jar at the grocery store checkout stand but my mom thought it was in poor taste.  Secretly, she probably feared my success.  Because who wouldn’t give pocket change to help a kid buy a naked mole rat?  I would.

I valued every one of my pets, no matter the size.  I once asked our vet to remove a nickle-sized tumor from my hamster.  I’m proud to report it prolonged Cleo’s life by six weeks.  Which is like sixty years in Hamster World.  Soon after Cleo’s lumpectomy, I heard a stand-up comedian say that taking a hamster to the vet was like taking a Bic lighter to a repairman.  It hurt.  It hurt bad.  Especially when the audience laughed.  Especially when my dad laughed harder.

I also had two chameleons.  Actually, if you’d care to know, they should be called by their true name, anoles.  Yes, I know you don’t.  But you should.

They were cantankerous lizards and I knocked myself out trying to keep them happy.  For one, Willie and Wilhelmina detested the mealworms I bought for them at the pet store.  Every time I’d toss down some worms, they’d peer up at me with one eyelid flipped open and a defeated look that said, This crap again?  I hate this hell hole.  Then they’d ram their heads into their glass reflections for the next two hours.  I fretted they might go in the way of my fish Oscar who’d kamakaze’d himself into our shag carpet.  So for three years I caught fresh bugs for them in my backyard.

My caretaking wasn’t always this admirable.

My cockatiel Luigi once surprised us all by suddenly laying eggs in his cage.   Isn’t that adorable?  I’ll admit it.  It repulsed me.

I was 14 and still making sense of my own strange bodily functions.  Then I had to witness a bird acting out Wild Kingdom in my bedroom, squawking in heat as she rubbed her butt against her toy bell.  Following this obscene display, she’d disappear under her newspaper liner for hours before coming out to reveal a new egg.

After that, I could hardly stand to look at “Lucy” (as she was called going forward) without feeling utter contempt.  Like a calloused Cold War-era parent, I wanted her out of my sight.  I wanted to ship her off to a convent, somewhere that would straighten out her madness, somewhere where she couldn’t shame me further.  Lucy died young — and peacefully in her sleep.  I like to think that anyway.  Maybe she died of a broken heart.  Or maybe from an STD.  I heard you could catch those from sitting on toy bells.

***

By the time I grew up and had kids, I had already been fully versed in the thankless labors of love.

By that I mean — I had already been scratched, bit, licked, kicked, hairballed, butt-sniffed, leg-humped, swiped by a partially digested nylon leash covered in feces, drooled on, farted on, puked and regurgitated on (not the same), peed on, pooped on, poop-puked on and puke-pooped on (not the same), gassed in the face while tending to a hanger-on, moulted on (skin and feathers), and possibly birthed on (I’ll never know for sure).  More times than I care to count.  I’ve estimated 5,431,932.

At times, my human kids seem easier.  My earliest memory as a new mother is sitting on my bed, nursing my newborn daughter (in what is supposed to be a clean environment) as my cat scooted her soiled bottom across the length of my bedspread.  Just far enough away that I couldn’t kick her off, but just close enough that I could see her trail.

There’s no baby book designed to preserve this “first” moment.  So I wrote it down under “Potty Training.”  July 26, 2007 — Next to the cat’s used toilet paper, you ate your lunch.  It really fit well there when in two years I could add, You ate the cat’s litter for lunch.

Ten years ago I saw a doe-eyed dairy cow at a state fair.  Later that week I ate a hamburger that appeared to be winking at me.  It had the same dark lashes.  I never ate at that restaurant again.  And I stopped eating mammals that day.  Since then, I’ve been waiting for a tiger shrimp to also look at me in a way that’ll melt my heart, that’ll make me not want to tear off its legs and baste it in garlic butter.  That hasn’t happened yet.  Segmented eyes really are a curse.

When I met my husband, I brought with me a humble dowry of one elder cat who traveled with her own emotional baggage.  He married me despite this.

At some point early into our marriage, our four-legged brood began increasing at an alarming rate, tripling in size in only a year.  An observing friend said he expected to one day come over and see a pony in our backyard.  When he said that, I had to hide the fact that it had only been days prior that I’d watched a PBS show on a miniature horse named Patches (here).

