May 31, 2007 by Marj Hatzell
Growing up I lived in Animal Kingdom. We jokingly referred to it as the family zoo. We had (at one time) two dogs, three cats, two tanks of hamsters (dwarf and teddy bear), two parakeets, two tanks of fish and several frogs and lizards. Add in seven children, two parents and varying amounts of foster babies in a three bedroom twin (five five total rooms) and you can imagine it was a bit crowded. And noisy.
My mother loves animals, as does my father. They cannot resist a hard-luck case. All of our dogs were mutts, except for a pure breed or two that was given to us from an elderly relative or if we were lucky enough we found one at the local shelter. Our animals were not trained well (most of them destroyed the house, but so did the kids, so who would know?) but were loved and taken care of very well. They were spoiled rotten, slept on our beds (just the dogs and cats, the fish didn’t always appreciate it) and ate dinner with us. Yes, sometimes at the table. We even had a dog that ate GRAPES.
My parents may not be organized and they may be horrible with finances but they are compassionate people. They live to serve, I kid you not. They have always been involved in service projects, volunteering, you name it. My Dad taught Sunday School and was a volunteer fireman, my mom was an ex-nun-turned-dancing-school-teacher-turned-mom-turned-nurse. Even though money was tighter than tight in our house they made sure we understood donating money to charity (they actually tithe) and never forgot a church envelope. Even when we were broke we were instructed to clean out our rooms to donate toys and clothing to a family who had lost all in a fire. Even though they struggled to make ends meet we were taught compassion for others and for every living thing. To this day we are all teachers, involved in service occupations or just cannot say no to a hard-luck case. Every stinking one of us. Well, perhaps one of my brothers (ahem, redhead) is less compassionate than others but I have my suspicions about what he maybe should have been diagnosed with as a child…
So, is it any surprise that I also have a great love for nature and animals? Is it a surprise that I am obsessed with gardening and loving children and animals? A surprise that I became a teacher after my first love (veterinary science) became out of my reach? I think not. Although my husband thinks we own our first and last dog (at his insistence we have this dog!) I have news for him. We will always have pets. Many of them. Even the ones that I bring home when he is away (he was not happy about that bird, I can tell you that!).
For some reason the animal kingdom knows this. God has put out an APB or flashing neon sign, I guess. They find a way to me and I am a sucker, just like the rest of my family. I cannot turn away a stray. The rabbits, squirrels, birds and groundhogs all find a way here to drink the water out of planters and hang out (even with the barking dog, they ain’t threatened. They all know she is cross-eyed and slow). The dogs in the neighborhood, the ones that aren’t supposed to be gallivanting about, end up coming to see me. I check their collars and call their mommies and daddies and give the doggies water until they are rescued. The doggies almost seem like they appreciate it, even if their parents are pissed. And yes, I even help the pit bulls.
Even though I have not seen a cat in my two years of living here, this weekend we were surprised to find a small but friendly black cat hanging out at our front door. She’d raise her back every time the dog came near but she wouldn’t budge. She was under our car, bushes, trees or porch for six days. So I after four days I put out water (not food, I’ve been told NEVER to put out food!) even though she wasn’t skinny and didn’t seem thirsty. I do not think she was a stray, just a spoiled cat who wandered a bit too far. I made signs and stuck them on the posts next to my house and received three calls from people telling me they found MY cat (uh, read the sign! It says I FOUND the cat!). But no one called to claim this friendly little girl. And she really thought she lived here.
Yesterday morning she was gone.
Then I noticed signs up on other poles around town. It seems that our little furry friend is going all over town attempting to mooch vittles from well-intentioned individuals like myself. She is quite the fraudulent feline and has us all hoodwinked. And I also found out from the neighborhood thirteen-year-old genius (who also thought he found MY cat and was disappointed that it was me!) that it belongs to the cat lady down the street. It seems in ever neighborhood there is a woman (or man, if you read the papers) that starts out feeding strays, never takes them to the vet to neuter or spay them and ends up with about twenty cats in two days. Then one hundred cats. Then the next thing you know the neighbors complain of the smell, the cats are taking over the neighborhood and the six o’clock news is there filming while the SPCA removes the animals and the loony that lives inside is charged with neglect and cruelty, when they ultimately just wanted to feed some hungry, lonely cats. Which is why I don’t feed strays. I don’t wanna become the cat lady. But I will rescue any homeless plant, including the half-dead ones at the Home Improvement Store…
Did I mention that I don’t actually like cats?
I mean, I will never have one as a pet because I cannot stand them. But see, once again, God plays a joke because no matter where I go they ALL FLOCK TO ME like I am wearing a tuna fish lei around my neck and dropping bits of Purina Cat Chow as I go through the forest trying to find my way to the ginger-tuna-salmon-bread house . They know I am allergic to them and make sure they rub up against me, prompting me to bend and scratch their filthy little dandruffy heads. Dang nabbit.
Yup. Sucker for hard-luck cases. I’m just a gurl who kint say NO!
(QUICK! TEN POINTS FOR THE FIRST PERSON WHO CAN NAME THE MUSICAL THAT IS FROM!!!!)