Patches was house-trained like a dog, wore kids’ sneakers on his feet and helped blind people run errands.  I thought he could help us too.  Maybe help take care of the other animals.

Today we maintain a scaled-back menagerie of only two cats and a dog.  But that includes a 19-pound Maine Coon named Matilda with the upkeep equivalent of a head of cattle.  We found her at a dog shelter.  She was supposed to be a greyhound.  She may have eaten him.

Last week I took our kids to a pet supply store to kill time.  We’ll just walk around and entertain ourselves, I thought.  We’ll watch a mouse nap in a ceramic mushroom, a fish eat its young, and then marvel at a self-cleaning litterbox.  Then we’ll call it a day.  Instead, I locked eyes with Henry and couldn’t leave his side for ten minutes.

As I watched him run around his cage, defecating on himself in an endearing move to get my attention, I immediately knew he was personality-plus.  He was no ordinary rabbit.  He was Bugs Bunny on crack.  After a few minutes, I expected him to disappear behind a velvet curtain, emerge with a tiny cane and top hat and lead off a vaudevillian rendition of You Ought to Be in Pictures.

He was just that charming.  Or perhaps he was just that rabid.

The adoption sign near his cage said his previous owners hadn’t cared for him.  His eyes were matted, his snaggletooth yellowed, and even after he got my attention he continued to defecate on himself.  Clearly, he needed love.  And I’m certain he needed me.  And maybe a couple of pairs of sneakers.  And probably a good dentist.  And definitely a miniature horse to take him there.

56 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2012 6:34 am

    Angie, you had me in tears, laughing.

    I too have a soft spot and cry at every movie, well except for Overboard. I too wanted “a Monkee like Davy Jones,” but I had never heard a llama at that age.

    Good luck with the bunny.

    • January 9, 2012 6:44 am

      Strangely, I don’t cry in movies normal people cry in (Titanic…bleh). Or even the same parts in those movies that might cause a normal person to cry. Even though I’ve seen it a dozen times, I can’t sit through the part where the kid gets stitches in the movie Kramer vs. Kramer without a box of kleenex. I’m fine with the rest. Just not the stitches part. *SOB*

      Angie + 1967 Davy Jones = True Love

  2. January 9, 2012 7:27 am

    The more I read your blog, which I LOVE by the way, the more it seems that we had freakishly similar childhoods. I grew up with wild kingdom in my home. Every pet we had was a natural enemy of the other pet: 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 newts, assorted parakeets and finches, a parrot and a fish tank. As an adult I have 2 cats and I can’t imagine not sharing my home with a pet.

    As for tear-jerkers, I have to instantly change the channel when that Sarah McLaughlin ASPCA commercial comes on.

    • January 10, 2012 9:45 am

      Thanks, Paprika! You had quite a menagerie going there too. Yes on the “natural enemy of the other pet” in my household. My dog actually killed my parakeet Sylvester. Not a fun thing to witness as a kid.

      I don’t watch much TV so I haven’t seen that commercial, but have heard about it oh-so much. Mostly that people cannot bear to watch it!

  3. January 9, 2012 7:52 am

    On a very long car ride recently, my husband asked me to tell him about every pet I have ever had. I think I talked for over an hour.

    Before I die, I hope I get to have my very own pet goat.

    • January 9, 2012 11:37 am

      Maybe you can just borrow the book from George W. Bush!

      • January 10, 2012 9:51 am

        The infamous pet goat book! Good call.

    • January 10, 2012 9:49 am

      Ha! I think my husband and I had one of those car rides before. By the end of the trip you realize you don’t really know the other person as well as you thought you did (i.e. “What, you owned a pet chicken? How did I not know that?”). I love that it took you an hour to tick off all of the clan.

      I hope to see your pets displayed in a future Middlest Sister post!

      Goats are the best. Though I would first wish for a miniature horse, mostly due to the fact that they make special tiny tennis shoes for them.

  4. January 9, 2012 8:08 am

    Can’t wait to see your video, “Me and my Lucy at the ob/gyn”.

    • January 10, 2012 9:52 am

      Awesome! Peg, if you haven’t already earned the title, may I please crown you the Queen of Quips? You are so good!

      • January 10, 2012 10:55 am

        Thanks ever so! I’d be delighted to be crowned – do I get a tiara?

    • January 10, 2012 11:02 am

      Actually, it depends on your definition of tiara. I had my daughter staple up a piece of construction paper with glitter paint. Will that do?

      • January 10, 2012 11:04 am

        Um, yeah – sure. That’s just what I had in mind!

      • January 10, 2012 11:06 am

        I know you wouldn’t dare insult my 4-year-old’s phenomenal artistic abilities by suggesting this isn’t acceptable so I’ll go ahead and put it in the mail. Perhaps it should be insured.

  5. January 9, 2012 9:08 am

    I knew this would be yet another brilliantly hilarious post as soon as I saw you cried watching ‘Overboard’.

    You had me crying I was laughing so hard. We grew up in a pet menagerie thanks to my dad. When I was young, there were three of us left in the house, so he felt compelled to always buy three of any animal he came across. Over the years we had three cats, three dogs, three guinea pigs, three birds, three lizards, three gerbils, three baby chicks and even three ducks. Yes, we had huge ducks waddling around in our backyard, named PigPen, Big Yella and Norman. My poor poor mom.

    • January 10, 2012 9:54 am

      Why does it not surprise me that you had all of these pets? It just fits with the image I have of your childhood. Love it. Especially the pets in threes notion. Maybe I need another dog then.

      If you must know, the specific Overboard line that does me in is “You said moms don’t leave.” Ugh, it kills me!

    • January 10, 2012 10:24 am

      Will she adopt me? Seriously. Or maybe the llamas will. I promise I won’t be any trouble. I can practically raise myself.

      Beautiful site. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Dena Sanders permalink
    January 9, 2012 12:59 pm

    “Like a calloused Cold War-era parent, I wanted her out of my sight. ”
    ROFL – at that and many other quotes. Love this post!

  7. January 9, 2012 3:15 pm

    Ah, I love this! Too sweet. I wanted a pet tiger b.t.w. (well that, a pony or a puppy). The only thing I ever got were bunnies, mice and a hamster.

    Admittedly none of them lived very long (the hamster – “Flash” – actually commited suicide by getting himself stuck in the gap between the wall and the fridge and starving to death – ironic, huh?!)

    But I stand strong in belief that that wouldn’t have happened with a pet tiger (or pony or puppy) ;)

    • January 10, 2012 10:27 am

      Poor, sweet Flash. He was so close to food, yet couldn’t get there. Tragic.

      I hadn’t thought of a tiger before but I always wanted a lion like Elsa on Born Free. Did you ever see that video of the two guys back in the 70s that had raised a lion cub and then let it loose in a wildlife sanctuary? Check out their reunion. http://youtu.be/BqQt1MKTiaI

      I think I bled from my ocular cavities just now.

      • January 10, 2012 6:33 pm

        Awwwe, this was too sweet – can’t stay and chat have to go back and hit rewatch – now!

        Thanks for sharing this :)

      • January 10, 2012 6:38 pm

        I know! All the love is so addictive isn’t it? I want to marry one of those guys just so I can say that I was a part of that moment in a very indirect way.

  8. January 9, 2012 4:25 pm

    Yeah, I’m very jealous of people who cry–about anything. I know it feels good, because I can remember crying and it felt good. But you can’t fake crying anymore than you can fake (fill in the obvious blank, I’m a guy).
    I love animals too, especially llamas, because if it was spelled “lamas”, no one would be able to pronounce it (which doesn’t explain why I like them, but I do.).
    Good post!

    • January 10, 2012 10:30 am

      I think if you got a llama, Les, you would find that it would cause your heart to flood with emotion and that would in turn release your tear ducts from their bitter imprisonment and then you would immediately begin crying from all of the love.

      Or maybe not.

  9. rose permalink
    January 9, 2012 5:21 pm

    Oh my, I laughed out loud with the bird egg laying story :) Thanks again for the bright spot in my day.

    • January 10, 2012 10:33 am

      Thanks, Rose. Yes, poor Lucy. We’re not laughing with her, we’re laughing at her. Like Peg mentioned, I probably should’ve taken her to an OB/GYN in the way of the llama being taken to the dentist.

  10. January 9, 2012 7:04 pm

    I think I might have pooped-puked and then puked-pooped (you are right, so not the same thing) from laughing in hysterics about your cat’s innovative use of your bedspread. I think I love this post almost as much as you love rabid self-defecating Henry the rabbit.

    • January 10, 2012 10:36 am

      But if you poop-puked, hopefully you didn’t do it in your kennel. I can vouch that this is very hard to clean up. A spoon is a handy tool.

      Angie + Henry + 1967 Davy Jones = 1 big happy family

  11. Davis permalink
    January 9, 2012 8:38 pm

    As a farm kid we plenty of animals-barn cats, sheep dogs, and livestock of all sorts. But that wasn’t enough so we captured wild animals–none of which survived long–especially not the Magpie (a big black and white bird). We were told that if we split his tongue he could talk.
    Turns out it isn’t true.

    • January 10, 2012 10:38 am

      Oh, your poor magpie! The innocent victim of kids’ good intentions gone wrong.

      My Great-grandfather Tarleton used to capture squirrels and keep them as pets. I guess one of them used to ride on his shoulder around town.

  12. January 10, 2012 9:51 am

    Missing however was your turtle experience. Too traumatic?
    Or how about Woody, the sickly robin that we overfed with mulberries?

    Future blog posts, I suppose…

    • January 10, 2012 10:40 am

      Eeeeeek! So traumatic. In both cases. Sadly, captured wildlife stories usually end poorly.

  13. January 10, 2012 11:26 am

    Oh Boy! This sounds familiar. Love it. Anytime you are in or near Upstate NY come on over for a real llama fix – we’ll take them for a hike!

    Jess

    • January 10, 2012 11:50 am

      I hope you mean that, Jess. Or you’re going to feel really silly when I show up on your doorstep — with two weeks’ worth of luggage ;) Thanks for stopping by!

  14. timelesslady permalink
    January 10, 2012 11:54 am

    Hi, loved this post. I have a Maine Coon Cat called Rusty. He is huge…all he does is lay on his blankets and eat. Maybe he ate the greyhound???

    • January 10, 2012 6:35 pm

      Aren’t Maine Coons the best? They are like golden retrievers in cat bodies. Ours is usually flat on her back in the middle of the floor begging for a tummy scratch. They could act as the Before picture next to a greyhound in a diet pill commercial.

  15. January 10, 2012 12:45 pm

    AHhhhhhhh yes…I remember it well…but you left out the fact that you also wanted to be a veterinarian! Question…what will you do when Jude or Maggie tell you they want a llama??
    Surely you planned space in your home and/or yard for the zoo that will be yours soon!!
    Good luck with that! Doris

    • January 10, 2012 6:32 pm

      Oh, no. I know you’re right about that too. My kids aren’t old enough to drag home strays yet but my time is coming, I’m certain.

      • Doris Engel permalink
        January 12, 2012 5:58 pm

        Plenty of time to get those cages built!! (I mean for the outdoors…like for the elephants)…I hope they have big rooms INSIDE
        for the bird, amphibians, fish, hampsters, and least of all the many cats that you won’t really want them to know…but they will be YOURS!! D

      • January 13, 2012 3:43 pm

        Ahhhh! You’re scaring me! I’m going to be up to my earlobes in poop.

  16. tracy permalink
    January 12, 2012 9:21 pm

    i too had that house. except ours was a duck my mother’s classroom hatched from an egg in an incubator- like 1 of 36 lived so instead of going back to the farm Herbie lived with us. until Herbie started laying eggs. herbette she was called. and then there was the monkey. well you know the story. except did I mention Jeepers Creepers demise came from my sister making pancakes for dinner the night before and feeding the leftovers to Jeepers with him. She’ll never live down our blaming her for killing our beloved monkey…

    • January 13, 2012 3:41 pm

      That’s how you ended up with a duck? Priceless! I still don’t get how poor Jeepers Creepers died? No one I know has ever died from eating pancakes, including my cat Matilda.

      I think you may be the only person I know who can say they grew up with a duck AND a monkey. A duck and a dog? Sure. A monkey and a parrot? Of course. But a duck and a monkey? That’s like Dr. Doolittle Storybookland.

  17. January 15, 2012 12:00 pm

    Hilarious! My sister and I loved animals growing up. I was a quiet, well-mannered kid, but she was the type who would do what she wanted, regardless of what my parents said. Over the years, she brought home three cats, a guinea pig and an actual pig. We kept all of them, at least for as long as we could. The pig was great until a) we discovered it was illegal to have a pig for a house pet in the suburbs and b) she started going into heat and had some serious cases of PMS.

    I’m currently in search of a dog to adopt. It’s so difficult to know I can only pick one. I want all of them. If my backyard was big enough, I would probably consider adopting a llama as well.

    • January 15, 2012 2:14 pm

      Oh my, a real pig? You just gave me a prick of envy. I so loved Arnold the pig on Green Acres. He always seemed so charming and I loved his dry sense of humor. He could change the channels on the television set. Before remote controls were invented! I couldn’t even do that.

      Yeah, the being in heat part…ick.

      Perhaps the animal shelter has some nice llamas you could adopt instead? Dogs are soooo yesterday ;)

  18. January 16, 2012 1:16 pm

    That kitty looks ticked…

    • January 16, 2012 2:00 pm

      She pretty much looked ticked every day until she died at age 20. I think she was glad to be rid of my pestering. I have a million stories to share about that cat — but most of them would make me look really bad.

  19. January 19, 2012 8:39 pm

    I love this part: “We found her at a dog shelter. She was supposed to be a greyhound. She may have eaten him.” Our cats always start out skinny and then become those 20 pound blobs that never leave the top of our couch. I also laughed at your bird ‘Lucy’ who was making love to her little toys before laying eggs, too funny!

    • January 19, 2012 8:52 pm

      Our 19-pound cat was “on the road” for quite a while when she was picked up by the dog shelter — so I think she eats every meal like it may be her last. We have done many an intervention on her but nothing seems to work. I’m pretty sure I’ll be having to give her insulin injections someday. Thanks for stopping by again!

  20. Alexandria permalink
    April 1, 2012 10:04 pm

    My sister and I were looking up “Z CAVARICCI’s” and “Freezy Freakies” on the Internet and stumbled upon your blog. We were laughing hysterically while reading it to each other over the phone. This story particularly made me lose my breath in laughter. I watch “American Stuffers” and cry just about every episode. It’s about a taxidermy business that specializes in pets. I keep telling my husband I want my Mini Dachshund stuffed when she passes. She’s not even a good dog. She has a good 20+ years left in her.

    We had a lot of pets growing up too. I had a pet ladybug. A LADYBUG. Her name was…….. wait for it………… “Lady.” My sister said she died at a Best Western. At least I know she died in a place of utmost class with dignity.

    I also had a hamster she tried to give CPR with a bendy straw while it was lying on top of a warm television. My sister and I despised each other growing up. I think she only did it to not have to hear me cry for weeks like I did every time a pet died.

    The hamster didn’t make it

    It’s still hurts though.

    • April 3, 2012 10:56 am

      How cool! You know how many times I wonder if any of my trillion Google-referred site visitors actually read my blog? I’m certain they all just come here to grab photos of Shaun Cassidy and then leave. I’m so glad you stopped by and that it sparked some nostalgia waves for you and your sister.

      Brilliant stories. Lady the Ladybug dying at a Best Western? Straw-CPR for a dying hamster? I hope you’ll consider stopping back and subscribing to my posts via email — I need your kind around here.

  21. July 30, 2015 1:05 pm

    Was over hear sharing a link when I saw this post – hadn’t read it. BTW – schnauser in the pic? My brother has had 2 – the 2nd is still living, but Max – the first looked like yours. :)
    LOVED the llama video – I think that’s Donna Martin’s dad!! (the actor from 90210 of course – not referring some random woman named “Donna Martin” )
    And as soon as I heard the song – a memory came flooding back! I think I remember this one! Ah…. your blog always makes me smile – even the older posts.

    • August 3, 2015 2:27 pm

      Aw, thank you for reading my old stuff! Mine was named Bandit. He should’ve been neutered as he had a fondness for humping my stuffed animals. And Donna Martin’s dad — you are blowing my mind!

      • August 5, 2015 12:57 pm

        You don’t think it looks JUST LIKE HIM??!
        Re: Bandit – that makes me think of a recent Dr. Pol episode – they neutered 3 b/c they were aggressive and humping each other!

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